Wireless monitoring sensors

Description

Tiny sensors embedded in devices which can be used by individuals to take readings of vital signs and health measures or can provide constant wireless monitoring and relay of readings back to a central point for further action.

Monitoring sensors are set to be an integral part of future healthcare in terms of engaging people in their own health and wellness using telemedicine. They must be considered in future when constructing engagement strategies.

Piloting and tests of different types of monitoring system are currently being carried out. They are expected to develop into widespread use over the next five years or so.

NB. Strictly speaking, measuring and monitoring sensors are a form of telemedicine; however remote monitoring sensors will enable people to measure and monitor a number of key health-related factors themselves and to relate to the health service using this information in entirely new ways. Sensors are included here as they are part of an interface that people will use to interact with healthcare providers in future; we focus upon sensors here only in terms of the ways in which they could affect such interactions and augment relationships and not as a diagnostic per se.

Examples

  • Lifestyle and health and wellness encouragement – data gathered could include that such as distance covered walking or running like this example of an integrated system from Nike and Apple.
  • Remote monitoring systems are already available such as this example regarding heart patients in the USA
  • Future devices used will be more usable and ergonomically designed, possibly integrated with mobile phone and Smartphone technology using short range radio such as Bluetooth or Wibree to increase portability and convenience
  • There is also huge potential for blood pressure, heart rate and glucose monitoring such as this prototype from Leeds University that uses a PDA to monitor such physiological indicators.
  • A number of pilots with varying purpose are currently being carried out in the UK including this telemonitoring pilot which is part of ICTRI
  • The Norwegian centre for telemedicine is a good source for examples and current thinking
  • Monitoring of the health of elderly or vulnerable who live alone may allow greater independence for longer and potential cost savings for the NHS or social care The Well in Newham project

Benefits and advantages

  • Can give feelings of control, involvement and empowerment
  • Reduces cost burden on the health service through helping people to stay healthier for longer
  • Has good clinical outcomes – reduces re admission amongst cardiac patients

Risks and disadvantages

  • Remote physiological monitoring requires willpower and active involvement from the patient in order to something about the results to have benefits- will people take up this idea?
  • People may see the monitors as a safety net which will alert them to dangerous health indicators when they are happening rather than a way of avoiding detrimental behaviour patterns.


 

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