Automated home health monitoring may finally become practical with the HealthTune 360 from Boston LifeLabs. Cambridge, Mass. start-up Boston LifeLabs recently announced a new product for at-home health monitoring, which the company plans to make available within a few weeks in the U.S. pending FDA approval.
Using a central hub communicating with Bluetooth enabled sensors, periodic readings of 12 vital signs can be automatically sent to their server for real time monitor by the patient or the clinician.
"It will finally make home health monitoring practical," said Olivier de La Bastide, CTO of Boston LifeLabs. The main problem with current home health monitoring systems, he went on, is the relative complexity of the system to novice users. Other Bluetooth enabled sensor networks require a pairing step between the sensor and the central hub, which can be daunting to some.
Based on their marketing studies, Bastide said they needed a system that was easy and effortless enough that "anyone's grandmother could use it." The result is a USB dongle for each sensor that once plugged into the central hub, automatically pairs the associated sensor unit.
Architecture of remote health sensors connected to a central communication and control hub through Bluetooth.
Eight different sensor units are currently available, monitoring more than 12 vital signs such as blood pressure, blood glucose, pulse rate, oxygen saturation and even body weight. The central hub records all the readings and transmits them over either a T-Mobile or AT&T cellular network in real time to the Boston LifeLabs server. The data is immediately available to access either through a web browser interface, or using an Android or Blackberry app. Bastide said an iPhone app is coming.
Example of vital sign recordings accessible through a web browser from this health sensor network.
Boston LifeLabs plans to use a subscription service model for the remote monitoring solution. Initial base rates would range from $20 up to $50/month depending on the number of sensors, according to Bastide, with a one year contract commitment.
Telehealth applications, where the patient needing care is in a different location than the doctor delivering the care, "has been poised to take off for more than forty years," according to John Moore, a health care technology analyst with Chilmark Research. Moore spoke to a full house at the Cambridge Enterprise Forum on Jan 11, 2010.
"This field has been in a perpetual state of pilot programs, where the only thing that has changed is the name, from virtual medicine, mobile health, e-health and now telehealth."
Moore cites three important changes which may finally bring telehealth applications into the mainstream: the "silver tsunami" of aging baby boomers, the growing influence from the wired generation more comfortable texting than talking and the increasing political pressure on finding ways of reducing health care, without reducing the quality.
Adam Darkins, chief consultant with the Veterans Health Administration, leads the world's largest telehealth program with more than 300,000 participants. He suggests that the chronically ill, which is made up most of elderly patients, may be prime candidates to take advantage of some form of telehealth. However, he cautions, "the solution is not great technology it is robust systems."
Bastide hopes their new system design will provide the ease of use and robustness to finally enable practical home health monitoring.