By RJ Kedziora and Megg McCourt
Since 2008, more things are connected to the Internet than people. Trains, houses, and even animals are transmitting data through sensors to the Internet. Commuters know in real-time when their train will arrive at the station. A person can turn off their kitchen sink via their Smartphone from their seat on the train. Farmers are using wireless sensors on cows to be alerted when one is sick or pregnant. The Internet, once comprised of just information and ideas, is now learning about and connecting with things, giving our planet intelligence, and a voice through which to communicate with us.
The Internet of Things (IoT), a phrase coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, is widely used today in reference to the growing connection between our physical and virtual worlds. We are increasingly putting sensors on everything, gathering data to help us understand materials and analyze them to degrees that were previously impossible.
Of the things we have begun tracking, the most significant is ourselves. We are using sensors connected to mobile and web applications to monitor our nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and overall well-being with the goal of managing these aspects of our lives better than we have been able to in the past.
Self-monitoring is especially vital for those with major health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. Today’s wearable technology makes it easy and relatively painless for patients to obtain this crucial data. Continuous Blood Glucose monitors read glucose from a sensor inserted under the skin that measures the glucose levels in tissue fluid, while the newest heart rate monitoring technologies aren’t only wearable, but are embedded in clothing, making them even more functional and convenient.
Medication adherence devices that monitor and track a patient’s compliance are also built with sensors that connect to the Internet. Most dispense pills and alert patients when it’s time to take their medication or if they have missed it. The latest FDA approved medication adherence device is an ingestible sensor that powered by stomach fluid, communicates a signal and time to a patch worn by the patient, which then relays the information to a mobile phone application.
When the data from these devices is communicated to the Internet, it can be reported on, allowing both patients and their healthcare providers a personalized view of health information that would otherwise be unavailable.
Combining the data from self-monitoring and medication adherence devices has the power to highly improve healthcare. With access to comprehensive, web-based reports, patients can analyze their own health and medication compliance, helping them realize the areas in which they need to make better decisions, actively engaging them in their overall health.
Sharing the combined self-monitoring and medication adherence data with the healthcare provider changes the conversation and approach to treatment. Is this patient taking their medication? When are they taking it? How is it affecting their blood glucose levels or blood pressure? Instead of waiting for a regular office visit, a healthcare provider can visualize the data from multiple devices in a seamless data set and use the information to make more timely decisions about altering their medication regime to optimize their health.
Self-monitoring devices and their ability to communicate with us through the internet are major influences on our healthcare system. They give us an inside look at our behaviors and how they affect our health, affording us ultimate control over our own lives.
Richard ‘RJ’ Kedziora is co-founder and CIO/COO of Estenda Solutions Inc., a custom software development and consulting firm, focused on advancing healthcare, research, and medical informatics. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megg McCourt is a writer for Estenda Solutions, Inc., a custom software development and consulting firm, focused on advancing healthcare, research, and medical informatics. You can reach her at email@example.com.
For more information on Estenda, please visit www.estenda.com.