Some 133 million Americans suffer from chronic disease, and many would benefit from better home-based monitoring of their condition, but today’s home-health medical machines remain mostly unconnected to the doctors who might want to check the data between visits.
A new platform from Qualcomm aims to solve this with a simple box that detects signals from devices from dozens of makers, and dispatches them by cellular connection to a cloud database that can be accessed by medical staff as well as patients.
“Health-care reform will pay providers for keeping you well instead of treating you when you’re sick,” says John Halamka, a Harvard Medical School professor and chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. “In the future, it’s likely that continuous home monitoring with frequent caregiver interventions will replace many hospital visits. The Qualcomm technologies support this kind of workflow.”
Qualcomm has formed a division called Qualcomm Life to sell the new home-based hub, run the back-end databases, and establish partnerships with device makers. The platform meets all medical standards, is “technology agnostic, and can pair with virtually anything,” says Rick Valencia, Qualcomm Life’s vice president. Still, a payment system between medical device makers and insurance providers remains to be worked out.
Andy Castonguay, principal analyst for handsets and devices at Informa, says that while many players are working on wireless solutions, the Qualcomm system “is the first product on the market that allows a drop-and-play solution in the home. There are caveats—you need the service and payment elements to line up—but once that happens, it allows someone to pop it into their home and use this as a central point of communication.
Monitoring devices include blood-pressure monitors for hypertension patients; glucose monitoring for diabetics; simple electronic scales that can warn of fluid retention—a key indicator for heart failure; and breathing tests for people with pulmonary disease and asthma.
When designing an embedded system choosing which tools to use often comes down to building a custom solution or buying off-the-shelf tools.