Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wireless Changing Medicine

Newly developed non-invasive sensors, coupled with body area networks via smart phones or gateway receivers to transmit data over the internet, have the potential to transform medicine according to Eric Topol M.D. As the Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, and the Chief Medical Officer at West Wireless Health Institute, he presented his ideas on the future of wireless and medicine on June 25th at the National Center for Research Resources Telehealth meeting held at NIH.

Dr Topol demonstrated the use of “smart band-aids” that are disposable and inexpensive to produce. They can track 24/7 most physiological parameters, including ECG heart rhythm, respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature, EEG and sleep cycles, calories taken in and expended, pollen counts, air quality forced expiratory volume, position activity, and more.

He continued to say “Remote mobile monitoring can be transformative in preventing hospital readmissions for congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and several other key chronic medical conditions. Medications can be tagged with micro sensors that are digestible and can be activated wirelessly or a drug could be given in a precise dose via a polymeric delivery transmitted through the skin at the moment of wireless activation.”

He pointed out that some of the key possibilities for using remote monitoring are for patients with chronic diseases particularly if the patient has multiple problems, or to use in the instances when physicians are dealing with high risk pregnancies, or perhaps be used as a personal emergency response system for the elderly in their home.

He explained how the Wireless Health Institute (WWHI) a new non-profit research and education institute located in San Diego California is one of the first medical research organizations dedicated to research on the use of wireless technologies.

WWHI has just announced that they will be doing clinical trials on their remote heart monitoring system using “Band Aid” like patches to send readings real time via a Bluetooth connection to the patient’s smart phone. The trial is designed to clinically validate remote wireless monitoring technology to proactively manage heart failure patients.

“Congestive heart failure is one of the largest and most problematic diagnoses in medicine today but fortunately heart failure is prototypic for remote wireless monitoring”, said Topol. The Institute will be collaborating with Corventis, Inc., on their first clinical research program with Dr. Topol leading the effort along with Don Jones, Vice President of Health and Life Sciences at Qualcomm and WWHI’s Chief Wireless Officer.

The trial is going to study CHF to find ways to prevent hospital readmissions. Participation will be offered to the sites supported by the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Award National Consortium consisting of 38 prestigious academic medical centers in the U.S. It is anticipated that this trial will be one of many trials.

In addition to the NCRR meeting, Dr. Topol delivered a keynote address on June 24th at a technology and policy forum on mHealth solutions hosted by CTIA-The Wireless Association. The Forum was held on Capitol Hill so that Congressional members, Obama administration officials, and medical and policy experts were able to have information on all the mobile medical applications available and understand how tremendous cost savings can be achieve with wireless health solutions.