Wearables typically dominate the IoT media spotlight in health care, sharing it occasionally with remote patient monitoring or telemedicine. Each of these technologies focus on individuals and what is happening for a specific person at a specific time. It’s definitely a growing space, as Allied Market Research forecasts the size of the global IoT health care market, including devices (implantable, wearable, and other sensors), systems and software (at the network, database, and analytics layers), and services (with architecture, consulting, and development) will reach $136.8 billion by 2021.
Imagine if sensors, software, and data scientists could not only get people moving, as fitness wearables do, but also help people learn to move correctly from a physiological perspective and avoid injury caused by sports, exercise, or manual-labor intensive jobs?
While bettering life experience for a single person at a time is an entirely worthwhile goal, what if big data and IoT technologies could be used for an even greater good, to benefit many, even improving childhood mortality rates? How much more impactful is an innovation that offers insights in a collective group or even globally, in real time? This article introduces two forward-thinking companies using technology, data, and algorithms in the health care space to have a real, positive impact on a larger community and globally.
dorsaVi – Addressing Muscle Pain and Injury
Started by Andrew Ronchi, a physiotherapist in Melbourne, Australia, dorsaVi uses medical-grade, certified sensors, along with software and algorithms, to help people recover from and even avoid injury in three different applications: workforce safety, clinical situations, and elite athletics such as professional and collegiate sports teams. ViSafe is the occupational health and safety application, used in motion studies during a consulting engagement to measure range and effort of movement required for workers, such as materials handling personnel in a warehouse, to perform their jobs. ViMove includes the same sensors with different firmware and analytics, so individuals can understand how they move and what impact those mechanics have on their bodies. ViMove is used within a clinical environment, such as during a physical therapy session with a clinician, and can also be worn by people throughout their daily activities, to capture movement data and offer alerts such as feedback and reminders if they are not moving within their optimal range of motion. ViPerform targets elite athletes between games and competitions, to ensure they are moving in the most efficient, athletically effective, and healthy way possible.
DorsaVi products use two different types of sensors that include accelerometers, magnetometers, and gyroscopes. The first sensor measures the range of motion during a movement, whether it’s bending, twisting, or stepping. The second sensor measures the muscle activity to indicate the level of effort exerted to make the movement. In the first generation of the dorsaVi products, data uses Wi-Fi to reach a local computer to run the software and algorithms, then display insights. In the coming generation, Bluetooth technology will connect the sensors to the local computer for processing then de-identified data will go to the cloud for storage and long-term trend analysis. As with many IoT applications, future uses of the data and insights may not be evident now, with more value to come from data once it is available.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports nearly 2.9 million non-fatal injuries in 2015 for private employers, with 75 percent of those occurring in the service industries and 25 percent in manufacturing. One way dorsaVi products immediately address this situation and benefit larger groups of people is through the ViSafe solution. ViSafe starts with an in-depth evaluation of high-risk movements taken in a typical day in a specific environment, such as a warehouse, in a retail store, or even in logging or other heavy industrial locations, using the sensors to capture movement parameters and muscle engagement. The value comes from follow-on analysis that identifies and recommends fact-based ways to correct movements, make adjustments, or increase training within the business environment to eliminate pain for workers and increase safety in the workplace.
ViSafe in particular also offers businesses a way to help their staff while improving productivity for the organization as a whole. The dorsaVi products use real-time data to analyze movements, offer refinements and corrections, and ultimately improve the daily experience for individuals and groups of people.
THINKMD – Expanding Capabilities of Health Care Workers
THINKMD is another company with the clear vision, strong technology, and a growing team to make a real impact on an international scale. A global health care technology company based in Burlington, Vt., THINKMD offers a solution that has the potential to extend health care systems into communities, neighborhoods, and homes. Its goal is to give minimally-skilled health care workers more tools and information so that anyone can play an active role in the communities they serve.
MEDSINC is the first product from THINKMD, conceived by its founder, Dr. Barry Finette, a pediatrician at the University of Vermont. While practicing medicine in resource-poor countries, Finette saw that children were dying from preventable causes that could be remedied simply by increasing the health care ability of existing community health care workers already in place. He developed MEDSINC to address this pediatric global health crisis; UNICEF reports that nearly 6 million children under 5 years of age die from preventable diseases such as pneumonia, dehydration, and infectious diseases. By guiding a user through simple questions and gathering of data (vital signs, history, and symptoms), MEDSINC immediately generates triage and treatment recommendations that can improve health outcomes and reduce preventable childhood mortality.
“With less than two hours of training, community health care workers can learn the MEDSINC platform and gather critical clinical and health care data on a smartphone or tablet. MEDSINC then generates up to 20 integrated assessments as well as triage, treatment, and instructional recommendations appropriate for the user to implement in the community or health care facility,” explained Finette. “Our technology is unique because we designed the back-end algorithms to mimic the way a physician assesses a child. By taking a holistic and integrated approach, MEDSINC allows for the integrated assessment of many critical diseases simultaneously.”
MEDSINC is just the leading edge of the opportunity for THINKMD. Besides giving frontline health workers more guidance and ways to treat patients, MEDSINC is also a data-capturing platform. With each assessment, MEDSINC captures 40 to 50 public health and epidemiological data points. This data is completely de-identified, but is geo-tagged and time-stamped, offering a public health data set for underserved regions.
The potential impact of THINKMD’s data is immense. Once widely deployed, MEDSINC will generate extremely valuable aggregated information from locations all over the developing world. One obvious reason to mine and analyze that data is for rapid tracking of the spread of infectious disease. Current methods require reports from affected areas, with data captured and conveyed sporadically, often with significant delays, resulting in gaps in information and time-shifted indications of potential outbreaks. In addition, these methods rely on inferred data vs. direct data. MEDSINC gives THINKMD direct, patient-generated data in real time, which is captured, processed, and immediately analyzed to offer insights far more quickly and reliably than current methods. THINKMD’s data scientists work with the aggregated, de-identified data itself, understanding the problem they are addressing and using various algorithms and tools to find the insights that have a significant impact globally. This is big data at its best, offering real information that lets global health agencies and governments take action that can save lives.
Hilary B. Longo is a senior marketing executive focused on the Internet of Things, with a background in embedded computing, unified communications, and telecom. She is currently principal at Marketing Habit LLC.
Edited by Ken Briodagh