Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Health + Tech | Remote care management tools important for telemedicine

Published:Sunday | April 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall
Justin McQuown, engineering manager at Caretaker Medical (right) explains the company’s vital signs and blood pressure monitor to Doug Halsall, chief executive officer of Advanced Integrated Systems (left) and his team members Shekar Sanumpudi, director, Health Applications (second left) and Stacey Halsall Peart, chief operating officer. The group was at the annual Health Information and Management Systems Society conference last month.
Some of the remote care management devices offered by iHealth Labs
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I have always been fascinated by technology, so although I started my career as an accountant, I was pulled to the technology sphere where I managed to introduce industry-changing technology initiatives in banking, finance and health.

I have seen the positives that technology can have on individuals and entire sectors. This is a part of the reason I make it a point to attend the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference each year to see the new and emerging technologies in health.

This year did not disappoint, and I noted an important development. More companies and entrepreneurs are getting involved in developing remote care management tools for both wellness management and to enable continuity of care, with a constant link between doctor and patient, but without the need for always having a physical meeting.

 

JAMAICA HAS NECESSARY INGREDIENTS

 

Just a few years ago, persons' choice of remote care devices primarily concentrated on fitness trackers and other paedometer-like gadgets. Today, we have moved way past that and have begun focusing on how these devices can contribute to the entire health continuum and factor into telemedicine. I do believe that these devices will contribute to the development of wide-scale healthcare access, even in the remotest of areas through telemedicine.

In Jamaica, we have all the necessary ingredients for telemedicine, and remote care management tools will complete the circle as telemedicine becomes the norm - not too long from now.

The present objective is for the best remote care management tools to be integrated into our current health technology systems to improve access, efficiency and health service delivery, while improving the communication between patient and caregiver, including doctors. HIMSS18 provided an opportunity for me to view and assess various devices coming from companies considered to be disrupters in the health technology industry.

 

TWO GOT MY ATTENTION

 

This year, two types of remote care devices got my attention. One is a small device held in the palm of your hand that provides multiple health indices. It's called the VitalRx monitor by BodiMetrics and each section is built for a different part of the body to capture certain health readings. This facilitates remote patient monitoring and will require communication between doctor and patient through a telemedicine platform.

This all-in-one approach can be quite efficient, especially since it is also targeting individuals who are health-conscious. The use of an app on a smartphone or tablet assists with reading the results which can be integrated into the person's electronic medical records (EMR). This device provides readings, including ECG, pulse rate, systolic blood pressure, blood oxygenation, heart rate variability, respiration and temperature.

The other remote care management tools that caught my interest were from a company called Caretaker Medical and one called iHealth Labs. Both companies had several devices that together captured a number of health indices, including heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respiration rate, arterial stiffness, blood volume, body temperature and blood oxygen saturation. The line of devices offer continuous patient monitoring and actually does not really target the individual so much as to make a definitive link between them and a clinician using the device, although personal and self-management are possible with them to an extent.

 

WILL ADD MUCH VALUE

 

For the most part, the best use of these devices would be for continuous care and monitoring of patients in a home care or hospital setting, as well as for chronic disease management. These also would be ideal for linkages within a telemedicine eco-system, as they would satisfy the requirements for individual and clinical use, while ensuring that all indices and readings are linked to persons' EMR and provide analytics for comparative analysis and action.

My take-away from this is that a combination of devices that cover a wide range of health metrics will add much value to telemedicine and therefore health access and efficiency.

There is no need to stick to just one. Both types of devices I spoke of here are great, but much more of their value lies with integration within a holistic system and combined with other similar devices.

I've challenged our experts here and in India to engage with these vendors ASAP and commence integration, so that Jamaica can benefit at the earliest.

- Doug Halsall, OD, is chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email: Doug.halsall@gmail.com