How wearables and patient-generated data can improve healthcare

December 2, 2016 OpenSystems Media

Heidi Dohse grew up as an athlete—swimming competitively, playing soccer, running track. At some point, though, she noticed that she couldn’t take her pulse manually. When she went in for knee surgery at 19, she learned during a pre-operation EKG that she had a rare heart arrhythmia.

“I went from a being a competitive, healthy 19-year-old athlete to a heart patient headed to the coronary care unit,” she told an audience at the recent IDTechEx Show! at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

During her talk, “The Internet of Me: Data Empowering Patients,” Dohse chronicled her 30-year journey with heart disease. Today, Dohse, a senior program manager for the Google Cloud Platform, is 100% pacemaker-dependent (“the ultimate wearable”) and cycles competitively. She is also passionate about how wearable technology and patient-generated data can lead to better treatments and support healthier lives.

“When you start to think of the value of the types of things you are all developing with sensors and apps, you’re providing people like me a window to what’s going on in my body,” Dohse told attendees at the conference, which brought together people from roughly two dozen countries who are interested in emerging technologies.

Wearable health devices, including smartwatches, can help enhance healthcare by providing real-time, patient-generated data.

Data can be empowering, particularly for people suffering from chronic diseases and the associated fears, anxiety, and depression, Dohse said. Her WiFi-enabled pacemaker tracks every heartbeat, checks for abnormal rhythms, and also monitors its own voltage settings and battery life. When she’s racing her bike, the device lets her know whether her heartbeat is in a safe range. All of the data can be sent to her doctor over WiFi. This information is “what allows individuals like me to get our lives back,” she said.

But what about data privacy? “Honestly, I think we’ve gone a little too far,” she said of the topic. “We’ve not really gotten to a healthy balance.” In Dohse’s view, the length and quality of her life will depend on innovation; because of this, she wants to be valued for the data she shares, while knowing who is using that data and why.

Dohse sees this as a transformational time in healthcare. The key to success, she notes, is that data must be interoperable and flow across segments. The future of healthcare will be marked by disruptors such as patient-generated data, the Internet of medical things (IoMT)/sensors/wearables, smart home applications, and mobile access to your doctor.

How do we get there? Google Cloud Platform, sensors, IoMT materials like smart fabrics, batteries, healthcare data standards, machine learning technologies, application developers, and devices will all help pave the path. Google Cloud Platform provides a HIPAA-compliant, scalable cloud infrastructure for storing, managing, and analyzing data. Dohse is also involved with the Health eHeart Study, which aims to use patient-generated data to change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Dohse sees healthcare moving from fee-for-service to value-based care. The way to get there, she said, is to empower people with data that gives them more control over their healthcare. “I look to all of you to build this, and it’s going to be very exciting,” she said. “You’re going to help people like me live amazing lives.”

Christine Young is a writer and blogger at Maxim, where she covers topics including automotive, wearable, IoT, and security technologies.

Christine Young, Maxim
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