Written by Hilary B. Longo at IoT Evolution, November 30, 2016
Wearables typically dominate the IoT media spotlight in healthcare, 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 healthcare 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 $136.8B 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 healthcare 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 body. 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 “beeps and buzzers” 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 their 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 WiFi to reach a local computer to run the software and algorithms then display insights on a display. 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 US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports nearly 2.9 million nonfatal injuries in 2015 for private employers, with 75% of those occurring in the service industries and 25% 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 location, 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 Healthcare Workers
THINKMD is another company with the clear vision, strong technology, and growing team to make a real impact on an international scale. As a global healthcare technology company based in Burlington, Vermont, THINKMD offers a solution that has the potential to extend healthcare systems into communities, neighborhoods, and homes. Their goal is to give minimally-skilled healthcare 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, Dr. Finette saw that children were dying from preventable causes that could be remedied simply by increasing the “healthcare ability” of existing community healthcare workers already in place. He developed MEDSINC to address this pediatric global health crisis, with UNICEF reporting that nearly 6 million children under 5 years of age die from preventable diseases such as pneumonia, dehydration, and infectious diseases (Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, 2015 Progress Report). 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 healthcare workers can learn the MEDSINC platform and gather critical clinical and healthcare 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 healthcare facility,” explained Dr. Barry Finette, Founder of THINKMD. “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 40-50 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 that doesn’t exist to date.
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 versus 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.
Both THINKMD and dorsaVi products were the innovative ideas of medical practitioners who recognized a need and used their expertise and commitment to fixing a problem to both conceive impactful technology solutions and bring them to market. Similar organizations face the same uphill battle of any technology start-up with the added healthcare burden, with funding, regulatory requirements, payer questions and other economic, technical and business issues. THINKMD and dorsaVi shine as two example companies who drive to bring their solutions to market, in order to help individuals, larger groups and even the global community.
About the Author: Hilary B. Longo is a senior marketing executive focused on the Internet of Things, with a background also in embedded computing, unified communications and telecom. Currently principal at Marketing Habit, LLC, Hilary remains intrigued and excited by the many ways technology, IoT and analytics can help people.