In our last post, we discussed the rising trend of online and hybrid healthcare services as well as the positive impact the provision of these services was having on patients through a reduction in waiting times, better appointment flexibility, and greater availability for patients who are unable to travel. Following on from that discussion, we will now look at how connected technology can assist practitioners in today’s modern healthcare system.
With the evolution of 5G and the rollout of fast fibre broadband, the use of connected devices in healthcare is becoming more widespread as millions of patients across the UK are able to get online and take advantage of faster internet speeds to introduce new devices into their home to monitor their health. This in turn is making it easier for people with limited medical knowledge to describe worrying symptoms to their healthcare provider as they can securely share the data gathered by their connected device.
Devices such as bio-sensing wearables and fitness trackers have been on the market for a long time but are finally becoming mainstream as their features have evolved and the cost of production has also gone down – making it more affordable for consumers to purchase more accurate FDA and CE-approved wearables. The devices themselves are also being designed to be more discrete (e.g. the glucose monitoring system, FreeStyle Libre), and fashionable (e.g. wristwear such as the Apple Watch). When calibrated and used correctly, these devices can provide accurate, and complete records of a patient’s heart rate, heart rhythm, oxygen level, blood sugar levels, and lots more throughout the day – making it easier to track irregularities and report points of concern to their doctor during a future appointment. In a few reported incidents, smartwatches have even saved lives by detecting, for example, if a patient has fallen, and calling emergency services with their exact location if the patient fails to respond to prompts by the watch.
When it comes to wearable devices it’s important to consider a few key points: the size of the device, the battery life, how disruptive it is to a patient’s day, and how the data gathering process makes the user feel. This final, often overlooked aspect combines design and usability, making it especially important during the development process as apps that cause users frustration were shown to have an abandonment rate of 90% according to a recent study, and this creates the potential for incomplete data records from all users which can make treatment more difficult.
One client of ours that is seeking to alleviate the issues associated with data entry and accuracy is QIoT – a connected technology company based in Scotland. Zudu worked with QIoT to develop an iOS app, Android app, and accompanying web admin panel for the QIoT Connected Asthma project (which was shortlisted in the Herald Digital Transformation Awards 2022 for Best Use of Technology in Healthcare).
The QIoT app works by collecting data from the patient every time they use their inhaler as well as during regular intervals throughout the day. It also records external factors such as air quality and pollen count for their exact location, as well as allowing users to supplement in-app data with additional information. Data can be stored offline on the device itself and re-synced with the live database once connection has been restored. At this stage, the data will also be anonymised and added to the statistics in the admin panel: allowing doctors to observe pattern changes over time to help them make sense of non-standard data sets, as well as enabling them to provide improved treatment plans for patients with varying symptoms.
In the past, as data entry was manual and relied on patients remembering precise details about their symptoms, it wasn’t always possible to get accurate data with which to develop a treatment plan, and this made many conditions difficult to manage and more stressful for the patient. Now, connected technology is helping patients and doctors work together to understand the changes in a patient’s conditions and optimise treatment plans to help save time, money, and resources during patient diagnosis and treatment.
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