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Sensors, smartphone, cloud advance telemedicine tech

Posted: 19 Apr 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LifeWatch? sensors? smartphone? cloud? telemedicine?

I'll admit it: I am somewhat jaded and sceptical when I hear about the coming revolution in "XYZ." Whether it's predictions that the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, or the "cloud" that will change everything as we know it, I'm from the "maybe, but maybe not" school of convincing. Part of my cynicism is that history has repeatedly shown us that most of these consensus predictions are usually quite wrong. I felt the same way hearing about the assurance that telemedicine will revolutionise medical care.

But then I had a chance to closely examine a new cardiac monitoring system, and frankly, I was impressed. The Ambulatory Cardiac Telemetry (ACT) from LifeWatch AG was approved to go on the market in 2015. It consists of two physical units: a small pendant with four cardiac electrodes and a smartphone programmed to be the data pre-processor and communications link to the company's monitoring centres. The pendant is unobtrusive and can be worn day and night, a big plus for comprehensive monitoring. (There are likely similar units on the market, but I didn't get to examine any of those.)

Ambulatory Cardiac Telemetry

Figure 1: The pendant of the Ambulatory Cardiac Telemetry (ACT) from LifeWatch AG measures 6cm x 8cm x 1cm thick, weighs 60g, and operates from a single Li-SOCl2 AA battery for about four days.

You wear the small, lightweight pendant and electrodes on your chest to record and do preliminary analysis on your heart's rhythm. It communicates with the smartphone via Bluetooth; the connection set-up and initialisation between the two is automatic with no user action needed. If an arrhythmia is detected, the cell phone automatically sends the data to a monitoring centre for review and doctor notification, if required. Data from the pendant is also sent periodically to the smartphone and then to the central office, so it can be seen by a doctor in near-real time during the 30-day monitoring period. (I would have liked to have opened the pendant for a visual teardown, but that wasn't part of the deal!)

What you get

The entire system comes to the patient by mail (no need to go to a doctor's office) in a small box that has the sensor pendant, dedicated cell phone, and about a dozen AA-size lithium batteries (high-energy lithium thionyl chloride [Li-SOCl2] chemistry) and about 100 patch electrodes. What impressed me about the ACT system is the clean, simple packaging as delivered, its simplicity from the user perspective, and its apparent sophistication while it expects almost nothing of the user.

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