Wearable Health Sensors & APIs: Better Health Monitoring
We’ve been talking about healthcare a lot here at Mashery, and with good reason. It is an exciting time in healthcare technology and innovation. Smartphones are increasingly powerful, and more and more developers and companies are figuring out ways to turn smartphones into effective and inexpensive medical devices. And with healthcare reform requiring accessible electronic health records, there is a growing market for innovation around available health data.
Last month, SXSW was buzzing about innovation in healthcare. One of the big topics being discussed was wireless sensors. Those of us with health insurance go to the doctor’s office one a year for our annual check-up (or at least we know that we should). While getting this annual physical, we have our blood pressure taken, our heart listened to, our blood taken, etc. As we get older, there are more and more tests, exams and such: mammograms, colonoscopies, etc. Unless you are under very high risk, most health monitoring happens once a year. Who’s to say that you didn’t develop a serious medical condition in the 12 months between visits to the doctor?
That is where wireless medical sensors come in. These sensors can be embedded into clothing and worn through out the day to provide a continuous stream of wireless data to physicians. Since they are passive and don’t require patient engagement (except that you have to put on whatever it is the sensor is embedded into), these sensors will get higher use than traditional health monitors and will provide better information for physicians to use to track our health.
A garment with wireless sensors may be on the market in the US as early as 2014 (2013 for those in Europe). A company called First Warning Systems plans to introduce a bra that can detect the onset of breast cancer through the slightly elevated temperature tumors generate because of their increased blood supply. The BSE Bra is non invasive, has identified 92.1% of tumors through 3 clinical trials (higher than mammogram accuracy), and can indicate a tumor up to 6 years before a traditional screening based on longitudinal changes in skin temperature. Amazing.
Such sensor enabled garments and objects will become more and more common in the coming years. This means more data to be gathered, analyzed and presented both to consumers and their doctors. APIs will play a key role in this proliferation of healthcare data. They will not only provide an easy means to access this health data in a secure fashion, they will also help establish a standard for how health data is transported securely.
Through well-managed APIs, platforms and the data they expose can be controlled and delivered to the correct users at the correct time for the correct usage. APIs carrying data from wireless health sensor enabled devices like the BSE Bra combined with data from platforms like athenahealth that provide access to healthcare IT and provider data, will form the basis for new health tracking applications that patients and physicians can access from any mobile enabled device. Together, these technologies will enable incredibly powerful and life saving tools.
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