Medical care is possible outside hospitals

Medicine could and can happen outside the hospital. We build medical centers that provide the best specialists and the best care for patients. However, these medical centers are out of reach for many people for different reasons: they live too far from them; they are old or sick to travel to these institutions. Health IT tools can help overcome these obstacles.

Emory Healthcare in Atlanta found an innovative way to use telemedicine, nurses and patients alike benefit from their program. Using telemedicine, the caregivers can cover the challenging night shifts by working during the day in Perth, Australia. The remote team from Australia is connected with monitoring equipment to ICU patients, and they can watch in real time what’s happening with them. In the background specialized health analytics stay on, helping the team spot even small changes, like heart rate fluctuation, so they can alert bedside nurses even before an emergency happens.

Telehealth, telemedicine is a collection of services and tools that deliver healthcare in non-accessible areas, or for people who cannot move easily. For example, remote elderly monitoring services connect houses and patients with health institutions that offer quick help in a crisis. They came in handy also in everyday scenarios like medication management or even grocery shopping.

Telepsychiatry is a booming subset of telemedicine and involves a range of services like psychiatric evaluations, therapy (for individuals, groups or family), patient education and even medication management. A psychiatric service delivered with IT tools, like Skype or FaceTime has several advantages over traditional services including reduced time off work, less stigma, and better access to quality mental health care.

However, the primary use case of telemedicine is to provide health care services in remote areas. These healthcare deserts are scarcely populated, but these people need medical services, and these services are better delivered via telehealth services. The telehealth service is provided at patients’ home or at specialized centers, where at least a licensed nurse is working.

A lot of diagnostic tools have portable versions, meaning remote doctors can form their diagnosis based not just on symptoms, but on actual data. For example, Butterfly IQ developed small, mobile ultrasound equipment, that is connected to a smartphone.

MobileODT has designed a battery-powered, hand-held colposcope called the EVA System, which can take high-quality images of the cervix. The company in association with the National Cancer Institute developed a machine learning algorithm that produces an accurate diagnosis in minutes.

Also, we are proud, that a Hungarian company, 77 Elektronika Kft. has developed a compact, portable smart tester for emergency units, that can confirm the diagnosis on site within minutes based on blood tests.

If you have even more questions about telehealth systems than we, here at Netis are happy to assist you with our specialized knowledge.

Author: Laszlo Varga

Mobilize your neurons!

People living with dementia, Alzheimer’s or in general people who have a genetic predisposal to these cognitive diseases can train their brains to delay the onset of the problem. We can teach our mind not with physical exercise, of course, but with games and activities that mobilize our neurons.

However, before we write about our favorite activities and game, let consider a few general rules. We can prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia if we stick to some basic good health habits, such as staying physically active as long as possible, getting enough sleep, avoiding smoking, maintaining good social connections, limiting alcohol consumption, and eating a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats. A lot of scientific studies sustains these claims.

According to an article from Harvard Health Publishing with six simple steps, we can keep our brains sharp at any age. These steps are: continuous learning, using all our senses to learn something, believe in yourself, prioritize brain usage, repeat what you want to learn and space it out.

We also have to mention, that studies that examine the cognitive effects of “mind games” have mixed result. However, a systematic review of these studies concluded, that specific training tasks have a significant impact on working memory, processing speed and brain function. If we play with our favorite game for a few minutes a day, this literally can change our mind.

Games, that can boost our brain and keep it young

1. Crossword puzzle

A classic brain trainer, crosswords are available online and offline. The game is based on our verbal knowledge and uses our long-term memory to recall many dimensions of information. If we fancy the computer, an endless list of crosswords is available on the internet.

2. Sudoku

This game is highly addictive, with easy to learn rules. To complete a Sudoku game, you have to plan and follow the trail of consequences. The game helps improve short-term memory and concentration. Also available offline and online.

3. Online games & apps

You can find many games, apps (even free ones) online, that helps our brain stay young. One of the most famous is Lumosity. The game is split into sessions of four games tailored to our goals: memory, attention, problem solving, processing speed or flexibility of thinking. Developers say, that just one course a day can improve mental skills. Users can track their progress and compare their performance with others. The game is free, but for full access, we have to subscribe.

Our next favorite game is Peak is only available as an iOS or Android app. The app offers different games that test our focus, memory, problem solving or mental agility. A built-in personal trainer helps us reach our Peak goals. The coach will challenge us with new workouts, tracks our progress and shows us, where we can improve. A limited version of the game is free; after we subscribe to the pro version, we unlock 40 different games.

Happy Neuron is an online game with games and activities divided into five brain areas: memory, attention, executive functions, visual and spatial and language. The full game is free for seven days, and if we like the game, we can subscribe to it.

As we mentioned, the effects of these cognitive games are widely disputed. According to critics with training players advance in the world of games but cannot translate the acquired or developed skills into real-life practice. At NETIS we see, that games spice up the established life of seniors, bring some joy in everyday life, and motivate people to try out other activities as well. So whatever the reason, let’s play and have fun!

Author: Laszlo Varga

How IT can be used against Alzheimer’s disease

Dementia is affecting large numbers of people and is a significant burden for society. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia affecting 50-70 % of all patients.  There is also a considerable impact on those caring for family members with Alzheimer’s or other dementia which may cause emotional stress and depression, especially on the long run. In addition to these saddening facts, the number of doctors is steadily declining.

Health IT technology addresses all these three areas where dementia is causing problems. Innovative start-up companies and even teenagers developed health IT technologies that may take some of the burdens away.

Technology for caregivers to offer them peace of mind

According to the AARP 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. report, Alzheimer’s or dementia is one of the top three reasons that patients over the age of 50 require at-home caregivers. Reports show that 60% of people living with Alzheimer’s wander off regularly, and thus putting a significant strain on their caregivers. A simple sensor can be all the difference between a restful or stressful night: a Japanese teenager placed this pressure sensor in a sock. If the patient wakes up at night, the sensor activates the alarm on the caregiver’s phone. Sensors, placed around the house, alert if, for example, the fridge door opens (and presumably the patient eats something), the front door is opened at night, the window is open (cold temperatures posing a threat). Patients using these technologies can grow old in their homes and retain their independence.

Technology for medication management

When continuous monitoring is not possible, medication is also the problem. Patients can end up back in the hospital, or even worse. What if we can monitor medicine intake? A company developed an ingestible sensor the size of a grain of sand, made up of ingredients found in food. This sensor is mixed with the prescribed drug, and when it’s swallowed and reaches the stomach, it sends a signal outside the body and a small patch sensor capture it. Data is transmitted to a smartphone and shared with caregivers and doctors alike. It might sound like science-fiction, but the company behind it already partnered with drug manufacturers to test their ingestible sensor on a massive scale.

I know this technology is out of reach for now, but smart pill box dispensers are already widely used. These pill boxes are loaded with the proper medications once a week or a month. They alert patients audibly or visually to take their medicine. The dispenser is tamper-proof or lockable to avoid overdosing. The smart pill box opens only when it’s time to take the drugs, with the help of a smartphone app.

Technology for medical staff

After doctors establish a diagnose, prescribe drugs, and the patient is released home, most of the caregiving activity is reduced to constant patient-doctor communication. When communication is the essential tool, technology really excels: automated patient engagement technologies allows healthcare providers to push out a variety of messages, educational materials for the caregivers, reminders when medication needs to be refilled, patient visit needs to be scheduled or an appointment is pending.

Technology can also link a team of different health and care professionals to get information about each other’s activities to support the patient and oversee all important patient data. “Integrated care” means not only linking social and health aspects of patient support, but also to connect a diverse team of health specialists who often do not meet personally (take a neurologist, an eye specialist, physiotherapist and a GP as an example) while they all play an important role in the patient journey, and their coordinated support can make the difference.

Author: Eva Lajko

AI is helping people with dementia stay out of the hospital

A network of internet-enabled devices is far better than a single IT device. Combined with artificial intelligence (AI) and an IT system with carefully selected, well integrated elements, a unique network helps people with dementia improve their lives.

In Surrey, UK, more than 6000 people have a formal diagnosis of dementia, although it is estimated that around 16,801 people have the condition. Four hundred of these patients have a better chance of living a quality life in their homes. NHS runs an IT project in the region called Technology Integrated Health Management (TIHM) for dementia and has four goals we totally identify with:

  • to improve the lives of people with dementia;
  • to support people with dementia to stay safe and well in their own homes;
  • to reduce hospital and care home admissions; and
  • to relieve the stress on carers.

The houses of people participating in this project is filled with sensors, wearables, monitors and other devices, which gathered in one internet of things (IoT) network, monitors their health at home.

In this project NHS partnered up with many institutions; one of them is the University of Surrey. Scientists from the university developed technology that can identify and help reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs), the most common cause of hospital visits among older people. IT specialists from the university’s Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) used machine learning algorithms to identify early symptoms of urinary tract infections, based on the signals already found. The goal is to determine the health problems of people living with dementia before they require a hospital visit – thus helping clinicians and carers.

This machine learning system gathers data from the sensors installed in the patient’s home. The algorithms were able to detect a rise in body temperature and nighttime activity in a patient, successfully leading to a diagnosis of urinary tract infection. Data streamed from devices in the patient’s home, including monitoring sensors and devices tracking vital signs, were analyzed by machine learning techniques and health problems were flagged on a digital dashboard to be followed up by the clinical team.

Early results are promising. Scientists are hoping that this trial will be as successful as their first program: that trial showed a significant statistical reduction in neuropsychiatric symptoms in the 400 participants involved in the project, and as a direct result the program was awarded an extra £1 million from NHS England.

What convinced me, that this program is on the right track, was the relaxed faces of relatives and people living with dementia involved in the program. You don’t have to take my word for it, see it for yourself here. You can read more about the program here.

This pilot is very similar to our PreDEM project. The PreDEM (Prevention Dementia Measuring System) will be the solution for early-stage dementia testing before an individual shows signs of dementia at old age. The integrated cloud platform of PreDEM connected patients and nurses, and provided an integrated package to equip the home environment with intelligent monitoring technology to detect changes in a patient’s condition, unusual behavior, or other warning signs in a timely manner. Early intervention can prevent unnecessary hospital care or deterioration in a patient’s health, while the collected data can help health professionals further examine and analyze them to improve future treatment.

Technology can be used for monitoring in a non-intrusive and reliable way, also helping family members to focus on the human aspects of care. Connecting this facility with the concept of integrated care, dementia patients may have a safer alternative if they prefer to stay in their home.

Author: Eva Lajko

The next big thing in medicine is here

Everywhere I look, I see people with smartwatches, fitness bands on their wrists. I don’t get to see the most representative sample of the population, as I work mostly with tech-savvy people. However, an increasing percentage of this non-representative sample is from the older generation. They seem to understand and benefit from the benefits of a wearable.

As I searched for statistics regarding the wearables market my non-representative sample turned out to be a characteristic of the overall older generation. According to a study from eMarketer, US citizens aged 55 and older are now the fastest growing group using wearables, nearly daily.

In the total population, the growth will be slower, with a 9% increase, and this means that 61 million people have and use a wearable device. The smallest group (17%) of the technology savvy people is between the ages of 25 and 34, and the largest (almost a third, with 30%) is older than 45.

What do these numbers mean to doctors and healthcare providers? A powerful, technology-oriented group of people is taking control to their hands by using wearables, portable medical devices or other gadgets to monitor their health. It means they ready to gather data about their health. They willingly use IoHT (Internet Of Healthcare Things) devices to improve the quality of their life.

The Next Big Thing

Healthcare executives have noticed this trend, and they are taking steps to be in this next big thing. These investment areas are remote patient monitoring, wellness and prevention, and operations.

Internet of Health Things is the integration of physical and digital worlds through objects with network connectivity in the healthcare industry. IoHT transforms raw data into simple, active information and communicates with other object, machines or people. IoHT can be leveraged to improve access to health, quality of care, consumer experience and operational efficiency.

However, data means something if it’s interpreted and transformed in information by qualified healthcare professionals. Doctors, physicians also should embrace this trend, and encourage and spearhead IoHT efforts in their patient base. Data and information empower healthcare professionals to give evidence-based diagnose, to treat patients better and to have superior results overall. Used for preventive purposes or to form a better diagnose IoHT is a part of IT technology that shows tremendous benefits for doctors and patients alike. That’s the next big thing in medicine, that is already happening. Will you be a part of it?

Author: Zoltan Mathe

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