Bluetooth Smart Technology Enables Next Generation Health Care

As Executive Director of the Continua Health Alliance, which promotes the ecosystem of devices and systems in personal connected health, I keep a close eye on the technology industry. New technologies, products and even marketing campaigns provide signals on the direction of the market and reveal a lot about corporate priorities. If you haven’t read it, take a look at Bluetooth SIG Chief Marketing Officer Suke Jawanda’s recent interview with MedTech Pulse Blog about Bluetooth® technology’s future in the medical industry. There’s no question close-proximity technologies will be important to the future of healthcare delivery, so I was delighted with Suke’s evident commitment to leveraging the full potential of Bluetooth for healthcare applications.

Continua’s Design Guidelines enable end-to-end plug-and-play solutions in personal connected health—that is, the flexible creation and use of devices and systems by and among consumers, physicians, hospitals and administrators. Our Design Guidelines incorporates 13 different standards sets used commonly around the world. Bluetooth has been a part of our guidelines since the early days.

Most recently, we added Bluetooth Smart capability. This technology is particularly exciting for its potential in healthcare. Meeting the needs for flexibility, ubiquity and long use is critical to ensure continuous data streaming from consumer health devices to mobile, web or other wireless storage devices. In turn, this enables long-term data tracking and analysis.

It’s easy to imagine scenarios where these features become important:

  • Consider a diabetic teen requiring ongoing monitoring of glucose levels. This can be achieved with a wireless glucometer and a smart phone paired via Bluetooth Smart for passive data tracking (no effort on the part of busy or forgetful teenager). In this case, the power-conserving features of the technology are both for convenience and patient safety.This same teenager could be part of a remote monitoring program (involving professional oversight as well as patient tracking), an approach offering enormous potential for chronic disease management. Mobile devices are not always connected to the Internet, but fortunately, SMS shoulder tap capability performs remote wake up of a device to enable data collection or other commands. With shoulder tap capability in place, our teen’s telemonitoring center can ask the Bluetooth glucometer to take spot check readings according to doctor’s orders. Continua is in the process of adding shoulder tap functionality to its interoperability Design Guidelines to enhance the possibilities for mobile and remote care using technologies such as Bluetooth Smart.
  • Here’s a second example: a middle-aged consumer attempting to lose weight. Perhaps he’s already fit and tracking preventively, or maybe he’s overweight. He can pair a Bluetooth Smart wireless weight scale with a health and fitness app on a smart phone. Unless other health issues complicate weight loss efforts, continuous monitoring is generally not necessary. In this case, when the weight scale sleeps, Bluetooth Smart conserves power but stands ready to transmit data as soon as the scale is activated. As Suke pointed out in his MedTech Pulse interview, power consumption is based on how little the device’s radio is used. Since it takes Bluetooth Smart three milliseconds to wake up from sleep mode, send its data, and then shut back down, our weight loss patient will experience extremely long battery life from a Bluetooth Smart enabled weight scale.

For consumers, payors and even for OEMs designing for the healthcare market, user-friendly pairing, convenient data collection and cost-efficiency will drive the adoption and creative use of close-proximity technologies in healthcare, and Bluetooth Smart meets all of these demands. Of course, privacy and security are of the utmost importance and here, Bluetooth Smart 128 bit AES encryption and adaptive frequency hopping ensure timely and reliable data relay are right on target. With new interest in connected health from mobile carriers, there’s no question Bluetooth Smart will see new applications in the field.

Note: Bluetooth SIG, Continua, NFC Forum and Roche Diagnostics will continue the conversation about the potential for near proximity technologies in healthcare on a panel at the WIMA USA (San Francisco) conference next month, Near Proximity Technologies & The Connected Health Ecosystem,” taking place Wednesday October 30 at 9:00 a.m. I hope you can join us.

Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter at: @Continua, or on our LinkedIn Group (Continua) to share your thoughts on Bluetooth Smart in connected health.

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