Saturday, July 17, 2010

Healthcare adoption of Wi-Fi networks and wearable sensors surges

Remote patient monitoring is one of the fastest growing areas of healthcare according to a report released by ABI Research.

The report indicates that the usage of Wi-Fi by the healthcare industry rose by more than 60% over the last year. The research company said that in the last 12 months Wi-Fi adoption grow in both wireless local area network and Wi-Fi RTLS (Real-Time Locations Systems) deployments. It added that high double-digit growth is expected to continue for at least the medium term. 

ABI noted that healthcare has started using other wireless technologies such as cellular M2M and wearable wireless sensors. Moreover, wireless communications continue to be adopted in healthcare applications ranging from Wi-Fi networks to wearable sensors.

“Wi-Fi adoption has helped overcome initial concerns about complexity and reliability of wireless within healthcare,” wrote ABI Research principal analyst Jonathan Collins. “The growing number of wireless technologies and wireless applications being developed, piloted and deployed within healthcare further underline the level of interest in using wireless to improve the flexibility and efficiency of healthcare services around the world."

In a separate report ABI predicted that revenue from sales of Wi-Fi-enabled healthcare products worldwide (not including Wi-Fi-equipped medical equipment) will total $4.9 billion in 2014. This represents an increase of nearly 70% over today’s figure.

The importance of healthcare wireless and mobile technology was illustrated in a hearing of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health.  Rep. Michael F. Michaud, who chairs the committee, said that these technologies represent "the new frontier in health innovations, as well as a great way of increasing access to care for millions of veterans."

"Mobile health makes it possible for healthcare professionals to receive real-time health data such as vital signs, glucose levels and medication compliance because data from the patient's mobile sensors are relayed over wireless connections," Michaud said.

One such application was revealed in a report saying that STMicroelectronics plans to develop a wireless MEMS sensor that acts as a transducer, antenna and mechanical support for additional read-out electronics in a breakthrough platform developed by Swiss company Sensimed AG. This solution will enable better management of glaucoma patients via earlier diagnosis and treatment that is optimally tailored to the individual patient.

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