IoT brings hospitals home
The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked efforts to let patients safely monitor their health at home.
08 January 2021
Across the world authorities have imposed social-distancing restrictions and even lockdowns to reduce people’s chances of catching COVID-19 from a carrier they meet by chance in a workplace, restaurant or any other public area. There are, however, public places where encounters with carriers are likely, not just possible – medical practices, clinics and hospitals.
Many medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes require regular monitoring and frequent visits to medical premises. For many years system developers have been working on ways to plug patients and medical practitioners into the Internet of Things (IoT) to allow for frequent, low-cost collection, submission and analysis of readings. The COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked these efforts.
As homes for start-ups, both Hong Kong and Israel have been at the forefront of this medical technology (medtech) development. Hong Kong-based PCCW Global and Israel’s SURE Universal, a leading Internet of Things (IoT) software and platform developer, have signed an IoT Ecosystem Partnership Program (IEPP) agreement to deliver IoT home care medical solution.
Hong Kong, Israel link
“The collaboration aims to address the urgent need to deliver connected medical care from home, thereby reducing hospital visits for simple medical diagnostics, which in turn will help to prevent overloading medical facilities and reduce exposure to hospital-acquired infections,” PCCW Global and SURE Universal said in a joint statement.
“IoT medical devices, including measuring equipment and wearables used for monitoring and diagnostics, will now be able to communicate important healthcare information among patients, family members, doctors and other medical personnel,” the firms said.
PCCW Global said its Console Connect IoT connectivity service will support the SURE Universal platform by providing a customisable platform and interface to deliver global connectivity, simplify device management and IoT operations.
“The IoT connectivity service also features real-time monitoring from a single interface across multiple operator networks,” PCCW Global said. “The service covers more than 180 countries, providing support for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile networks, and delivering a one-stop, user-friendly SIM life-cycle management capability to service providers.”
Under the collaboration, PCCW Global will provide access to its international IoT network, fabric and global services, while SURE Universal will concentrate on delivering its IoT platform, associated applications and data. The goal is to rapidly provide best-in-class, end-to-end IoT home care solutions worldwide.
“[The] COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the strong need for Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) in order to reduce unnecessary visits to hospitals for routine measurements of vital, thus minimising hospital acquired disease transmission,” said Viktor Ariel, Co-founder and CEO at SURE Universal. “Some patient groups like the elderly, children, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to such transmission. Incidentally, this applies to both COVID-19 and other transmissible diseases.”
Israel and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area are both known as start-up hotspots and made natural partners in expanding SURE and taking it across the world, Dr Ariel said.
“We have a long history of cooperation with companies in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and participated in a number of events organised by Israeli and Hong Kong governments. Also, one of our leading investors is from Hong Kong and we formally registered a Hong Kong subsidiary,” he added.
The Israeli entrepreneur said the online Asian Financial Forum, which will run on 18 and 19 January, is a perfect product, customer, and investor fit for SURE Universal.
The company’s Home Care Kit enables both continuous and one-time measurements, and supports post-COVID-19 treatment with continuous patient monitoring, including electrocardiogram, temperature, pulse, and blood oxygen.
“We focus on inpatient and outpatient elderly care at home by monitoring activities of daily living (ADL’s),” Dr Ariel said.
An issue that has slowed medtech development has been the distributed nature of private healthcare – many small, scattered surgeries with independent operators.
“SURE believes that the using standard compliant connectivity as well as standard compliant medical data formats, for example HL7 FHIR, which is quickly becoming the leading world standard for medical data, will go a long way to overcome this obstacle and reduce the fragmentation of the remote healthcare,” Dr Ariel said.
Standardisation of medical devices will greatly streamline RPM.
“SURE Universal strongly believes in importance of IoT and medical standards,” Dr Ariel said. “SURE is an active member of the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) the world leading consumer IoT standard. In addition, we closely follow the development of HL7 FHIR, the world leading medical data standard.”
Addressing concerns over the privacy of patient data, “SURE implements the industry standard security protocols emphasising user authorization, data ownership, and encryption,” he said. “Thanks to SURE’s standard-compliant architecture, we are able to provide user’s privacy and data security along with device interoperability and system flexibility.”
Medical inflation is a concern the world over and Dr Ariel hopes that automating so many medical functions should cut costs – in the same way as it has done for a wide range of services from telecoms to translation.
“We certainly believe so. Based on our experience, the cost of hospital-based RPM currently used by intensive and emergency care departments can be reduced to a fraction of the cost, allowing the use of RPM by regular hospital departments.”
Dr Ariel said differing health-service regulations and funding models across the world is a complex issue.
“In many cases, the approval by the local medical authorities following a medical pilot is enough for the adoption. In other places, either [United States] Food and Drug Administration or [European] CE Medical certification is required. For medical RPM, SURE uses only devices that have either FDA or CE certification, which allows us to enter hospital trials in most geographies.”
“PCCW Global's Console Connect IoT connectivity service will support SURE Universal’s platform by providing a customisable platform and interface to deliver global connectivity and also simplify device management and IoT operations,” Dr Ariel said.
“The IoT connectivity service features real-time monitoring from a single interface across multiple operator networks. The service covers more than 180 countries and provides support for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile networks. It also delivers a one-stop, user-friendly SIM life-cycle management capability to service providers.
“In this collaboration effort, PCCW Global will provide access to its international IoT network, fabric and global services. SURE Universal will focus on delivering its IoT platform, associated applications and data. The ultimate goal is to rapidly provide best-in-class, end-to-end IoT home care solutions worldwide.”
Dr Ariel noted that MedTech is growing explosively – with innovations such as voice-reading alerts for heart attacks being announced every day – and innovations such as AI and big data are rapidly transforming the industry.
“We believe we are currently experiencing a huge awakening of this phenomenon. Currently, we are working on novel AI based indicators that will allow monitoring and prediction of personal fitness and wellness.”
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