The market for portable medical devices has grown as smartphones become a universally owned commodity. In fact, portable medical device sales are expected to reach $85.3 billion by 2025.
Smart wearables and implantables are a major growth driver. Some of the biggest names in this area include Omron, Samsung, Medtronic, La Roche, and Nox Medical.
These small, lightweight, handheld devices are becoming ubiquitous within healthcare facilities. Not only can they improve chronic disease management, but wireless medical devices with companion software that rely on Bluetooth connectivity can also streamline daily clinical processes, and save hospitals money.
Here are the six most important reasons why everyone from patients to providers are embracing Bluetooth-enabled medical devices:
1.They have long-lasting batteries.
For implantable medical devices, the battery is the most vital component. So much so that it makes up to 90 percent of its volume. Implantables, like cochlear implants, used to have non-rechargeable batteries.
That’s not the case anymore, thanks to Bluetooth and its ability to minimize battery drain. More advanced implantables require so little power that they can continue to operate for years without having to recharge or replace the battery.
This long-lasting battery life leaves one less thing for patients with implants to worry about. It also cuts down on cost for both patients, due to less visits, and doctors, less wasted hours for check ups on the device itself. That’s a win-win that we love to see.
2. They work on any smartphone or tablet.
To reach millions of people, medical device manufacturers started leveraging the same Bluetooth connectivity that enables computers, smartphones, tables and TVs. The result?
Hundreds of medical devices that can communicate directly with both iOS and Android platforms. This in-turn empowers patients to more self-reliant.One example: wireless hearing aids use Bluetooth to connect with a phone or a music player.
The audio signal can be customized to match the hearing aids’ initial settings. What’s more, they can send notifications when someone’s at the door, be used to turn on the lights or double as wireless earbuds.
The ability to link to any iOS or Android device allows patients to customize their experience with the device. The same can be said for doctors, who are now able to give more exact instructions to patients who have more control over their devices.
3. They can facilitate immediate diagnostics.
BTLE-enabled medical devices can send data in real-time for immediate diagnosis. Transferring files from one mobile device to another using Bluetooth is faster than SMS. This is particularly important for patients with chronic diseases or those in rehabilitation, whose symptoms can change from one day to the next.
For example, Propeller Health, a digital therapeutics company, uses hardware and software-enabled by Bluetooth technology to treat respiratory disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD). The company designed small sensors that attach to a patient’s inhaler and tracks triggers and symptoms. Wired with a Bluetooth transmitter, the inhaler “talks” to the patient’s smartphone and send updates and data to their physicians.
“Doctors can view this data and see, not only how frequently the patient suffers attacks, but also tease apart the environmental factors that caused the distress,” explains Orthogonal.
Another great example is the HeartGuide Wearable Blood Pressure Monitor by Omron, which lets users test their blood pressure. The device tells patients in 30 seconds whether they have a hidden conditions such as heart and kidney disease.
The information can then be wirelessly uploaded into an app called HeartAdvisor and shared with a doctor in PDF form. These immediate solutions ensure better, more efficient care for patients, and better time management for physicians.
4. They reduce the risk of infection.
Wireless medical devices using Bluetooth can reduce the risk of infection and speed up recovery time. Medical devices with wires or leads, such as monitoring systems for premature babies, can cause serious complications. The risks are even higher for implantable devices like pacemakers, that attached to the heart muscle with leads.
More often than not, patients who receive one of these devices end up back under the knife, to have them removed. Two major recalls of defective leads happened in 2007 and 2011, after 350,000 patients had already received them, an instance all medical device companies would prefer not to repeat.
Another way connected devices using Bluetooth stave off infections? By allowing patients that are not critically acute to recover at home instead of in a hospital. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “on any given day, about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI).” HAIs occur in all types of care settings from acute care hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers, to dialysis facilities and nursing home.
By removing wires and allowing doctors to track a patient’s progress remotely through Bluetooth technology, we can reduce infections and recovery times, increasing patient satisfaction and doctor productivity.
5. They help reduce healthcare costs.
Sharing their vital signs with a physician in real-time allows patients to spend less time in the hospital. Wireless technology made it possible to detect signs of a health crisis before patients need hospitalization.
Sensors that monitor sleep apnea, for example, can spot heart attack warning signs. Similarly, smart glucose meters can indicate major fluctuations in blood-sugar.
But instead of rushing to the hospital whenever they experience a flare-up, patients with chronic disease can now use Bluetooth to share their health status with their doctor and receive guidance within minutes.
This will help hospitals solve the issue of overcrowding and staff fatigue. On top of this, patients cared for at home cost the healthcare system significantly less than those in a hospital.
Startups like Proteus are working on fixing this issues. Proteus’ Bluetooth-enabled monitoring devices are able to detect subtle health deviations which point to exacerbations in certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, asthma and diabetes.
These sensitive devices can allow doctors to keep an eye on their patients without them physically being in the hospital. Allowing patients to heal from the comforts of their home without putting a deficit on their care.
6. They help reduce clinical errors.
Bluetooth-powered medical devices are taking a load off doctors’ shoulders, and not just by allowing them to keep an eye on patients from afar. Currently, medical staff spends almost as much time handling administrative work, as they do tending to patients.
This heavy workload often leads to burnout, which can have disastrous consequences for both their and their patients’ health. Burnout can cause mindless mistakes, like recording vitals improperly, that can deeply affect a patient’s treatment.
Another aspect to clinical errors is patients’ omitting important medical details that might help doctors make accurate diagnosis. Often times patients will misremember or completely forget information that can add valuable details to a doctor’s diagnosis.
Thanks to complex medical software, wireless devices can integrate with — and feed data into — an electronic health record (EHR) system via Bluetooth. And with Bluetooth, all the important details are transferred with high-accuracy to a doctor’s device or an EHR system, eliminating the potential for human error, whether from a doctor or a patient.Updated Date: 10 June 2019, 23:52