Medical Monitoring: CITRIS Health Director Steve DeMello is featured in a recently published Scientific American article on remote monitoring of patients and the collection of surveillance data from nontraditional sources called, “Small Gadgets That Make You Healthier”.
Scientific American: At any moment, someone in the U.S. most likely is having an asthma attack. The breath-robbing disease afflicts around 25 million Americans, and every year about half of them lose control of their asthma. They may rush to the emergency room or reach for a rescue inhaler, a source of quick-acting drugs that can relax constricted airways in minutes. Predicting who is at risk of such crises is difficult, however, because the relevant statistics that would identify trends come from the patients’ own recollections days or weeks after the emergency.
In several U.S. cities, a new technology may change that. In Louisville, Ky., in parts of California and in Washington State, asthma patients are using rescue inhalers topped with a small sensor that wirelessly broadcasts when, where and how often the device is used. The data pass through a secure server to patients’ mobile phones and a physician’s Web dashboard, providing an instant record of how well a patient is doing and archiving the information for future reference.
The device and data-monitoring system—which are collectively called Asthmapolis and which were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last July—constitute just one example of an emerging strategy in a movement so new that no one has yet coined a catchy name for it. That movement holds great promise because it combines traditional medical record keeping and public health surveillance with data mining and mobile phone technologies. Together these tools produce deep, up-to-date reports that can benefit patients and medical researchers, as well as public health and environmental authorities, all at the same time.