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Pervasive Computing in Healthcare

(University of Michigan at Ann Arbor)


Pervasive Wireless Healthcare

Pervasive healthcare is the conceptual system of providing healthcare to anyone, at anytime, and anywhere by removing restraints of time and location while increasing both the coverage and the quality of healthcare. Pervasive Healthcare Computing is at the forefront of this research, and presents the ways in which mobile and wireless technologies can be used to implement the vision of pervasive healthcare. This vision includes prevention, healthcare maintenance and checkups; short-term monitoring (home healthcare monitoring), long-term monitoring (nursing home), and personalized healthcare monitoring; and incidence detection and management, emergency intervention, and transportation and treatment. The pervasive healthcare applications include pervasive health monitoring, intelligent emergency management system, pervasive healthcare data access, and ubiquitous mobile telemedicine.

Today the promise of precision and personalised medicine needs to take into consideration the potentiality offered by new technologies aiming at collecting and managing environmental, healthcare and lifestyle data, such as pervasive healthcare does. Pervasive healthcare focuses on technologies and human factors related to the use of ubiquitous computing in healthcare and for wellbeing. Recent Advances in technology has led to the development of small, intelligent, wearable sensors capable of remotely performing critical health monitoring tasks and then transmitting patient’s data back to health care centres over wireless medium. Such wireless health monitoring platforms aim to continuously monitor mobile patients needing permanent surveillance. Patients benefit from continuous ambulatory monitoring as a part of a diagnostic procedure, optimal maintenance of a chronic condition or during supervised recovery from an acute event or surgical procedure. 

The rapid evolution of wireless technologies coupled with advances in related fields such as biosensor design, low power battery operated systems, diagnosing and reporting for intelligent information management, genome sequencing, and advances in analytic software, etc. has opened up many new applications for wireless systems in medicine (uHealth – ubiquitous Health). With the inclusion of Electronic Health Care, Point-of-Care technologies, E-Health and M-Health protocols, and personalized healthcare/medicine, the medical informatics area is entering into another era of massive amount of information. The medical and health care information databases would lead to new knowledge bases, discoveries in medical research, engineering oriented developments and clinical translational research and practices. 

Healthcare applications based on Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) are gaining high popularity all over the world due to their features like flexibility, mobility and ease of constant monitoring of the patient. A WSN consists basically of a group of nodes that communicate with each other through a wireless transmission and does not need any existing infrastructure. The main focus of such system in healthcare is remote monitoring of patient, inside and outside the hospital room and in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Many of the sensors and tracking devices that we can easily access nowadays can be used to support a variety of people and patients, providing easier access to information. A Wireless Body Area Networks (WBAN), a new generation of Wireless Sensor Networks, provides a continuous health monitoring of a patient without any constraint on his/her normal daily life activities. The primary purpose of the WBAN is to transmit data generated by wearable devices outside to a wireless local area network (WLAN) and/or the Internet.  Continuous health monitoring using WBAN of implantable and wearable medical devices is envisioned as a transformative approach to healthcare. 

Rapid advances in biomedical sensors, low-power electronics, and wireless communications have brought this vision to the verge of reality. At the individual level, health tracker apps on our mobile devices are sending data to health care providers to improve patient care and provide early-warning signs in at-risk patients. Early detection and monitoring is critical to mounting effective cancer treatments (and speed is critical because cancer treatment is a race against fast-replicating cells.). By combining implantable cancer detectors (using new methods in molecular imaging and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technologies) with wireless data transmission technologies, new tools and emerging technologies for continuous monitoring during and after cancer treatment to signal remission and relapse or even trigger micro-scale drug delivery systems for automatic therapeutic interventions are on the horizon.


[More to come ...]



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