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Taking the temperature on digital health

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Personal digital health technologies that can measure health conditions and behaviours have the potential to save lives. Amy Wilson VP corporate strategy at Clever.Care tells Health Tech World that health devices could be routine care for older people

Today, more than ever, the health space is filled with constantly new and evolving technologies to enable better health and care. But it can be easy to forget to look for what really works.

A review published in Frontiers Digital Health, led by the researchers at ETH Zurich and in partnership with a Swiss-based company Clever.Care, offers some insights. The review investigated what health-related measures, that can be measured with digital health devices, can be used to predict health outcomes of people aged 65 and older.

“We know that there are many health measures and digital health devices out there, but there is a lack of evidence about which of them really can be used to help predict health outcomes,” said Dr Marcello Ienca from ETH Zurich.

“We were interested in understanding the role that various health outcomes play in predicting disease (morbidity), hospitalisation and death (mortality), with a specific focus on those that can be measured by digital health devices. These devices include smartphones, robotics, wearable sensors or medical assistance.

If a digital health device can accurately measure and provide alerts about diabetes, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), slow walking speed, physical inactivity, and LVEF of less than 40, then they can help to predict risk of death and enable early intervention.

Measurement of hypertension and diabetes can predict risk of disease, and frailty, pulmonary comorbidity, obesity, pain, fatigue and fever are predictors of hospitalisation.

What do these findings tell older people and providers of their care?

“Personal digital health technologies that can adequately measure such health conditions and behaviours have the potential to improve health outcomes for older people, by enabling ongoing monitoring, identification of warning signs, and early intervention if a change is detected,” said Dr Ienca.

Devices can be incorporated into routine care of older people to help reduce risk of disease and increase chances of survival through early identification of warning signs. Such devices include blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, and sensors for the measurement of heart and respiratory rate, blood glucose meters for diabetes, height-weight monitors for BMI, movement sensors, accelerometers, pedometers for physical activity parameters, dynamometers for muscle strength, spirometers, and hand-held echocardiogram.

The added benefit of many of these technologies is that they can be managed remotely, allowing care to be extended beyond the face-to-face visits and consultations.

“Many adverse events and hospitalisations of older people can be avoided, with appropriate health management and care provision. More needs to be done to empower older people and their carers with the right tools to monitor their health and pre-defined processes, in case something goes wrong,” said Andres Rapp, co-founder and CEO at Clever.Care.

“At Clever.Care we also believe that digitally measured health information needs to be accessible to a patient’s health care providers. The great thing about digital devices, is that the information collected could be stored and exchanged quickly and securely.

“However, as health care providers operate various (non-compatible and often legacy) primary IT solutions, information is siloed within one organisation. We are currently working on a solution that can better enable this information exchange to ensure that up-to-date information is always available, and appropriate, timely integrated care can always be provided, particular in the case of adverse events.”

It is recommended that you speak to a medical professional should you consider incorporating digital devices into a care routine for yourself or for those you care for.

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