General Chair of MobiHealth 2014, Konstantina Nikita shares with us some of her views about the 4th International Conference on Wireless Mobile Communication and Healthcare –“Transforming healthcare through innovations in mobile and wireless technologies” (MobiHealth 2014), which will take place on November 3-5 in Athens, Greece.
The conference program is quite dense with various speakers involved, such as Andreas Lymberis (European Commission), Richard Kemkers (Philips Research Eindhoven), and Gisele Roesems-Kerremans (DG Connect). In your opinion, what should we expect from the 4th edition of MobiHealth?
The Conference aims at advancing healthcare and promoting people’s well-being through applications of wireless communications, mobile computing, and sensing technologies. Our keynote speakers and participants will provide their insightful views towards truly personalized and participatory monitoring approaches that will be pervasive, intelligent, and context-aware, yet “invisible”, with applications ranging from home monitoring and chronic disease management, to performance evaluation in sports and disease prevention through promotion of healthy life style. Also, we aim to bring together the research community and the industry through the satellite event on Innovative Systems and Services that will take place within the framework of the conference. Innovation is not just something that is new, but it is something new that makes a meaningful, positive difference in people’s lives. There is little question that innovation in mhealth area can make a huge difference and address modern healthcare challenges. Innovation opportunities through EC Horizon 2020’s funding programs will be discussed aiming to address specific research and scientific challenges in healthcare technology faced in Europe and globally as well as issues at stake to make mHealth secure and safe for use by citizens.
Which direction, do you think, will be followed by future studies on healthcare technology?
Rapid advancement is wireless sensing and smart devices are creating a pervasive wireless environment that can address a wide range of major health-related challenges (aging population, prevalence of chronic diseases, outbreaks of infectious diseases, etc.). Also, as more and more data is gathered due to increased sensing capability, data processing and interpretation become more crucial in order to be useful for the patient and the clinician. Pervasive sensing combined with smart data analytics play a key role in a fundamental redesign of the healthcare processes based on the use and integration of information and communication technologies at all levels. Expert systems and intelligent, self-adaptive, disease specific and predictive algorithms based on combination of data acquired from different sensor types hold the promise to turn acquired data and information into knowledge towards supporting health decision making and action
What is the role of the Internet of Things in today’s healthcare technology?
One of the biggest IOT growth areas is measuring individual health metrics through self-tracking gadgets, clinical remote monitoring, wearable sensor patches, Wi-Fi scales, and a myriad of other biosensing applications. IoT devices can be used to enable remote health monitoring and emergency notification systems. These health monitoring devices can range from blood pressure and heart rate monitors to advanced devices capable of monitoring specialized implants, such as pacemakers or advanced hearing aids. There are three ways in which the IOT is revolutionizing health care: (a) reducing device downtime through remote monitoring and support (b) proactive fulfillment by replenishing supplies before they are needed (c) efficient scheduling by leveraging utilization to serve more patients.
In which direction shall we move in order to introduce wireless communications, mobile computing and sensing technologies in today’s healthcare?
A diverse range of applications and maturing technologies are ready for translational research and practical deployment, addressing global health challenges associated with demographic, environmental, social and economic changes. The necessary steps towards large scale mHealth deployment include setting the related devices (implantable, digestible, wearable) standards, ensuring functionality and patient safety and defining high data rate secure protocols for biosignals. Also, to practically exploit current technology in the field of modern medical devices, the issue of energy-autonomous systems through energy scavenging applications as well as energy management and optimization issues in biomedical devices and networks must be addressed. As far as sensing technologies are concerned, in-body and on-body sensors using bioelectronics, smart textiles, printable-flexible-stretchable electronics are the technologies that will be used to create implantable, digestible and wearable medical devices. Finally, electronic health records through advanced big data analytics will help clinical decision support to become more efficient, better supporting evidence-based medicine and healthcare.
What are (if any) the most common limitations of studies published up to today in the field of healthcare technologies? How can these limitations be surpassed/mitigated?
Current challenges in healthcare technologies are related to several factors. To begin with, there is the issue of extended power supply lifetimes that can be achieved using energy scavenging techniques and micro-fuel cells. Furthermore, the majority of power consumption budget is dedicated to wireless communications; ultrawideband transceivers and energy-efficient data compression algorithms can be used to address this issue. In the context of implantable sensors, biocompatibility poses a significant factor. Use of biocompatible materials and careful design of the device are required to avoid traumatizing human tissues and ensuring functionality. Also, it is important to protect the privacy of data collected and disseminated by healthcare related technologies. Complex security mechanisms can be used, but since they require more computational and power resources, a tradeoff is crucial. Currently, most of the healthcare related technology is developed on-demand. Using dynamic programming environments and cognitive surfaces we should be able to measure multiple parameters in the human body and use this data to aid in preventive medicine diagnosis. Of course there is always the computational and economic perspective, since the cost and size of healthcare technologies impose limitations on their use.