If you wandered into the Health Informational and Management Systems (HIMSS) conference in Las Vegas last week, you would have seen 35,000 attendees and hundreds of companies intently discussing the latest medical devices and technologies. The show was filled with CIOs, CTOs and IT pros for hospitals and other large healthcare providers.
Top of mind for many of these healthcare technologists is how to send data from the rising number of medical devices in their facilities to the cloud, where this tidal wave of information can be securely shared by patients, doctors and other healthcare providers. Many of these devices use Wi-Fi to send their data, causing them to crowd onto the same wireless LAN and clogging Wi-Fi networks at hospitals and clinics.
This is where Bluetooth® technology can help. The frequency hopping capabilities ofBluetooth technology let it shine in so-called “chatty environments” like hospitals.Bluetooth leaves wireless LANs alone, using point-to-point wireless connectivity between devices.
Bluetooth technology is also energy efficient, with theBluetooth v4.0 and its low energy technology allowing many medical devices to operate for months or years on just a button-cell battery. The same technology also features asset-based location tracking, helping hospitals and large clinics keep an eye on the expensive medical equipment scattered all over their facilities.
Bluetooth technology is also secure, using military-grade 128-bit AES encryption. This is an important consideration when you’re sending private health data about individuals over wireless connections.
(For technical details about how Bluetooth technology works in medical devices, seeBluetooth Low Energy Technology and Healthcare, from SIG member ConnectBlue.)
Making the rounds with Bluetooth
Doctors and other healthcare providers are starting to make their rounds with iPads and other tablets rather than the paper charts of yesteryear. These slim, portable devices are already able to communicate with Bluetooth medical devices, since Bluetooth technology is already built into virtually all tablets.
A doctor could collect data on his tablet from Bluetooth enabled wireless blood glucose monitors, pulse oximeters, heart rate monitors, weight scales, wireless stethoscopes and other medical devices made by Bluetooth SIG member companies such as Nonin, Polar and 3M.
This is a time of rapid change in the medical device market, driven by wireless devices that are getting smaller and more capable all the time, with new applications and cloud storage to extend their reach.
With all these factors at work, I expect to see more and more Bluetooth medical devices in hospitals and medical clinics.
Just stick out your tongue and say “Aaaaaah,” then check the results on your tablet or smartphone.
(Credit: Mike Foley)