Health care is a universal need; better care delivery, increased population coverage, and lower costs are pressing societal expectations. Technology is an indispensable component of solutions responsive to these expectations. One such promising technology solution is wireless health, which enables diagnosis, therapy, and monitoring of health-related conditions by tracking biometric readings and relevant biomarkers, managing treatment regimens, and monitoring progress—while the patient remains “untethered” and can even go about her daily life. This approach to health care is being called wireless health, though the terms mobile health (mHealth), digital health, and connected health are also used to refer to the same.
Ubiquitous connectivity and computing are bringing about unprecedented mobility—facilitating working, entertainment, shopping, socializing, gaming, and more, anytime, anywhere. Today’s health care delivery, however, “tethers” the patient and the provider together episodically (i.e., requiring them to meet at a designated time and place). It is only natural that the same enabling technologies and the associated mobility enablement are infiltrating health care. In fact, telehealth, which leverages videoconferencing, is already being used to offer “care at a distance”—connecting remote providers and patients face-to-face—a step forward in the trend noted.
Wireless health finds its origin in offering health care solutions in the developing world by leveraging the pervasiveness of wireless devices; uses have included education and awareness, remote data collection and monitoring, training and management of care personnel in the field, epidemic and disease tracking, and diagnostic and treatment support. In the developed world, enhancing quality, improving convenience, extending reach, and reducing costs of care are prospects that motivate wireless health solutions (see Table 1). Of these, reducing costs is front and center, particularly in the United States, where the quality of care is generally acceptable, convenience is “nice to have,” and reach is generally not a pressing issue. The rising costs of care, however, are not sustainable and must be addressed—making cost reduction a must-have.
Table 1: Prospects for wireless health impact.
Given its significant potential benefits to the health care delivery systems and increasing patient demand for mobility, continued emergence of wireless health is a near certainty. On the technology side, advances in microsystems enable nonintrusive measurement of health and disease conditions, as well as delivery of therapy on demand. Connectivity and computing are ubiquitously available at low cost and with high performance; they will continue to get better with time. Social networks are a powerful tool for promoting peer comparisons and competitions in health and wellness, motivating behavioral change and providing a community of support. Meanwhile, advances in genomics (not covered in this book) are ushering in a new era of personalized medicine.
The convergence of the aforementioned trends will result in individualized preventative medicine that is time and place independent. Figure 1 captures the key benefits of this convergence, recognizing the central role of “wireless” enablement; without “wireless,” the extent of each of the benefits is limited. Hence, this book emphasizes “wireless health” rather than “mHealth” or “digital health.” Nevertheless, these terms are used interchangeably in this book for the most part.
Fig. 1: The coming transformation of health care, catalyzed in part by wireless health solutions.
The topical coverage in this book reflects the interdisciplinary nature of wireless health. To enter the field and contribute to its advancement, a certain level of depth and breadth of knowledge is necessary. This “textbook” is an attempt to provide the reader with this level of breadth and depth. The chapters of the book are coordinated to meet this overall objective. At the same time, each chapter stands alone in its topical coverage, which forced slight overlaps among a few chapters. Even then, the overlap is not repetition, but looks at the point from the perspective of the chapter.
The content of this book is presented in four parts. The rationale for this construction is to afford the reader flexibility in balancing depth and breadth of learning. For example, readers with medical/clinical backgrounds may elect to skip part II. On the other hand, readers with an engineering background may already be familiar with the topics of part II. The following is an overview of each of the four parts:
- Overview of wireless health
Introduces the reader to wireless health. It includes examples of products, services, and business models to ground the discussion in practical terms. It is intended for readers of any background desiring a high-level perspective on wireless health.
- Health care delivery ecosystem
Provides the reader with an understanding of the US health care delivery ecosystem. It paints the contextual landscape in which wireless health solutions must fit and function. It is intended for readers of any background desiring an understanding of the current health care delivery landscape.
- Pervasive technologies
Provides the reader with an understanding of four key pervasive technologies that enable wireless health solutions. It includes a chapter on each technology, with an introductory-level depth and breadth. It is intended for readers with engineering and physical sciences backgrounds, or readers with technology savvy.
- Solution considerations
Tunes the reader to considerations in developing wireless health solutions. It includes chapters on topics that expand the reader’s depth and breadth, positioning her to develop new (and enhance existing) wireless health solutions. It is intended for readers who have integrated the content of the first three parts into their knowledge base, and for readers with topical interest.
The use of web links for citations has been liberal in this book, as it was unavoidable for the most part. Some links inevitably have been moved (or once in a while deleted); using one of the common search engines, the reader can usually find the intended reference.