Thinking back at all the science fiction I’ve read over the years, real-time biomedical telemetry is rarely a major theme in the story line. Dr. Leonard McCoy of Star Trek fame pioneered scanning tools with computer assisted diagnostic tech, all so he can report: He’s dead, Jim.
Sure, a few stories touched on “vitals” monitoring. He’s still dead, Jim.
Intelligent pills have already hit the test market, ready and able to snitch on you from the inside. Now, scientists have developed textiles that can monitor and transmit wearer’s biomedical info (Sparkonit, December 2014). If you thought privacy was an issue with smart phones, wait until the healthcare industry starts insisting on textiles with biomedical remote telemetry.
Astronauts have used biomedical telemetry for decades. The famous movie scene, “The Right Stuff”, where Alan Sheppard, stuck in a capsule for hours when the coffee he drank searches for an exit, pees in his suit and lights up the monitor like a Christmas tree.
Migration of Remote Patient Monitoring to private industry, however, has been slow for a variety of reasons.
- Cost: Anything with the word, “medical”, guarantees a trip to expensive-ville.
- Dependant on extensive wireless communications infrastructure. “Can you feel me yet?”
- Lack of reimbursement guidelines: “We’re sorry, our policy categorizes telemetry as “personal cell call,” and not reimbursable.”
- Requires team of 24/7 information handlers. “This is an automated call. Your – stool output – is – below normal. Please – utilize the toilet – as soon as possible.”
- No clear guidelines whether clinicians have to intervene. “Mr. Bumbler’s heart rate is up again.” “Don’t worry about it, he’s probably watching porno again.”
- Barrier to healthcare providers who are not technologically inclined. “I’m Mrs. Don Havnoclue, I’m calling from Dr. B. Hindtime’s office. The alarm clock with your name on it is buzzing. This is your wakeup call.“
- Who remembers Dr. House and his famous “everybody lies“? “Um … Mr. Brotwurst, a recent urinalysis result says you’re … pregnant.“
- And of course, security of sensitive information. “Honey, it’s an outfit called Tunnel of Darkness; wants to know if you’re interested in buying Silkibum ointment after your colonoscopy next week.”
I jest of course. Chronic illnesses will benefit greatly by the use of biomedical telemetry for Remote Patient Monitoring. The UK launched a whole system demonstrator trial to test its benefits. At some point in the near future, I’m betting remote monitoring will utilize interactive textiles. The shirt you wear might be able to transmit a warning that your heart is about to experience arrhythmia, or flag rising blood glucose. Imagine your pants sending a text to complain you fart too much.
All that personal biomedical data, floating on the wireless medical telemetry service bands, ripe for the picking by anyone savvy enough to tap into it. Think along the lines of Spielberg’s movie, “Minority Report”, where remote retinal scanners at every entry point, pitches a product as you walk in a store. “Welcome Mrs. Leaky, we’re having a sale on adult diapers.” High-end dating apps make available, for an extra fee, information about that hunky prospect you’re evaluating who has chronic erectile dysfunction. Those new tighty-whities the wife bought, rat you out if it detects excessive blood flow to certain-anatomical-regions-of-your-body while on a business trip. Honey, I was just watching the hotel HBO channel.
It opens a whole new thriller sub-genre. Romance writers, take notice.
“Can I buy you a drink?” “I don’t know. Are you the one whose jockey shorts keep texting me?
Think I’ll stick to cotton.
What about you? Broadcasts Threads ………. Good or Bad?
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