A Better Platform to Facilitate Remote Patient Monitoring (2020)

By Jason Page, Charter Communications

Cable companies are positioned to enable remote monitoring of patient data through connected medical devices. The remote needs of customers due to Coronavirus highlighted the need to offer healthcare services outside of traditional brick and mortar medical facilities. Existing solutions that enable the wireless transfer of data from connected medical devices suffer from numerous shortcomings that limit the adoption of this technology.

The predominant means of wireless connectivity for in-home medical devices is Bluetooth Low Energy. Most manufacturers require the use of a smartphone and a proprietary application to transmit vitals measurements from healthcare devices. This places a heavy burden on a patient’s ability to purchase a smartphone and then have the technology savvy to download an application and connect with the healthcare devices. These proprietary applications also lead to data siloes and inconsistent security practices. To overcome this limitation some device manufacturers and service providers resort to using expensive cellular radios and data plans. As a result of these steep barriers many of the most vulnerable patients are unable to participate in the use of this technology.

There is a better way. IoT radios, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), should be included in traditional Ethernet and Wi-Fi routers. These common access points are a natural bridge between Personal Area Networks (PAN) that are used for most constrained IoT devices’ wireless communication and traditional IP based Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN). This should be combined with a flexible software platform that can provide interfaces for IoT device provisioning, command and control, and telemetry transport.

Utilizing this approach to fulfill remote patient monitoring use cases would enable devices to be onboarded with little or no user intervention. It would also ensure that sensitive healthcare measurements can be sent directly to secure whitelisted endpoints. As administrators of the platform, Cable companies can implement industry standard security practices and provide advanced monitoring and troubleshooting services. This solution removes the technological barriers to entry, improves connection reliability, and can be provided at a much cheaper price point than using cellular.

This paper describes a prototype of a router-based remote patient monitoring system which will be much more effective than the current approaches. It introduces OpenSync, a cloud-agnostic open-source software for the delivery, curation, and management of services for the modern home and the IoT extensions that need to be added to it. It describes the enhancements that must be made to the router and its software stack, as well as what cable companies can do as an industry to enable this new line of business.

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