A brave new world – diagnosing diseases where they originate

Written by on April 21, 2016 in Catalysts with 3 Comments

close up of male finger with blood and test stripeThe advent of smartphones has impacted the lives of millions of people around the globe revolutionized many industries.  Everything from banking and payments to retail and gaming has been affected.  As we are entering the Internet of Things (IoT) era at full pace we are seeing the collection of data from devices in any location being transmitted to a central location and processed in real time.

Yet the one industry sector that can bring the most value to humans worldwide, healthcare, is only now seeing the massive benefits brought by remote care and monitoring. But there is only so much that can be done with a smartphone, tablet or camera operated by an untrained professional.

The next breakthrough is coming from being able to diagnose diseases, particularly infectious diseases, remotely and be able to respond quickly to contain any potential outbreaks or spread.

Currently, many people with serious infectious diseases like tuberculosis (which might be resistant to first-line drugs) are not aware that they are infected and thus do not seek effective treatment, and may infect others. In developing countries (where the incidence of such diseases may be especially high), access to healthcare is usually limited not only by the cost of tests with large hospital instruments but also by distance from clinics/hospitals. In the developed world, patients are seen in clinics would normally send tests to a central lab also leading to significant time delay in getting results back.

By enabling diagnostic instruments connected to smartphones to communicate through an M2M/IoT platform, the power of high-tech molecular diagnostics can be taken to the “point of care,” that is, where the patient is, whether in a small clinic, an ambulance, or a rural village.

This is now becoming possible using small, yet very clever test machines enabled by a smartphone that can test a small blood or saliva sample and send the results to a cloud-based repository where it can be analyzed by experts. With this database of medical test results + test location/date/time + publically-sourced data (for example, economic, demographic, prevalence of other diseases) a knowledge base can be created. By applying big data analytic technologies to this knowledge base, insights can be generated that can be used to improve healthcare delivery and resource allocation for patients as well as warn of any infectious outbreaks.

Dr Edward Currie, who manages the Digital Health program within the TM Forum, is working with a number of members on a Catalyst project called Smart Health: Anywhere Point-of-Care Diagnostics to demonstrate how all the players and components to achieve this will work together.

There are two main roles in each Catalyst – Champions (usually an organization seeking a solution to a problem) and Participants (organizations contributing to solving the problem). Here the champion is Vodafone. Participants include: CepHeid (a leading molecular diagnostics company); and Guavus (a provider next-generation big data analytics applications). Working together, these players create an agile, accelerated environment to come up with a solution that everyone can benefit from.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .

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  1. Mike Bradbury says:

    Really interesting and valuable application of mobile/IoT technology. Interested to learn how far the equipment manufacturers have got with the smartphone-enabled data gathering tools.

  2. Ed Currie says:

    Hi Mike, many thanks for your comments. The technology on which this is based should be in the market this year (see here for specs and videos: http://www.cepheid.com/us/genexpert-omni). Non-profits InSTEDD and FIND are also members of this catalyst. Here’s some further context: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eduardo-jezierski/the-game-changing-innovat_b_5923612.html

    • Mike Bradbury says:

      Ed – we have recently done a couple of projects in Africa and its easy to see how this technology would make a huge difference to how disease and epidemics might be treated there. Perhaps there is an opportunity for some of the mobile operators to contribute towards the cost of these devices and the distribution network in return for greater customer loyalty? Great to see new applications of wireless broadband that offer such valuable human potential.

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