Smartphones and M2M for mHealth

Will Kelly explains how smartphones and M2M are becoming tools for patient advocacy and self-sufficiency.

Mobile Health (mHealth) is shaking up the healthcare market both inside and outside of the doctor's office. The advent of machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies and smartphones are turning the Internet of Things into a health-monitoring platform that can monitor a variety of health issues (chronic and otherwise).

There are benefits of M2M joining with smartphones in a health monitoring capacity, including:

  • Capability to monitor and chart trends in such things as blood pressure and heart rate
  • Self-sufficiency because patient monitoring can take place outside of the doctor's office, under their control, and without the need to always consult a healthcare professional
  • Information is power when dealing with doctors, and these tools are ideal at helping patients gather information on their condition using a familiar interface

Here are some examples of how M2M and smartphones are coming together to help medical professionals, patients, and health-conscious individuals better monitor and report on chronic health conditions and their body signs.

Withings Blood Pressure Monitor

Blood pressure issues dog many segments of society. Fortunately, the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor connects to your iPhone and lets you monitor your own blood pressure at home using consumer-friendly tools. It includes the following components:

  • Blood pressure cuff that connects directly to an iPhone (or an iPad or iPod Touch) to monitor your pulse and blood pressure
  • Free Withings app available for download from the App Store

Through this simple connection and accompanying iOS app, users can calculate their pulse rate and blood pressure using an app interface that doesn't take a nursing degree to interpret. It provides a number of graphs for identifying trends. There's also an in-app feature for sending results to your doctor or other healthcare provider. The blood pressure cuff is also easy to stash away in a purse or other bag if you're self-conscious about carrying around such a device.

Blood pressure cuffs, even after adding a digital interface, were a user experience nightmare and didn't translate well to patients who wanted to monitor their blood pressure between doctor appointments. The Withings Blood Pressure Monitor is just one example of how M2M brings together the familiar interface and technology of the iPhone with a device such as a blood pressure cuff, which leads to improved usability.

IBGStar Blood Glucose Meter

Diabetics are gaining a lot of self-sufficiency due to M2M and smartphones. Diabetics can now track the blood glucose levels from the convenience of their smartphone. The IBGStar Blood Glucose Monitoring System is a hardware device that plugs into the audio jack of an iPhone (or iPod Touch). It includes the following features:

  • No coding when calibrating test strips
  • 0.5 microliter sample size for drawing a bit of blood for blood sugar testing
  • Meter (hardware) with storage for 300 results with additional results storage available on the app
  • App with multiple charts and graphs for viewing glucose, carbs, and insulin data
  • Meter hardware has a small profile and can be left attached to an iPhone
  • Personalized notes to help you track and analyze patterns and variations over your condition
  • Share data with your healthcare provider through email or bring the meter to your appointment for viewing the reports together

With devices such as the IBGStar Blood Glucose Meter, diabetics can gain convenient reporting and a tool to help them better collect data for their next doctor's appointment.

Smartphones and M2M inside the hospital

The Withings Blood Pressure Monitor and IBGStar Blood Glucose Meter are representative of the benefits that smartphones and M2M can give to consumers to stay on top of their healthcare issues. M2M and smartphones are also having an impact on patient care inside hospitals. Major carriers in the United States — such as AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon — include healthcare as an M2M focus within their enterprise division. Here are some examples of what these carriers are producing for the healthcare market:

  • A Verizon and ZipIt Wireless partnership recently launched a smartphone app that helps with secure collaboration between medical professionals. This smartphone apps lets medical professionals use the secure tools available in the ZipIt Enterprise Critical Messaging Platform from their iPhone or Android phone.
  • A partnership between Sprint and IDEAL Life, a manufacturer of in-home monitoring equipment, is using the Sprint network to transfer patient data from IDEAL Life home care monitoring equipment to medical professional's smartphones. This solution builds upon the self sufficiency in the consumer (patient side) devices previously mentioned in this post but also have implications in telemedicine by enabling patient data to be transferred securely to a medical specialist that may not be geographically present in the patient's community.
  • According to recent news from CES 2013, AT&T is also preparing for some mHealth moves that target medical professionals and consumers.

More than just mHealth with smartphones and M2M

The Internet of Things is becoming a much-needed patient advocacy tool by offering patients user-friendly tools and reporting that can help better arm and educate them before doctor appointments. After all, doctors are human. The better we can communicate with them and back up statements on our condition with data means making the best use of the 15 minutes (or even less) we get with doctors these days.

More resources

For a comprehensive look at the issues and technologies surrounding the Internet of Things and the emerging M2M ecosystem, check out ZDNet's latest feature page, Tapping M2M: The Internet of Things.


Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

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