E-Care project aims to generate wireless 3G medical services enhancing outpatients' mobility

Amsterdam 22 April 2002Dr. Andy Marsh, 3G Medicine session chair at the recent International Conference on Computational Science 2002, introduced the E-Care project, funded by the European Commission. The E-Care initiative proposes the development of a Medical Expert System for Continuity of Care and Healthy Lifestyle addressed to the elderly, as well as to adult and infant cancer patients in a step-by-step approach to "remove the wires" in the home monitoring process.

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Vital patient data thus could be captured and transmitted to a medical server using off-the-shelf mobile communication technologies including RF or Radio Frequency, GSM, and 2.5G called General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). Full 3G telemedical services will be offered in a later stage by advanced handsets and PDAs with smart computation facilities in combination with a Universal Mobile Telecommunication System (UMTS) networking service.

The ultimate objective of E-Care consists in generating a sophisticated collaboration model between patient, family, doctor, and care provider by means of an intelligent automated infrastructure incorporating the patient Electronic Health Care Record (EHCR), which can be implemented in a large variety of health monitoring scenarios, according to Dr. Marsh.

In conventional monitoring, the vital sign sensors are linked to a data logger carried by the patient. This is connected through an RS232 link to a client PC in the patient's home. In turn, this PC transmits the patient data such as EEG, ECG waveform, body temperature and weight, blood pressure and glucose, pulse and heart rate to a central server via a fixed line for analysis and update. This system is also able to generate an alarm or an emergency call.

Dr. Marsh explained that in a first step the RS232 link can be replaced with a Radio Frequency (RF) connection. In this case, the patient has to stay within the 200 meter range of the RF transceivers to have the data captured from the sensors. This limitation can be overcome using two GSM modems, one transmitting and one receiving, to regularly send the sensor data by SMS to the home PC.

If this PC is programmed to detect an emergency situation, it is possible to warn the patient through his mobile handset without interference of the monitoring server. According to the speaker, this operating mode can even be extended to GPRS or 2.5G networking to transmit a larger amount of patient data. In order to increase the patient's mobility, especially in the case of children, wireless intelligent sensors with built-in RF transmission features can mean a big help.

In support of the wireless sensors, advanced handsets with equally built-in RF receivers will be able to directly communicate with these sensors and eventually replace the home PC for data transmission to the central server and calculation of personalised alarms.

The last step would involve the use of both a computing and networking smart personal digital assistent (PDA) for a truly mobile health monitoring process, be it at the patient's home, at his work, or wherever. This PDA has to store the patient's electronic health care record for ready access whenever necessary, as the speaker outlined. With the predicted UMTS networks in place, even tele-consultation services might come in reach of both patient and family. But before that, standards, protocols, and procedures will have to be agreed upon, concluded Dr. Marsh.

More information is available at the E-Care project Web site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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