MobiHealth Body Area Networks new promise to meet mobile health care challenges

The Hague 04 September 2003Patients enjoy full mobility and more quality of life whilst undergoing health monitoring. Furthermore quality in health care goes up at reduced costs. All this should be realised by a newly designed solution for mobile patient monitoring, the MobiHealth system. Already at the Medica International and Medical Conference and Exhibition in Düsseldorf in 2002, the first live demo of the Body Area Network (BAN), the core element of the solution for mobile patient monitoring, was demonstrated. At the ICT-Kenniscongres in The Hague, Aart van Halteren from the Technical University Twente introduced the project to the Dutch audience.

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MobiHealth is supported by the European Commission with 5 million euro. The MobiHealth consortium unites 14 partners from five European countries and represents all the relevant disciplines, such as hospitals and medical service providers, universities, mobile network operators, mobile application service providers and mobile infrastructure and hardware suppliers.

The consortium partners include Philips Research Laboratories in the United Kingdom; the University of Twente, Medisch Spectrum Twente, TMS International BV, YUCAT mobile business solutions, LogicaCMG International, HP, all from The Netherlands; Ericsson GmbH and GesundheitScout24 GmbH from Germany; Telefonica Moviles Espana, Corporacio Sanitaria Clinic as well as Universidad Pompeu Fabra from Spain; and furthermore Lulea Tekniska Universitet and Telia Mobile AB from Sweden.

The project started in May 2000 and is scheduled to end in February 2004. Dimitri Konstantas is responsible for the scientific co-ordination and Rainer Herzog for overall project co-ordination.

Rainer Herzog, project manager of the MobiHealth project, is sure that the newly designed solution for mobile patient monitoring is not only technically feasible, but also offers benefits for all parties involved. "Patients of our target groups will be given more mobility and thus be able to lead a more normal life again. Doctors will be supported in diagnosing and choosing the appropriate medical treatment and medical services in the case of home-based health care. Also, sickness-funds and health insurance will realise the potential of cost savings in health care by applying a mobile patient monitoring solution."

MobiHealth targets the introduction of new mobile value-added services in the area of health based on 2,5 and 3G technologies, thus improving not only the quality of life of patients, but also allowing the introduction of new value-added services in the areas of disease prevention, disease diagnosis, remote assistance, even in the case of accident or emergency, clinical research, para-health services, physical state monitoring in sports, and even clinical research. These services should help to save costs for medical health care without a decrease in quality because they are likely to reduce medical treatment of patients suffering from chronic diseases by around 30 percent.

The core element of the newly designed mobile solution is a Body Area Network (BAN) that the patient wears on his or her body and that, via a safe and mobile solution, can transmit the patient's physiological data to the doctor, the medical care centre or the health call centre.

A Body Area Network is based on GPRS and UMTS technologies for wireless broadband data transfer. It enables monitoring, storage and transmission of vital sign data coming from the patient. It furthermore supports flexible personalisation of services and ensures appropriate intervention in response to certain conditions or combinations detected in the vital sign measurements.

The patient wears the BAN, which is programmed according to his/her individual health requirements, on his/her body. This BAN consists of sensors and actuators, a mobile digital box and a programmable mobile phone or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). Small sensors fixed to the body measure vital data such as blood pressure, heart rate, pulse rate at intervals or continuously, and wirelessly transmit these data by Bluetooth to a mobile terminal.

This terminal, a mobile phone or PDA, transmits the data via GPRS, later on by UMTS, to providers of health care services, such as health care centres, but also to hospitals. There the data will be displayed on the computer screen. The doctor monitoring these data can then decide which action to take, from remote assistance to emergency alarm.

More news on the MobiHealth project can be found in this VMW issue's articles Vodafone Netherlands starts 3G pilots within the MobiHealth project framework and EC project MobiHealth launches field trial phase in four European countries.


Leslie Versweyveld

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