Tech Gets Behind Mobile Health Monitoring

One would expect that at last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we would have been treated to cutting-edge advancements that demonstrate how companies can harness their technology to meet the needs of an evolving patient-centric healthcare industry — and we did.

What caught my eye was the launch of a partnership between Ford Motor Co.; {complink 3426|Microsoft Corp.}; Healthrageous, a company that delivers digital, self-management prevention, and chronic condition health solutions via the Web and a mobile app; and BlueMetal Architects, an interactive design and technology architecture firm.

The alliance will develop technology that drivers will use to monitor their health and wellness while traveling in their cars. How does this work, you ask?

In a nutshell, drivers will enter information by speaking into a voice recognition system that captures health information such as the number of glasses of water consumed during the day, or what pills they had taken. The information is uploaded to Microsoft's HealthVault, which uses cloud computing to store and manage an individual's personal health record (PHR). The data is processed, along with other health data stored in the PHR, and used to create graphical reports that the driver can access via a computer, tablet, or smartphone after he or she has left the vehicle.

When I read this, my first thought was that with so many accidents caused by the distraction of text messaging while driving, do we really want our drivers to monitor their health related data in a car? In spite of the obvious drawbacks, those involved in this alliance think that with so many Americans spending so much time in their cars, this is a wonderful place for people to engage technology that will enable them track to their health and wellness.

“People are spending more time in their cars, and with the tremendous growth in mobile healthcare solutions, Ford is dedicated to understanding the value of being able to connect to health and wellness-related services while driving,” Gary Strumolo, manager of Infotainment, Interiors, Health, and Wellness at Ford Research and Innovation, said in a statement. “Our connectivity platform — Ford SYNC — provides easy, voice-controlled access to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and therefore it makes sense to research areas that are important to our customers.”

The idea that individuals should take greater responsibility for monitoring their health is a goal the healthcare industry is promoting. UnitedHealth Group, which occupied a 3,500-square-foot booth at CES, announced ahead of the conference that it has partnered with three mobile health companies whose products and services will be offered to one of its divisions that provides healthcare coverage and benefit services to individuals across the country.

Among UnitedHealth Group's new partners is CareSpeak Communications, which has developed a medication and disease management application that helps patients manage their health using two-way text messaging via their mobile phones. The CareSpeak system allows patients to send text messages about their medication intakes and biometric data (blood glucose levels, blood pressure, weight, etc.) to clinicians. Patients will also receive educational and motivational messages, as well as incentives and rewards for meeting their health goals.

FitNow Inc., and its application Lose It!, will help UnitedHealthcare members manage their weight and improve their health by tracking their progress using a mobile app and Website. The mobile app is available for iPhones and Android devices.

The third company is Fitbit Inc., which has developed a product that includes an accelerometer to count how many steps a user takes, and an altimeter to track stairs climbed. The wireless tracking device also calculates how many calories are burned. This information is uploaded to where consumers can analyze their physical activity.

“The incredible growth and interest in healthcare at the CES show is yet another example of the major transformative activity surrounding the expanding need and desire for patients to take greater responsibility for their own healthcare,” said Zachary Bujnoch, an analyst covering Telehealth at {complink 9171|Frost & Sullivan}.

A new era in healthcare technology has arrived where consumers will turn to their smartphones, tablets, and computers to enter and access their health information. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact this new way of monitoring a person's health will have on the healthcare industry, and whether this new model of care will thrive.

19 comments on “Tech Gets Behind Mobile Health Monitoring

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 19, 2012

    This is fascinating stuff, but I see some issues in addition to the one you raise about texting. Let's say you are taking medication for a condition that impairs your driving or it is a side effect in say 1% of patients. Although people that take such meds shouldn't be driving, the fact is they do. That information, however, is considered private. Nevertheless, the risk of the department of motor vehicles or your insurance company accidently getting that information is significant, particularly if you are in a car accident. The concept about spending so much time in the car is right on, but I see some potential problems with implementation.

  2. Daniel
    January 19, 2012

    Nicole, in most of the countries while driving, speaking over the phone is not allowed. So am doubt full about how this new initiate becomes fruitful, while driving. The idea is good in some other sense like, monitoring the driver health and behavior in order to make sure that he is fit to drive. In other way also it can be used to alert the emergency response team and medical team in case of any misfortune.

  3. SunitaT
    January 20, 2012

    in most of the countries while driving, speaking over the phone is not allowed.

    @Jacob, speaking over the phone is not allowed but speaking over hands free is allowed. You can always use handsfree to communicate with this system. But nonetheless speaking over phone while driving is always dangerous because language interferes with visual tasks.

  4. Jay_Bond
    January 20, 2012

    I think the idea of inputing your health data in your car while driving is a horrible idea. For starters, the ramifications of this information being released, which is private, could cause serious issues. People who are trying to stay healthy have the drive to do this without needing a program like this. This sounds to me like another project companies have come up with to make money off of lazy and unhealthy people. Unless you're willing to do something with the information you're providing, it's a waste of money.

  5. Ariella
    January 20, 2012

    Of course, there is the distracted driving issue. It's not just holding a device in the hands that distracts the driver but having to focus attention on something other than managing the car on the road. Even talking to fellow passengers can prove distracting. It is certainly cited as a cause of accidents, particularly among teen drivers. While most states only ticket drivers for using hand-held devices while driving, it is still better to leave that call for later.

    Back in October, Consumer Reports took the position that the connectivity option in cars is a bad idea:


    Still, Consumer Reports believes that any system that requires drivers to take their eyes off the road for too long or engage in unnecessary distraction can be dangerous. Is it really necessary, for instance, to tweet or post to Facebook while driving? We urge the federal government to address the impact of systems that allow drivers to do that and to craft appropriate regulations to control it. We also hope to see more police departments develop and apply a standard system to track distraction and device use in accident reports so that the scope of the problem can be fully understood.

    We urge consumers to use electronics sensibly. Do searches, set destinations, and send messages only while the vehicle is parked safely off the road. When you're driving, keep your full attention on the road. The bottom line, Teater says, is “if you are not fully engaged, you are not driving as safely as you can, and you are risking not only your life but the lives of those you share the road with.”

  6. The Source
    January 20, 2012

    Dear Ariella ,  

    Thanks for including the Consumer Report link regarding connectivity in cars and the distraction this can cause to drivers. With regard to what Ford is doing, this is a very new concept – the idea of having drivers engage with technology in their cars to enter data regarding their health and wellness. Ford's success with this initiative will depend on whether drivers think this is a good idea, and if they think it is Ford and their partners will succeed, and if not the initiative will flop.  I'm just hoping that NOT ONE ACCIDENT occurs while a driver is entering information on how many pills they have taken, or any other  health related information for that matter.   

    Thanks for reading the article, and for sharing your thoughts. 


  7. Ariella
    January 20, 2012

    @Nicole, my pleasure!

  8. t.alex
    January 21, 2012

    Most of the devices so far rely on GPS or accelerometer. How can the devices analyze say our eating habits? I believe there some apps that can show the calories based on the picture of the food, but not sure how accurate.

  9. prabhakar_deosthali
    January 21, 2012

    Such kind of in-vehicle health monitoring systems are better suited to truckers than the car drivers.  For Truckers their vehicle is their life. They spend almost 18 hours everyday in their vehicle.  Monitoring the health of this always-on-the-move community is quite important. Since this community does not have time for excecise, does not have fixed time for taking food or sleep it is more important to monitor their health and create alerts. And in-vehicle health monitoring could be the best way to help this community to stay fit.

  10. The Source
    January 21, 2012

    Hi Prabhakar,

    I would think that a truck driver could find a health monitoring system build into their truck a very useful tool. Driving a truck, especially for long hours, is a  sedentary occupation which can be hazardous to your health. If you are a truck driver suffering from high blood pressure and are traveling with a blood pressure monitor or you are a truck driver who is diabetic and you travel with a blood glucose meter then it will be beneficial to check these readings during the day and enter them into the system for follow-up later on.

    I appreciate your thoughts on this topic, and thanks for the response.


  11. Adeniji Kayode
    January 22, 2012

    I think a sensor should be able to do that since that technology is becoming more applicable in medicine now. 

  12. Wale Bakare
    January 22, 2012

    It will be interesting to see how much of an impact this new way of monitoring a person's health will have on the healthcare industry, and whether this new model of care will thrive.

    This is a good idea as we push everything to the cloud computing. And i hope it gets widely accepted.

  13. Daniel
    January 23, 2012

    Tirlapur, everybody knows that it's not safe talking over phone (using hands free also) while driving. They whether there is a need of any such application unless and until any emergency situation. If they are coming up with such IVR system, most of the drivers may start using such calls and may be end up with irresponsible driving.

    January 23, 2012

    Any technology that reduces the cost of health care and helps early detection of serious conditions is a great thing.  I believe this is an area of huge opportunity for electronics and sowtware companies.

  15. stochastic excursion
    January 23, 2012

    Along with the advances in multi-tasking with devices over the years come new demands on users.  Users find they can now perform several tasks at once, but just because you can multitask doesn't mean you should multitask. Drivers should always be ready to divide their attention for the sole purpose of driving safely, and leave the operation of other devices for when others drive.

  16. Adeniji Kayode
    January 25, 2012

    I can,t agree with you more, the moment such device is availabe in every vechicles, somebody will always have a reason to use it and abuse it emergency or no emergency.

  17. Adeniji Kayode
    January 25, 2012

    well, maybe a way to put a measure on the use of this devices that may distract the driver is to make them function only when the car is not in motion.As long as that such devices are available, somebody will always break the law  for best reason known to him.

  18. Adeniji Kayode
    January 25, 2012

    @Flyingscot, I agree with you on that, I also that is an opportunity for more work for law enforcement agents too. I mean considering the consequences this might have on the driver,s attention when driving.

  19. Adeniji Kayode
    January 25, 2012


    You are right, you made a good point on that. I really agree with you

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