While our healthcare technology is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was only a few years ago, we still need better healthcare access in rural or remote areas of the U.S. It’s an important issue that everyone in healthcare needs to address.
Luckily, the recent advances in telemedicine and a variety of creative health trackers and mobile health tools are making this easier.
In particular, we wanted to highlight three companies that have developed innovative tools for improving rural healthcare access. While these solutions could help improve patient care in a wide variety of circumstances, they could have biggest impact on getting healthcare to those who need it most.
Physicians have long had access to remote monitoring tools for diabetic patients, such as standard and continuous blood glucose monitors and insulin pumps. But Glooko has taken this one step further. Healthcare startup Glooko has partnered with Medtronic, maker of many of these devices, to facilitate better access to data from Medtronic’s MiniMed insulin pump.
Essentially, Glooko is a companion tool for telemedicine software that enables rural area physicians to better remotely collect and synthesize diabetic patient data. By using the Glooko platform to sync diabetes monitors and other healthcare devices, physicians can see a patient’s glucose data along with their diet, exercise, medications, and sleep patterns. This means more informed treatment advice from physicians and better self-care adherence for diabetic patients.
This is particularly crucial in remote areas, where diabetic patients may not be able to regularly see their physician in-person to share this information. Instead, they might end up in the hospital unnecessarily, unable to address red flags as they show up.
Wireless Vital Sign Patch Monitors
GE has announced a wireless, medical sensor-enabled patch (worn on the wrist) that monitors patients’ vital signs and sweat. Royal Philips and Silicon Valley startup Vital Connect have also developed wireless, vital sign patch monitors that patients can stick to their chests. Other vital sign monitoring systems in development are based on camera, radar, under-the-mattress, and even ingestible technologies!
Wireless vital sign patches enable rural area physicians to continue monitoring their patients as they transition from hospital care back to their homes. Having fast and easy access to vital signs, sweat analytics, and other related data, quickly alerts physicians to patient problems. Since vital signs are such a crucial part of patient checkups, these wireless monitors could play a huge rule in the widespread adoption of telemedicine, especially for remote patients.
Zio XT Patch
Like the remote vital sign monitor patches, wearable electrocardiogram patches, (such as the Zio XT Patch from iRhythm) allow physicians to detect abnormal heart activity. Normally, physicians might have to do several scans in-office to track a patient’s heart activity. But this is often difficult to do for rural area physicians and their patients.
With the Zio XT Patch, physicians can gather longer-term, more accurate cardiovascular data about their patients. Patients wear the water-resistant patch around the clock for two weeks. The physician can then access the data on iRhythm’s clinical app, which uses specialized algorithms to analyze the data.
Telemedicine has been revolutionary for the delivery of healthcare in rural areas. But with the addition of innovative mobile medical apps and devices, physicians can further improve the quality of care for remote patients.