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Bluetooth Low Energy and Internet of Things Make House Calls

Heal's Wellbe device comes with BLE, Bluetooth and 4G cellular functionality to automatically capture data from health-tracking sensors so that doctors can keep an eye on the health of chronically ill or elderly patients between visits.
By Claire Swedberg

BLE beacons could also be connected to such items as pill bottles, to identify when a bottle has been opened, or injectable medication. In that way, physicians can be provided with data indicating medications are being taken as prescribed.

A physician can also set parameters for other sensor data, such as fluctuations in blood-pressure or blood-sugar levels. If a pre-determined threshold is exceeded, the doctor receives a text message, and he or she can then begin a telemedicine session with the patient and let that person know what event has occurred and what the remedy may be. This may include increasing the dosage of a medication, or dispatching a doctor to the patient's home for an examination.

The company has tested the Wellbe device with 20 to 30 patients to date, Desai says. In many cases, he notes, patients simply forgot the Wellbe was present and collecting data. He says he expected that response, but was more surprised at how well physicians said they liked working with the system, since it provided them with a wealth of information they would not otherwise have had about a patient between visits.

By the end of this month, the Wellbe is expected to be beta-tested with approximately 100 patients. Heal plans to make the solution commercially available for health-care providers and patients in March 2018, and to roll it out for use with patients using the Heal service who have chronic conditions (who comprise about a third of the company's customers).

The Wellbe's key feature, Desai says, is its ease of use. "We're believers that technology should make life easier and better," he states. Too often, he argues, technology is developed that is complicated and offers little benefit to users. Additionally, many of those who would benefit from the technology the most—namely, elderly or chronically ill patients—are the least likely to be comfortable with complex technology.

"Our philosophy is to make devices useful for the people using them," Desai says, "without requiring users to be technically savvy." He predicts that the technology could help change the way in which health care is provided, and improve health outcomes as a result.

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