Bluetooth brings low-energy wireless to remote temp, heart rate sensors

Bluetooth is making another strategic move into mHealth with a new set of profiles for wireless thermometers and heart-rate monitors. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) debuted the new profiles as a standard that can be embedded in virtually any mHealth device, allowing it to communicate with any other Bluetooth-enabled unit, says Suke Jawanda, the SIG's chief marketing officer.

"Right now, Bluetooth is in 40 million medical products. This is how you go to 240 million," he tells FierceMobileHealthcare.

One big plus, according to Jawanda: The low-energy setup of the new Bluetooth 4.0 version. With the 4.0 profiles, the new thermometers and heart rate monitors will hold a charge for up to two years.

Particularly exciting are the implications for wireless Bluetooth connectivity in the infection control world, Jan Lepinski, infection prevention and control director for Chicago-based Sinai Health System, tells FierceMobileHealthcare. Allowing hands-free temperature and heart rate checks for ICU and isolation patients could reduce infection risk, and improve care, she says. For ordinary patients, she adds, it also reduces the need for frequent wake-ups and interruptions for vital-sign checks.

Lepinski also is intrigued by the possibilities of remote sensors on outpatients to track temperature fluctuations in oncology or transplant patients, and transmitting those findings to physicians for constant monitoring.

Thermometers, however, are just the beginning, Jawanda says. Next up: BP and glucose monitors. Bluetooth is moving into the consumer electronics industry, starting with embedding connectivity into TVs. From there, the group may try to connect their healthcare profiles to TV products to allow health monitors to display data on a patient's (or physician's) television screen, Jawanda adds.

The Bluetooth connection may not be a slam-dunk, even with the SIG's imprimateur. A report last August, "Is Bluetooth the right technology for mHealth?" conducted at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., found several problems with Bluetooth with regard to security, interference and scalability.

To learn more:
- check out the Bluetooth SIG press release
- read more at GigaOM
- get more detail from the Dartmouth report (.pdf)

Note: FierceMobileHealthcare incorrectly reported previously that Jan Lepinski was the infection prevention and control director for Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She is the infection prevention and control director for Sinai Health System in Chicago. We regret the error, and it has since been corrected.