Remote mHealth system offers customized communication feature

Three Wichita State University biomedical engineering students are designing a smartwatch-based health app and online monitoring service to provide affordable real-time remote communication between patients and doctors.

Using a Pebble smartwatch, the Mobile HealthLink service puts remote monitoring in the hands of a physician and provides the ability to collect qualitative data via questions in a customized approach. That's an aspect no other mHealth system provides, according to Linh Vu, who along with Brandon Bartlett and Travis Vo founded Mobile HealthLink in 2014, with funding from the university's biomedical engineering department.

"Throughout our clinical observations, we identified remote health monitoring was an enormous need, and current systems involved sending emails and waiting for the patients to respond," Vu told FierceMobileHealthcare in an email interview. The engineers assessed several solutions, which mostly utilized computer or tablet-based systems.

"We were not satisfied with those products, and wanted to design something innovative and [that] would increase compliance. A smartwatch came to mind, because it would provide increased convenience and accessibility," Vu said.

With Mobile HealthLink, doctors can ask patients custom questions regarding health, symptoms, activities--the same info typically gathered in an office visit--and get feedback and insight nearly as quickly. This helps keep treatment on course and eliminate unnecessary office visits. That, in turn, leads to lower healthcare costs for patients and doctors, Vu added.

Enhancing communications between patients and doctors, and boosting a patient's overall knowledge of treatment and medical insight leads to deeper patient satisfaction, according to a Brigham and Women's Hospital study.

Mobile HealthLink also provides patients with medication reminders, sleep and activity measurements, according to Vu. But it's the interactive customized data collection the company believes is its defining technology feature.

Still, in assessing the past 10 months of design, development and testing Vu said he would change one aspect--the company would have involved more health organizations in the early stages of development.

"An important aspect to our device and company is that we want to work closely with clinicians to tailor our device to their needs," he said. "As we are going through testing, we are constantly learning and trying to adapt our product afterward."

Mobile HealthLink is finishing up what Vu calls a vastly updated online interface, and initial pilot testing has been extremely positive. Going forward, the goal is to expand the functionality and availability of the product.

"We are working on creating a mobile device application for anyone who does not want to use the smartwatch. As for functionality, we are investigating ways of using the smartwatch to detect falls and allow for fall prevention," Vu said. "The patients enjoyed using the smartwatch and found it easy to use. We hope to continue testing with more complex injuries such as shoulder surgeries and are looking for investors and clinicians that would be willing to work with us."

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