In a move to address very high costs associated with telehealth, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has launched an open source Kit known as Medici that's based on the Raspberry Pi IoT microcontroller. This Kit contains a low-cost touchscreen tablet as well as medical hardware such as blood pressure cuff, a finger oximeter, and some diagnostic scales. The Kit and the tablet alone are priced at $360, and the rest of the equipment can be purchased separately and connected through a USB cable.
The idea behind this affordable telemedicine Kit was incorporated by Richard Robinson, a technical integration specialist at the HSCIC. The software is programmed in Java and JavaFX. The interface is relatively simple to use, with an aim to make it as user-friendly as possible. It consists of a simple tiled layout, such that each tile represents a connected medical device. Patients need to follow the onscreen instructions when they select any particular tile and hit transmit to send the data to their physician. The information is sent through a secure network and while it currently uses NHS Spine messaging system, data can also be transmitted through any other secure messaging service. The information is sent to the physicians, and since the data collected by them can be overwhelming, the Kit also has a functionality to alert the physician when certain readings cross a particular threshold value predetermined by them for a particular patient. Clinicians have also welcomed the idea of this Kit, with some requesting for a two-way messaging system with the patient.
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The HSCIC has made it clear that it does not intend to start manufacturing the Kit, but rather it wants interested communities and businesses to take part in the development of more advanced telehealth kits, which are also affordable enough to be used on a large scale. If telehealth kits enter the market at such a price range, it will open a plethora of opportunities for eHealth app developers. Apple is already leading the way in this regard. It has recently opened access to its CareKit that allows developers to use data from such telehealth kits, smart wear, and other clinical data and present this data to the users in a meaningful form.
Earlier in 2015, Apple had launched HealthKit for developers building apps on the iOS platform and ResearchKit for medical researchers to gather and analyze data. ResearchKit gave way to apps which enabled thousands of users across the globe to take part in studies, providing researchers with a huge amount and diversity of user data. Data collection was easier and more frequent. Since its inception, many apps have been developed focusing on diseases like Parkinson’s syndrome in which a record-breaking 10,000 people participated; conditions such as autism, tracking seizures, diabetes, concussions, etc. Researchers had a huge pool of resources to study from and came across conditions and conclusions never anticipated before.
Unlike ResearchKit, CareKit is solely focused on the user, so that he/she can better understand and manage their medical conditions. Developers are already creating apps which enable you to manage your chronic conditions day-by-day or to monitor diabetes symptoms and track your glucose level. This information can also be shared with your physician and your loved ones.
However, developers need not restrict themselves to the development kit provided by Apple. In fact, as telehealth kits such as the MediPi will be more common among users, we will see more innovative apps in the market, which will ease remote / virtual communication of data between the patient and the physician and will create a medical community where people will be more aware and alert of their medical conditions.