Since the start of the pandemic, many physicians and caregivers have turned to telehealth consultations to pre-screen patients with COVID-19 symptoms, classify their risk status, and recommend home treatments or hospital care. Telehealth applications also allow physicians to evaluate and recommend treatments for patients with medical ailments other than COVD-19. This reduces pressure on emergency rooms and saves patients the time and trouble of visiting a medical facility, decreasing their exposure to the virus.
While more convenient and generally less expensive than in-person visits, telehealth applications are still limited in effectiveness. Doctors using telehealth have incomplete assessments of patient conditions, as a physician recently mentioned, “If I could only get the patient’s heart rate, breathing sounds, and ECG, I would know so much more about their health status and could make more accurate diagnoses and treatment recommendations.”
If telemedicine continues to progress, physicians need more detailed information about a patient’s condition. There also needs to be expanded use of home-based wearable and/or stand-alone medical devices so patients can transmit vital health statistics to the doctor during telehealth consultations.
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
Home-based devices are already in widespread use and fall into two categories:
• Personal health and wellness devices, such as an iWatch
• Home-based remote monitoring devices used to track patient health data
These devices are part of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), an all-encompassing term that describes the connected infrastructure of medical devices, software applications, and health systems and services.
InnoPhase’s goal is to create new and improved versions of already available devices. They may take on a variety of form factors – watches, wrist or armbands, patches, or handheld devices. As an advanced wireless semiconductor company, InnoPhase designed the Talaria TWO platforms and solutions to enable medical devices with:
Ultra-low power Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) – Device transmits health data to the physician over a secure wireless network
Cloud connectivity – Device connects to a secure cloud repository; patient data is available to multiple physicians, caregivers, and possibly artificial intelligence (AI)-based analytics programs
Battery-based – Less intrusive, wearable, handheld battery-based device, leads to quicker adoption, easier usability
The Talaria TWO platform offers integrated wireless connectivity plus a microcontroller for edge-of-network IoT designs that are highly flexible and programmable. It incorporates Wi-Fi and BLE for wireless data transfer, an embedded Arm Cortex-M3 for system control and user applications, and advanced security elements for device safeguards. It easily integrates into compact designs for new or existing wearable or stand-alone medical devices. It provides low-power Wi-Fi, extended battery life, and direct-to-cloud connectivity, enabling design engineers to add more intelligence and functionality to IoMT devices.
One of the major technical challenges of battery-based smart devices is that high-power Wi-Fi connectivity severely drains battery power. While most wearable and stand-alone IoMT devices have rechargeable or replaceable batteries, their high-power Wi-Fi connection often runs down the battery far too quickly, requiring it to be recharged or replaced which can shorten the device’s life.
To address this, InnoPhase engineers invented ultra-low power Wi-Fi solution using a unique digital polar radio frequency (RF) architecture. The patented technology delivers a higher degree of control over a device’s Wi-Fi functions, allowing designers to use the radio in new ways.
For example, the digital architecture of Talaria TWO allows the radio to be duty-cycled (turned on/off) at a degree of frequency not possible with conventional radios. While most, if not all, radios enable low power on an inter-transmission basis (i.e., between transmissions), the Talaria TWO radio can be turned off intra-transmission (i.e., during transmissions when the channel isn’t available). The on/off time is in the range of microseconds – an order of magnitude faster than typical radios. This helps prevent additional battery drain from Wi-Fi, improving battery and device life.
In addition to extended battery life, healthcare providers are also realizing the value of cloud-connected systems for storage, analysis, accessibility, and sharing patient data, so device engineers are looking for ways to integrate wearable or stand-alone IoMT devices with cloud connectivity. The Talaria TWO platform provides the tools that design engineers need to connect IoMT devices to validated public cloud networks, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Watson.
A public mindset shift
The creation of new devices to collect and transmit vital health data will be a major step in the widespread adoption of telehealth services as all telehealth devices must comply with healthcare privacy laws, such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Additionally, a public mindset shift may be necessary for patients who don’t require daily use of medical technology. They may be wary of using devices that transmit their personal health data to a cloud, even if only used by their healthcare providers. Offering patients the choice and convenience to opt-in to having their health data transmitted over wireless networks may be the best way to encourage them to accept this latest innovation in healthcare technology. There are clear benefits for doctors and patients to adopt Wi-Fi enabled cloud-connected IoMT devices. InnoPhase’s Talaria TWO platform – including its medical application development kits, software packages, and evaluation kits expedite IoMT product developments.