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IBM Prototype Puts Hospital Care in the Home

Feb 19, 2017

IBM has developed a prototype device capable of transmitting patient data directly to doctors, collected from a number of wearable devices worn by patients both in hospitals and at home.

The Amazon Echo-style hub, which IBM is calling the ‘cognitive hypervisor’, is able to extract data from devices such as smartwatches and fitness bands, and send it to the IBM Cloud. The patient data is then analysed and the results are sent over to their relevant doctors.

Using smart devices with built in sensors, the technology is able to collect data about a patient’s vitals, including blood pressure and core temperature, and alert doctors if readings begin to fluctuate beyond normal ranges. The designer, Bruno Michel, believes this will allow patients to spend less time in hospital, safe in the knowledge the technology is keeping watch.

“Our goal is a health companion and we call it the cognitive hypervisor,” said Michel. “We want to enable patients to leave the hospital sooner, so they can recover from the comfort of their own home, while still receiving care remotely from trained medical staff.”

The hub connects to the IBM Cloud where it is able to access Watson APIs, such as speech to text, allowing for further applications of remote care. This is particularly useful for elderly patients at home, as they will be able call for an ambulance, receive reminders to take pills, and ask basic questions like: “Can I take paracetamol with my medication?”

The recognition API is also able to monitor the speech patterns of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s diseases, alerting doctors of advanced symptoms based on audible changes.

Michel foresees wider applications of the technology, including within the workplace where it may be able to help with the reduction of stress.

“Recovering at home will significantly lower healthcare costs while increasing patient satisfaction – if we are successful the hospital of the future will look very different,” said Michel.

IBM is not currently looking to move into the wearables market, but instead plans to open up the platform for other companies to build their own health services.

A first prototype of the technology, a hub named Chiyo, was demoed at an IBM event in San Francisco on Tuesday.

This is the latest in a series of efforts to try and incorporate technology into healthcare, and reduce the costs incurred by growing populations that are living longer.

So far two NHS trusts, Imperial College and the Royal Free Hospital, have partnered with Google’s AI arm DeepMind to create a hospital-based app designed to help doctors monitor patients suffering from kidney disease, with the aim of speeding up diagnoses and potentially saving lives.