A textbook on telemedicine (Fong, Fong, & Li, 2011) was quite interesting. I am especially interested in telemonitoring for the purpose of recording cardiac activity for the purpose of predicting impending heart failure. I expect a huge growth in the use of telemonitoring for home health care, and it seems that the consumer electronics industry, in the health & fitness space, is pointing the way to what we can expect. The technology is getting easier, less expensive, and less intrusive. The Apple iTunes AppStore has more than 8,000 health & fitness apps, proving strong consumer interest. I have been using an Omron pedometer since late 2007 and have accumulated almost 15 million steps with it. The database it uses and the process to update, get reports, correct an error, etc. are 1980’s vintage. The owner’s guide is hard to understand and anything out of the ordinary requires too much IT knowledge. A few weeks ago I learned about a new pedometer called the FitBit Ultra, which I purchased at fitbit.com. It looks like a clothespin. You clip the device on your belt or dress or just slip it in your pocket. It counts your steps and knows how many flights of stairs you climb. When you happen to be within 15 feet of your Mac or PC, the FitBit device uploads your data to fitbit.com. Nothing to plug in, no commands to execute, not much to have to know — once you go through the setup which takes just a few minutes. When you visit fitbit.com, you see all your data and can enter additional data on your various goals, foods, calories, activities, etc. You get a “badge” when you achieve certain goals. You can share all or selected data with family, groups, friends, the public, or chose to have it all totally private. Fitbit demonstrates the pace of technology and the potential for telemonitoring to get affordable and effective and, potentially, easy to use. The device industry is beginning to build telemonitoring equipment that is much easier to use than in the past. Policymakers are beginning to be more accommodating. Cardionet.com and corventis.com have introduced some cardiac monitoring devices that have received approval for reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Epilogue: The FitBit Ultra is a piece of cake to setup. It takes just a few minutes at most. The FitBit Aria digital WiFi scale is a different story. It is a very neat device, but the setup is the most convoluted, confusing, frustrating, and unsupported setup process I have ever seen in my decades of computers and gadgets. While the Ultra took a few minutes, the Aria scale took hours. There is nobody to call and FitBit is too overwhelmed to be responsive with email support. Consumer reviews on Amazon indicate that people are sending the scales back. Once it is setup, the device is great. You step on the scale, it knows which household member you are, it records your weight and body fat index and automatically posts them at fitbit.com where you can see the entries and graphs. A great idea with a terrible implementation.
Fong, B., Fong, A. C. M., & Li, C. K. (2011). Telemedicine technologies information technologies in medicine and telehealth. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: John Wiley & Sons.