The ‘Connected Person’ Brings e-Health to Life

By Alpesh Shah and Bill Ash

The origin of humanity is akin to that of technology: It is what we are willing to accept as truth. No matter what we choose to believe of either’s origins, what becomes evident—as the years pass and we start to look to the future—is that humanity and technology begin to intersect and converge in very meaningful ways … ways that can change the game when it comes to addressing our shared millennial grand challenges such as ensuring access to clean water, harnessing efficient energy and managing resources and population growth …. ways that allow us to collaborate in nanoseconds with the power of a thought … ways that allow diseases to be aggressively attacked to save lives … and much, much more.

How is this possible? What will it take? How will we get there? How do we get started? The answers to all of these questions boil down to one fundamental answer that we then build upon: the “connected person.”

Who or what is the connected person?
Many of us already think of our cell phones and other mobile devices as a natural extension of our bodies, and, as such, we are always connected. This is certainly one way to conjure the concept of the connected person—a world in which the person, environment and technology work together simultaneously.

Let’s take another step forward in the concept with a complementary view—that we ourselves are technology. No other technology comes close to compare to the complexity of a person. For example, the human body with its detailed elements represents interoperability in the truest of fashions. Think about it. Each cell has a set of receptors meant to trigger specific actions based on the level of access the transponder may have. The value, though, is not in balkanized living ecosystems but in the enhanced connectivity of these ecosystems in an enhanced way.

It may sound more like a subject matter in Philosophy 101 than for a technology blog, but think about it. And if we choose to believe this to be true, then we begin to imagine the real power of the connected person.

The connected person represents us as individuals that interact with human technologies and manufactured technologies across the spectrum. As our level of interaction and usage increases at an exponential pace, our dependencies on these technologies as a part of us strengthens, and we begin to see that we, as connected people, are integral to the concepts of connected homes, connected vehicles, connected cities and a connected world.

So why should I care about the connected person?
A great application for this concept is the transformation that is playing out in the healthcare industry. For example, consider the large focus on achieving, maintaining and monitoring wellness and the role of technology in these pursuits.

Think about how many of your friends you have seen on the train, in class, at work or even at parties wearing devices that measure their sleeping patterns, the number of steps they take each day and/or the calories they burn. These same devices immediately sync to the always-on mobile device, and, within a few minutes, they have a dashboard outlining a snapshot of their health.

This information, furthermore, can be shared not only with their healthcare professionals, but the user might also choose to easily, securely share their data with the greater world. Constant connectivity of information and actionable data streams result in the connected person receiving support and encouragement through online communities. Also, transmission of their data along with all of their meals for the week can be sent to their healthcare physician, who is able to triangulate this progress with recent symptoms to glean a more accurate and comprehensive assessment of the connected person’s wellness. In such ways, “e-health” allows for earlier detection, easier monitoring and new, at-home treatment options.

OK, so I now understand the connected person, but what does the IEEE Standards Association have to do with it and healthcare?
Connectivity in healthcare stands to substantially strengthen public health, and the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is playing a major role in the interoperability of healthcare applications and devices with the IEEE 11073™ standards.

By measuring both activity levels and health stats, the goal of e-health is to allow these monitoring and independent living devices to work together to detect conditions sooner. Allowing personal health devices to securely exchange information among the device, patient and physician is the focus of the IEEE 11073™ standards.

Studies have shown a $30-billion loss in the United States alone due to lack of interoperability among medical devices. Standards-based e-health implementations not only help to address this financial deficit, but also help reduce the cost of healthcare overall. Medical devices leveraging the interoperability from these standards also allows hospitals and physicians to focus on creating the services that go along with these devices instead of worrying if they will work with the other technology they have in place. For example, imagine a refrigerator that dispenses medication when a person goes for a glass of water … no more forgetting medication.

This adaptation and convergence of our technology, our environments and ourselves epitomize the concept of the connected person, a symbiotic relationship with technology.

The IEEE-SA provides market-driven, open standards such as the IEEE 11073™ family and facilitates collaboration across key, interrelated areas of innovation to connect people and improve lives globally. Through the IEEE-SA, the world’s technologists tap into unmatched access to cross-disciplinary expertise across and beyond IEEE to work together to build the infrastructure, networking, generation, automation, operation and distribution necessary to enable the connected person. Furthermore, the IEEE-SA helps protect a connected person’s privacy and security through education and open interoperable standards that foster a trustworthy framework for connectivity.

Get connected … with IEEE
IEEE-SA will be at Health Datapalooza in Washington DC June 1-3, if you are attending we invite you to stop by our table for a conversation about e-health and the connected person.

Healthcare is just one facet of technology that is changing with the integration of electronic processes and communications, and the connected person spans much farther than just e-health applications. The IEEE-SA is interested in connecting with you to talk more about the concept.

Whether you are a technologist, manufacturer, consumer, educator, consultant or anyone else interested in e-health, augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), the smart grid, smart cities, intelligent vehicles or other such innovations, we invite you to join the effort of developing and advancing the connected person. Visit our webpage or Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

In addition, if the idea resonates with you, we invite you to show your creative side by submitting your own original artwork, picture or short video of your view of the connected person. Those submissions that we find the most intriguing, we will post on the Standards Insight Blog.

Authors:

Alpesh Shah is Director of Global Business Strategy and Intelligence for the IEEE-SA. You can reach him via email at Alpesh.Shah@IEEE.Org or Twitter at @_AlpeshShah.

Bill Ash is the Strategic Technology Program Director for IEEE-SA. You can reach him at W.Ash@IEEE.org or @SA_BillAsh.

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