Foothill Project: Ubiquitous Healthcare
Healthcare is coming under increasing pressure to improve the quality of care delivered to patients through effective prevention and post-operative care. This comes at a time when there is a need to curtail growth in healthcare spending fuelled by ageing populations, and the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, cancer and chronic heart and lung diseases.
Miniaturised implantable and on-body wireless biosensors will reshape common practice in clinical medicine especially for the prevention of terminal illness, monitoring the progression of chronic disease, and assessing post-operative care and body reaction to complex therapeutic drug regimes. Ubiquitous healthcare systems will monitor patients as they maintain their normal everyday activities, in order to warn the patients or healthcare workers of problems as well as collecting data for trend analysis and medical research. The use of continuous monitoring circumvents the drawbacks of conventional diagnostics and monitoring (generally limited to brief time points and frequently unrepresentative physiological states or artificially introduced exercise tests), allowing both transient and progressive abnormalities to be reliably captured. The integration of body sensors with home environment sensors can also be used for monitoring of the elderly to determine state of well-being and warn family or social care workers of potential problems related to physical fitness, social activity and cognitive engagement.
The key research challenges include:
- Development of new biosensors to accurately measure medical state.
- Power management - including micropower electronic circuitry and wireless communications, MEMS based power generation from body movement, and integration of multiple power sources with power storage.
- Fusion of multiple sensor information to determine human activity and medical state.
- Inferencing normal conditions and activity and hence detecting abnormal conditions.
- The infrastructure required for very large scale monitoring and analysis of medical information and activity of millions of people, and the need to automatically warn patients, social services, medical service, friends or family about the need for intervention when abnormal conditions are detected.
- Social, ethical, security and privacy issues related to continuous monitoring of people, storing and analysing the data and how to verify the safety, security and privacy aspects of the system.
A number of UK projects are already addressing these issues: