1/2014

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Doctors should be doctors: Lewel Group works toward mobile connectivity in the medical industry

Medical and professional healthcare equipment has experienced a new twist in recent years: wireless connectivity. In previous years, measurement, monitoring and treatment was all offline. Then came connectivity, but it was still pretty much located in one place – mobility was out of the question. Things are certainly changing.

“The umbrella term is connected health, which includes m-health, wireless health, telemedicine and so forth. Our focus is on the first two of those: we’re interested in helping our clients using medical equipment that enables mobility”, explains Engineering Manager Aleksi Ukkola from Lewel Group. “Even now, there are still a lot of cases where a doctor examines a patient and then spends a good deal of time typing the report into a hospital database. We’re interested in finding solutions to get rid of that, to let the doctor do what she’s supposed to do instead of being a typist – that shouldn’t be part of her job. And that’s where the connectivity really proves its worth: you use a device in the examination, and the device does the reporting automatically, allowing the doctor to continue her work with the patients she has to see”.

Easy on the learning curve

Although the technology has existed for years, it’s only now reaching medical equipment. This is due to several things. New wireless technologies have emerged, allowing devices to connect with each other with ease. The price range has gone down, making the technology more available. And most importantly, people have learned to use mobile applications while on the move. “Even kids know how to use a tablet”, says CEO Jukka Kangas. “For doctors, nurses and medical staff in general, the threshold to pick up a new device has really gone down.”

The biggest problem isn’t access to software or devices, however. “One executive from the hospital lamented that they don’t care what operating system is used, or what device is used, but they simply don’t have the time to learn what the application should do. Applications shouldn’t burden the staff, because if they do, the staff won’t use them. It’s a UI problem, pure and simple”, says Ukkola. One way they’re tackling the problem is using cloud systems for data crunching. This makes sense, since measurements or monitoring create a lot of data – just think about a patient undergoing blood pressure monitoring for a week. “This type of information has to be presented in a sensible manner. The value of the service and the devices are in the results and how they’re analyzed”, says Kangas. Another problem is the lack of system standardization. One hospital uses one system, another doesn’t. This means that it’s not easy to access the myriad of patient data systems.

People first

“With the current Future Hospital project at Oulu University Hospital and the idea of Living Labs on the premises, it’s really interesting. Developing and making prototypes right here in Oulu and testing them in the hospital grounds, receiving feedback and input on the go, and improving practices at a faster pace, all that would be immensely beneficial for work efficiency among medical staff.” Ukkola notes that it’s not just Lewel – this calls for a collaboration between the hospital, the medical device manufacturer and the patients themselves, who can use the monitoring devices in their own homes, with an improved feedback system so the rehabilitation and healing processes and exercises are actually working.

Kangas realizes that things can be seen from many perspectives. “It’s not about technology stealing jobs from people, it’s about technology allowing people to do their job better and more efficiently. And what it really comes down to in the end is that it’s just about people.”