We hear a lot about the cost of healthcare, among these being the high cost of additional treatments or elongated stays when patients fall in hospitals, and of readmissions when people who go home after treatment don’t follow care plans. It’s amazing to think that a solution could involve something as simple, cost effective, and comfortable as clothing, such as a garment made with Hitoe® (That’s hee-toe-ay, not high-toe!).
Hitoe is a fabric that is also a sensor, contributing heart rate and brain and muscle activity to analysis for health and care analysis and plans
Earlier this week, Adam Nelson, VP Healthcare and Pharma at NTT Data, came by the HfS Research office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a shirt. This shirt is essentially “living data collection wear.” When someone wears it, the fabric collects and transmits data such as heart rate and muscle activity. Data transmitted from the shirt shows (as we saw firsthand, thanks to Adam’s clothing of choice that day) posture and movement through a 3D rendering, and heart rate through an electrocardiogram. The system it feeds can be programmed to send an alert, such as when someone makes a sudden dramatic movement like a fall, or even a change in posture that indicates getting up (picture a patient that shouldn’t be getting out of bed), enabling a care giver to intervene or provide help faster. It also shows data on muscle activity, helping to determine movement versus atrophy, as input for rehabilitation plans.
There are healthcare machines that capture and transmit the same type of data. But a garment made with Hitoe fabric could mean one less “hookup” during care and treatment. It also means that someone could be monitored remotely versus spending time in a hospital for the same reason. Also, compared to machines, the fabric seems pretty comfortable to wear, and is less expensive to buy and use at scale. So it could help address patient comfort, refinements in care plans, hospital and care costs, and even less waste in the environment. Hitoe, a partnership between Toray Industries and NTT, uses nanofiber technology, bringing the threads incredibly close together, with an electropolymer adhered, to monitor vital signs and send signals to the cloud (but it can also be put in a washing machine). Then, using something like the NTT DATA Optimum Exchange integration platform, the data can be combined with electronic medical records and other data input for patient data analysis to impact diagnosis, treatments, and care plans. And, by the way, creating a services opportunity too, for NTT DATA (and eventually, for Dell Services as the two come together).
A solution using Hitoe doesn’t require a lot of adjustment in a person’s life to use it, increasing the potential for engagement in their own health and care
This example of “IoT” caught my attention in particular because it is so approachable—it’s clothing, the most literal example for the new wave of “wearable” technologies that are becoming more commonplace. The fabric can also be sewn into a ball cap, for example, and capture brain activity, for use in diagnosis or treatment. While one version we saw fit snugly, to be used by fitness and sports programs, another looser fitting garment option (nylon) feels like the softest sheet with the highest thread count imaginable. The key is to find the balance of comfort and practicality—it has to consistently capture and transmit data that is uninterrupted by shifts in the clothing, and clinicians needs to trust this new data source. NTT DATA is working with an array of partners, including IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan whose team uses the heart rate and muscle activity data analysis to coach him during races, staving off fatigue and arm cramps. Hitoe-based clothing, worn comfortably and automatically transmitting data that can be combined with electronic medical records and monitored and analyzed, seems to hold promise for increasing the comfort and reach of health and care, as well as the impact.
We’ll wait to see how NTT DATA unpacks the potential that Hitoe represents for healthcare. In the meantime, here’s a video (link) of Tony Kanaan tearing up the IndyCar tracks as he tests out Hitoe in the field—transmitting heart rate and muscle activity that helps his team support his performance—that may provide greater inspiration that any description.
Posted in : Healthcare and Outsourcing