Telecommunications engineer at the Public University of Navarre, Alejandro Fanjul Fernández, has designed a pioneering system of telemedicine for interactive digital television. This system enables the monitoring and treatment of and support for both patients and elderly people, from the comfort and convenience of their homes, by means of the television. This is the first tele-assistance system in Spain for interactive digital television and a number of companies and government bodies have expressed interest in marketing the application.
Alejandro Fanjul Fernández has worked on this project for his graduate thesis, under the auspices of Mikel Sagüés García and within the remit of the MHProject research group of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Public University of Navarre. He focused his activity on research into and implementation of innovative technology within the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP) for interactive digital television.
This designed tele-assistance system, known as ATS-Interactiva, focuses its services on the monitoring and treatment of and support for patients by means of television. To this end, every so often, a series of check-ups and medication reminders are carried out, which at the same time enable a channel of communication to be opened up between the health care professional and the patient.
Monitoring of patients and interactive dosifier
Through a complex system of data treatment and interactivity with the patient, the ATS-Interactiva system enables doctors to have a complete system of monitoring of patients at hand at all times, enabling them to assess patients’ progress through the observation of their vital signs: weight, pulse, blood pressure, glucose level and so on.
This application may be of great utility for undertaking the monitoring of patients who are convalescing in a post-operative recovery stage but who can carry out their basic functions in an independent manner. It is also of great interest to those elderly persons who require a minimum of control and monitoring of their state of health on a daily basis. The progress of these persons may be followed without them having to be transferred to a health clinic or hospital – the monitoring being undertaken simply from their sitting-room sofa using the TV remote control.
Moreover, for the over 60s who watch more than 4½ hours of TV daily, the system has an application known as an “interactive dosifier” that provides a personalised reminder for the administration of medicines. In this way, when the patient is due to take medication, the system emits a sound signal and a nurse appears on the TV screen to remind the patient of what has to be taken and a complete description or written recommendation from the doctor on how it should be taken.
The system also enables communication between the patient and the doctor through interactive messages or by electronic mail, again using the TV set. Today the possibility of communicating with the doctor has become vital in the treatment of any kind of ailment. This creates genuine patient-health care professional trust when dealing with a possible health problem.
The application of tele-assistance, moreover, does not interfere with television viewing, as the screen can be minimised or left in the background of the TV screen in such a way that, while the system is operating, TV programmes continue to be seen, the system information appearing in the foreground only when the patient has to be reminded or she or he requests information.
The ATS-Interactiva identifies the patient by means of an intelligent card, in such a way that he or she may locate to a different town and the monitoring can continue, as long as the intelligent card is carried on their person and connected to a receptor where the ATS-Interactiva application is available. In principle the emission of the system over a specific TV channel is being considered
As regards future developments of this system, Alejandro Fanjul has revealed that the possibility of adapting it to function using mobile phones with DVB-H technology is being studied. Besides, in order to facilitate the introduction of data into the system, they are working on the use of sensors that directly transfer data to the system, intervention by the user hardly being required.
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