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A new tool uses the Internet of Things for remote assessment of patients in rural settings

   VALENCIA, 8 Jun.

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A new tool uses the Internet of Things for remote assessment of patients in rural settings


Researchers from the Vrain Institute of the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), together with the Fisabio Foundation --a dependent entity of the Ministry of Universal Health and Public Health-- have developed the prototype of a tool for remote medical assessment of patients in rural environments without face-to-face assistance at the time of the consultation.

The tool uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology to communicate with measurement devices such as a thermometer, glucometer, pulse oximeter or blood pressure monitor.

It consists of an application connected to a tablet that also communicates in the cloud and allows monitoring of the patient. From his location, the doctor can carry out a video-consultation with the patient and see his measurements, helped at all times by a medical assistant. In this way, you can keep track of the patient, in case of chronic conditions, or diagnose remotely, as well as dispense medicines, explain those responsible for the work.

This system, unlike the telephone appointment, which limits the precision of the assessment and in which the patient's experience is not entirely satisfactory, "improves several aspects: it provides more rigorous and precise patient care and allows monitoring of the most frequent patients and with a centralized registry of the historical measurements".

"The idea is that the tool is used to make a first diagnosis to detect whether an emergency is required or not, and in that case, send a medical team. The camera is also used to make videoconferences so that the patient feels closer. The following The next step would be to incorporate a high-precision camera to be able to see and assess issues related to dermatology", explains the main researcher of this project at the Vrain Institute of the UPV, Juan Miguel Alberola, in a statement.

For his part, Nel lo Monfort, a doctor from Vallibona and Castell de Cabres, coordinator of the Morella Health Center and principal investigator of the project for Fisabio, states that "the device can improve the accessibility and equity of the public health system of the most remote rural population, as well as prioritizing travel by professionals or patients when necessary". On the other hand, he adds, "the maintenance of resources and services in rural areas reverses territorial inequity and health inequalities, important causes of depopulation."

In this sense, Juan Miguel Alberola, a researcher at the Vrain Institute of the UPV adds that the fundamental problem that exists in rural areas is mobility. "In these areas -he explains- they have a single doctor for several small towns and he only goes to the auxiliary offices two days a week. When there is an urgent case, it is the patient who has to go to the nearest health center who is usually an elderly person and must go on roads that are in poor condition, especially in winter".

Rural depopulation is a threat to the European population. It is estimated that the fall in the rural population in Spain has been around 40% since 1950 and a more frequent reduction is expected in the next two decades. In rural areas, the population is usually older than in urban areas and will begin to decline slowly over the next decade. This depopulation has implications for services such as toilets, which are reduced in rural settings.

In the Valencian Community there are rural environments such as the Els Ports region that connects 7,075 inhabitants distributed in 17 municipalities and that the vast majority is an aged and dispersed population.

This situation, as Juan Miguel Alberola points out, "makes it necessary to offer a high-quality remote health care system for patients in rural areas." "In the coming years, telecare or telemedicine, especially as a result of covid-19, will develop to offer assistance of a higher quality and precision than the telephone call. AI will never be able to replace a person but it will be much more accurate than a phone call," he concludes.