A Survey on Health Care Services Using Wireless Sensor Networks

A Survey on Health Care Services Using Wireless Sensor Networks

Sunilkumar S. Manvi (REVA Institute of Technology and Management, India) and Manjula R. B. (Manjula R. B.REVA Institute of Technology and Management, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3986-7.ch031
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Although the present technology has aided in development of high-technology-based disease detection machines, potential medicines and devices, the well-being of the individual remains a challenge. Human beings are struggling to control diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, hypertension, insomnia, heart disease, and diabetes due to non-availability of patient’s real-time data for comprehensive study and analysis. Smart health centre environments represent the evolutionary developmental step towards intelligent health care. The Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) with pervasive and ubiquitous computing may be a solution for this predicament. WSNs are a key technology for ambient assisted living. The concept of WSN is used to measure the various health parameters like blood pressure, blood clot, allergy, ECG, cholesterol, RBCs, etc. In this chapter, the authors highlight the importance of WSNs with respect to health care services and discuss some of its challenging applications for diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and heart disease. They delineate the challenges that researchers face in this area that may lead to future research.
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1. Introduction

A famous quotation says “A sound mind in a sound body.” Comfort and happiness can be experienced only when each individual is blessed with good health. The present style of living and demanding nature of work is creating more health related problems. The people suffering from chronic disease are increasing along with treatment costs (Teng 2006). Hence, health care services are facing enormous challenges. Some of the challenges are with respect to cost effective and responsive way of delivering the health services and quality of life improvement from available resources (Scholtz, 1999). The cultural and socio economic factors influence the disease occurrence and their management. The conventional way of monitoring health condition focuses on monitoring and diagnosis of the patient at the hospital. This trend is shifting its focus towards the individual centered health care systems with emphasis on early detection of disease, diagnosis and treatment (Lymberis, 2003) using an intelligent health care system.

Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) is an emerging and promising technology to meet the demands for intelligent health care services for various diseases. Recent advancements in wireless technology and Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) allow the development of low cost, low power, large scale, multi-functional, portable devices on a single board also known as motes (Hsuan, 2010) or wireless sensor nodes. An ad hoc network comprising of wireless sensor nodes is called WSN. These nodes are also known by various terms like tiny devices and smart dust particles. Spatially distributed sensing devices communicate with each other through single or multihop. The wireless sensor networks find wider applications in all the domains because of their minimal configuration and ability of rapid deployment.

The wireless sensor network field offers a rich, multi disciplinary area of research. The applications of WSNs include home automation, agriculture, building structure, ecology, environment, health care, ambient intelligence, security, industrial automation etc. The applications in health care are; assisting the aged people, remote monitoring of patients in their routine life for chronic diseases and so on. WSNs can be effectively used in healthcare domain to enhance quality of life provided for the patients and increase the quality of health care services. So far, WSN technology has been adopted in medical field for various disorders such as respiratory disorders, nervous system disorders and so on.

The continuous patient monitoring and collection of physiological data for analysis is a critical issue for health and disease management. Advances in networking, sensors, medical devices and smart phones (Benhaddau, 2008; Virone, 2006) have made it feasible to monitor and provide medical and other assistance to people in a remote fashion.

The Wireless Body Sensor Networks (WBSNs), an application of WSN makes the task easier for the medical applications; the wearable sensor devices can capture continuous data from the patient in real time and communicate to doctors and medical technical staff over their hand held devices at the remote end. This helps in regular monitoring and storing of the patient’s vital information in secured database and can be retrieved as and when required. Doctors can share the stored information with other experts to get better diagnosis. This method saves precious time and energy of patient and doctor. Even the data can be made accessible to the insurance people (so that they can settle the medical claims) and government agency (to make better health policy).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bluetooth: Bluetooth is an open wireless technology standard for exchanging the information (data) over shorter distances creating Personal Area Networks (PANs).

Wireless Sensor Network (WSN): A WSN is built of nodes (motes) from few to several thousands. WSN consists of spatially distributed autonomous sensors to monitor the physical environment and to transfer the data to main location.

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN): A wireless local area network links two or more devices using wireless device usually, a connection through an access point to the Internet. WLAN gives the users mobility within a local coverage area.

Electroencephalogram (EEG): EEG is a measurement of electrical activity of brain with the placement of small metal discs called electrodes positioned in a standardized pattern on the scalp. The results from the sensors reflects the activity of millions of neurons assessing brain death, seizure activity and determining stages of sleep which help in diagnosis of the Alzheimer’s disease.

Body Area Network (BAN): This is a technology for permanent monitoring and logging of vital signs for supervising the health status of the patients for various chronic diseases with the sensors on human body.

Wearable Computing: Wearable computing is an active research area involves study of user interface design, augmented reality, and pattern recognition. A wearable computing consists of unobtrusive, mobile, small, body wearable devices interacting with each other to perform a particular task on their own or controlled by user.

Electrocardiogram (ECG): ECG is a graphical recording of electrical activity generated by the heart muscle. The study of the graph helps to diagnose cardiac anomalies such as disturbances of heart rhythm and conduction.

Sensor Nodes (Motes): A sensor node also known as a mote is a tiny device capable of processing, gathering sensory information and communicating with other sensor nodes in the network. The sensor nodes consist of microcontroller, sensory elements and surface mounted antennas for communication.

Oximeter: Pulse oximeter developed by Millikan in 1940’s is a medical device that monitors the oxygen saturation of patient’s blood and heart rate. The device aids in better the medical staff to monitor continuously patient monitor by observing the display along with oximeter.

Accelerometers: Accelerometers are type of sensors capable of identifying specific gait changes in older adults, detecting the fallers, provides quantitative measure of gait.

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