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NatureInterface > No.14 > P024-025 [Japanese]

The Health Information System, Vital

Next Generation Healthcare

Health Information System

The Health Information System °»Vital Care Network°… Developed by WIN


Professor, The University of Tokyo, Medical Sciences Faculty

To solve the problem of increasing medical expenses resulting from the coming very aged society, a new form of medical care is required, and various home care supports have been suggested. Among them, Vital Care Network is a system for real-time monitoring of physiological information, to report any change in the physical state at the early stage, without the patient being aware of it. Through the technological development by the NPO WIN (The Advanced Institute of Wearable Environmental Information Network), the system has begun to move toward practical use.

Vital Care Network aims at a °»Virtual Hospital°… that involves the whole area and patients cared at home, by providing patients°« vital signs in daily life to the network of medical institutions.

In its background, there is the low-efficiency of emergency medical care system. Thus we have for example, in the fiscal year 2001 in the prefecture of Tokyo, the number of ambulance set out in the districts of Tokyo were 630 thousands, but in 10 thousands cases of them, the ambulance is called after the patient°«s heart/respiration is already stopped. Among these people, 8% of the patients are still alive one week after, and it is only 2% of them who come out of the hospital and are able to become active again go back to the society.

Also, not only limiting to emergency care, in present situation, it will soon become impossible for the nations to pay medical expenses. Until now, in Japan, the medical system is centered on the hospitalization therapy for ill patients and the present cost related to hospitalization accounts for 45 percents of citizens°« medical expenditure. Also, in recent years, the number of people receiving an old age pension has grown by 600 thousands per year and in fiscal year 1999, 14.19 million people received the pension and the total expenditure reached 11.804 trillion Yen. This was 38.2% of citizens°« medical expenditure. In the future, the proportion of population aged over 65 years old is expected to exceed 20% by the year 2008, and around the year 2010, it is estimated that the total medical expenditure will be 54 trillion Yen. This means that the expenditure reaches 10% of the GDP and it is likely that our financial resources will regrettably fail.

Therefore, what is required now is not the conventional habit to go to hospital once we become ill, but a medical care welfare system that guarantees health and safety with daily health management, continuous care after recovery, and a reliable emergency medical system. To realize this, a medical revolution centered on the utilization of independent medical facilities that would reduce hospitalization, or medical care at home will be necessary. What can be useful here is the °»Vital Care Network System°….

This mechanism is a °»non-restrictive and non-invasive real-time monitoring of many high risk patients°« physiological information (vital signs) to catch pathological change at early stage and transfer them to hospital°…. In practice, we monitor the pulse wave, blood pressure, respiration, and oxygen saturation of elder people, persons with chronic disease, and persons with the risk of collapse, using a ring type pulse oxymeter or wristwatch type compound physiological sensor system. Collected data is then transmitted through communication networks, to a center that gathers all information. If an abnormality is inferred, an ambulance can be sent immediately. On the other hand, constructing a system that can grasp actual work situation of the local emergency hospital would enable us to know the number of beds occupied and accommodate patients fast.

Also, if we monitor eye movements and such vital signs of the elderly with dementia, we can diagnosis the developing state of dementia, and it can be useful for early detection of Alzheimer-type dementia. In addition, by applying this system, we can adapt a health management system of 24 hours and doctors or consultants give the instruction to improve our lifestyle, and it may also become useful for disease prevention.

For the Vital Care Net, NPO WIN is currently advancing technological development, and we are planning to focus on prototype building, recruiting monitors for post-operative care and the elderly, revising administration structures and tackling regulative subjects and issues, while carrying out pathological experiments. Including Fire and Disaster Management Agency and medical institutions, we are investigating the way to suggest co-operation with various organizations. Regardless of the nature of them, possibly making many presentations.

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