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The medical Internet of things and the future of health care

We are keeping a focus this week on the Internet of things -- going beyond websites, to what some see as a new network of intelligent objects, devices that communicate with each other. We've heard from artist Will.i.am about how this sort of thing might change music. Also from a company called SmartThings and the CEO of Cisco, about how smart devices in the home could revolutionize everything from reading electricity meters to kitchen appliances. Today it's something even closer to the heart: How medicine could be transformed by smart devices.

Dr. Anthony Jones, who works for Philips Healthcare, a company that designs machines and software for hospitals around the world, says a nurse could check on you four times a day, or there could be networked machines that send data on your vitals in a constant stream to a master control.

"If I now have a continuous monitor, and I have that data going up into a central repository, I can write algorithms and put some intelligence into that repository that allows me to look for trends," says Jones. "So part of what the Internet of things will allow is much more sophisticated, much more continuous monitoring."

Done right, this new era of monitoring could also help keep you from going into the hospital in the first place. Advances in wireless and medical tech will go even further still, according to Ed Price at Georgia Tech's Institute for People and Technology.

"If you've got chronic blood pressure issues, maybe there is blood pressure sensor in your seatbelt in your car," says Price. "Obviously there is no time for a human to analyze all that data, but an algorithm in a computer can look at all your data for your blood pressure and trigger when there is an event that needs to be noticed by care providers."

And the health care reform law plays a role here, as doctors and health care companies get new incentives to make people well and keep them that way.

"Electronic devices [and] tele-medicine will be a key part of that," says Price. 

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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