Business, Hardware, Software Programs

Intel?s new twist, developing software and hardware


At the Intel Technology Summit, the chip company highlighted its latest incursion into the computer arena. No, it?s not a newer, faster, SOC. It is an entire system: software and hardware. Apparently, Intel thinks adding a different paddle to its rowboat may help it stay afloat in a saturated market.

Intel's Health Guide - FDA approved guide for personalized care management
Intel’s Health Guide – FDA approved guide for personalized care management

With their FDA approved Health Guide, Intel is branching out into the medical arena. Why? The baby boomers are rapidly reaching the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) stage of life. As they age, their chronic illnesses will need to be addressed. And statistics show that there just won?t be enough youngsters in the care giving profession to give them the attention they need. Louis Burns, VP and GM, Intel Digital Health Group presented slides, video, and commentary illustrating those concerns.
Intel's product for personal health monitoring and connectivity to a doctor at a remote locationAlong comes Intel?s prescription for the problem. No one was developing an integrated, complete system. So, Intel came up with a remote, two way, patient monitoring system that enables the stay-at-home chronically ill elder to keep in touch with a health care provider who daily checks their status. Most importantly, the elder becomes an active partner in the care process. A touch screen prompts them with questions that have been customized to their unique situation, be it diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma, or other diagnoses that benefit from oversight.

Approved input devices from various high profile medical manufacturers can be connected to the home unit via four USB 2.0 ports, or using Bluetooth v2.0, Class 1, to provide measurements of sugar levels, blood pressure, pulse, and weight. Informational videos demonstrate how to use the devices, and explain the why?s and wherefore?s of the related disease.

Text, audio, and video are combined in the PHS6000 home unit. Voice and flashing lights remind a patient to begin a session which has been designed and scheduled specifically for them by a health care professional. The professional uses the Intel Health Care Management Suite to expand on default templates for each diagnosis, personalizing the sessions for each patient. Using "drop and drag," they can insert helpful handouts or videos.

Patient activities include responding to questions on the 10.4 inch, large print screen regarding their current status, or inputting a test result. The data is stored on a 40GB internal password-protected hard disk drive. It is further protected by 128-bit encryption and secure socket layer.

The latest upgrade relates to connectivity, now available via cable/DSL broadband, cellular wireless, and residential phone service, also known as POTS (plain old telephone service). The patient?s input, or lack of activity, is sent to the analyst via secure data transmission. The Management Suite component resides with the health care professional who designed and monitors the patient?s sessions. Each day the system prioritizes input from the various patients involved. "Flags" set in the system indicate if a response is at a critical level, or even if the patient has completely failed to respond at all that day.

After the basic healthcare check, results are sent to the doctor's office who will then communciate with the patient
After the device checks the patient, results are sent to the doctor’s office who will then talk to the patient

Video conferencing allows the professional to visually assess the patient?s condition, and gives the patient face-to-face social interaction with a caring overseer without the hassle of leaving their home. The data sent from the PHS6000 home unit is stored on remote servers that only allow secure HTTPS/SSL access to the website by professionals from a Web portal. Each healthcare professional has a unique log-on and password, providing them with access only to their assigned patients.

Intel has put a lot of thought and expertise into their product, using anthropologists, psychologists, and ethnologists to research how elderly persons interact with technology. Handicaps, such as declining sight, reduced eye-hand coordination, hearing impairments, and mental agility all had to be taken into account in the design. Engineers were taken out of the cubicle and into the field to observe how users responded to their ideas.

This writer found the unit easy to use, although discerning a small oversight on a screen that did not have an ‘exit’ button, when I had selected an option I did not want to complete. Raj Puran, the Senior Technical Marketing Engineer, said they had "already marked that for correction in the next release."

The product is marketed to medical providers and insurance companies who want to place the home units with patients who are at risk of using more resources. Keeping patients out of the doctor office, out of the hospital, and eliminating re-admissions, saves time and money for the supplier. Clients pay a maintenance fee which supplies them with the Management Suite and both hardware and software updates. Cost varies with the number of home units they utilize.

Intel has finally recognized that selling the biggest (actually smallest) and most powerful chips can?t sustain forever. Selling outright is the end of the revenue line. Maintenance contracts go on forever.