Swine flu: Better managed by home health tech?

By Brian Dolan

Swine FluAt a panel session at the American Telemedicine Association event here in Las Vegas, IBM's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Bakalar said that the swine flu pandemic currently facing the U.S., Mexico and other countries would be better managed through home health telemonitoring systems. 

"Look at our current situation with swine flu," Bakalar said. "If we were to have a pandemic outbreak of swine flu, it would be better to take care of those patients through home healthcare technology" instead of bringing them into the clinical setting where the flu could just continue to spread. 

Bakalar said that the management of swine flu is a perfect example of why we need to de-centralize healthcare in some situations. Care needs to be extended beyond the four walls of the hospital or doctor's office and find a place in the patient's home, too. 

IBM recently announced a deal with Google to sync up wireless medical monitoring devices, like blood glucose monitors for diabetics, to Google's personal health record Google Health. Bakalar made the point that if we change the general behavior of the population to get used to monitoring health choices and care regimens for chronic diseases or just general fitness, we could apply those home health skills to potential emergency situations like the swine flu may be.

As they say in the military, "we need to train as we fight," Bakalar said.