- Medical device and EHR integration could soon be simplified through use of technology engineered at Dartmouth College. The system — called “Wanda” for its appearance and ability to configure devices for network data-sharing — will be demonstrated in April at a meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Dartmouth doctoral student Tim Pierson developed Wanda, a wand-like hardware device that contains two antennas separated by half a wavelength and uses radio strength as a communications channel. When pointed at new device such as a biometric monitor, Wanda configures the device to join the wireless local–area network, pairs the device with other devices nearby if desired, and enables the device to connect to a relevant individual or organizational account in the cloud.
The project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Trustworthy Health and Wellness (THaW) program, in which Dartmouth participates along with the University of Illinois, Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University.
An abstract authored by Pierson and Dartmouth collaborators Xiaohui Liang, Ronald Peterson and David Kotz presents a hypothetical scenario of a general-practice physician assigning a wireless blood pressure monitor to a patient for daily in-home use. The intention is to enable the physician to remotely monitor the patient’s health, and to have the blood pressure readings transmitted to and stored in the physician’s EHR system.
However, the researchers note, most blood pressure monitors do not come equipped with long-range communication connections; they rely on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Zigbee to connect with an access point for subsequent connection to the EHR.
“Making those connections is difficult for many people, especially considering that different types of devices from different manufacturers often have different methods of making a connection and that the devices themselves often have very limited user interfaces,” the abstract states.
Wanda imparts connectivity parameters onto the target device — and only needs to do so once and is not involved in future communications.
Aside from the connectivity aspect of Wanda, the overall THaW project aims to protect the confidentiality of medical records. THaW research encompasses authentication and privacy tools to protect health records, methods to secure small-scale clinical networks and efforts to reduce malicious activity in hospitals.
Wireless and mobile health technologies “pose risks if they’re not designed or configured with security and privacy in mind,” according to Kotz. Since most patients don’t know how to set up and maintain a secure home network, data from monitors can be compromised or stolen by hackers. The Wanda team says its technology simplifies integration of new medical devices into existing wireless networks and establishes connectivity with outside systems securely, “consistent with user intent.”
The researchers write, “Experiments with our prototype implementation show that Wanda is fast and effective, and our security analysis demonstrates that it should be resistant to passive and active adversaries.”
Kotz added that the expectations for Wanda include a wide variety of applications beyond healthcare, and for an array of device management tasks, not just Wi-Fi network configuration.
Photo credit: Dartmouth College