When I think of last year’s devastating tsunami that ravaged the northeastern coast of Japan, I recall the first images I saw on the news. The horror of ocean waters crashing onto the land, causing incomprehensible damage was astonishing. As with any natural disaster, we are left with the overwhelming task of rebuilding communities and restoring critical social services to displaced citizens.
The stresses of temporary living conditions in this post-disaster environment exacerbate chronic diseases such as hypertension, especially in aging people. What’s more, many studies show that managing hypertension is of particular concern because uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to serious health complications including heart disease, stroke and even death.
Traditionally, managing these chronic conditions requires frequent visits by a health care provider and unfortunately, many of the health care resources destroyed in the disaster have yet to be replaced. The lack of health care infrastructure and the increase in the number of hypertensive patients, due to the stress of displacement, presents a serious challenge to the health care system.
On June 11, on the campus of Iwate Medical University, Qualcomm, through its Wireless Reach™ initiative, joined the University and Medical Platform Asia (MedPA) to announce an expansion of Wireless_Health_Care @Home to additional communities in disaster affected areas. This expansion provides 200 wireless blood pressure systems to displaced hypertensive patients, and is part of a larger effort by Iwate Medical University to provide medical care to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami victims.
Partners aim to extend the reach of health care workers in the area by enabling patients suffering from hypertension to check their own blood pressure from home and wirelessly send the results over the 3G network to nearby clinics on a regular basis. This frequent monitoring will allow doctors and nurses in the region’s clinics to efficiently and effectively manage the health of at-risk patients.
The wireless blood pressure systems are currently being implemented in the homes of 50 hypertensive patients in the severely affected areas of Otsuchi-cho and Rikuzentakata-shi with plans for distribution of the remaining 150 devices over the coming months. I join many of my colleagues at Qualcomm, in saying that it is an honor to join Iwate Medical University and MedPA in this effort. And to see first-hand, the ways that mobile technology can extend the reach of health care providers and improve access to quality care for Japanese citizens.