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Remote Monitoring News

mHealth Heads to the Top of the World

An expedition now ascending Pakistan's K2 is using mHealth technology to monitor the climbers' health. The test holds promise for using mHealth in any extreme location.

- A team of climbers is using wearable mHealth technology to track their health during an ascent of one of the world’s most perilous mountains.

The team currently climbing Pakistan’s K2 is wearing Bluetooth-enabled clothing embedded with sensors that continuously track heart rate, oxygen saturation, skin temperature, altitude, speed, bearing and location. That data is streamed in near-real-time to an Internet platform that can be viewed almost anywhere, and is being monitored by physicians and team leaders in California and Seattle.

The technology was tested in two earlier expeditions in the Himalayas, during which three climbers were forced to withdraw with health issues and one had to be evacuated by helicopter.

The project on the world’s second tallest, most remote and second-most-dangerous mountain is testing mHealth technology not only for extreme sports and adventure enthusiasts, but for any isolated and/or hazardous locations where remote monitoring might improve one’s health or even save a life. That could range from rural communities and clinics to space travel, deep-sea projects, oil rigs, even natural disaster sites.

“Basically, if it works there, it will work anywhere,” Leo Montejo, MD, CEO of WiCis, a California-based developer of mHealth tracking technology for adventure sports, said in a press release. “If we can offer you support through technology, there is no reason to be totally alone.”

Montejo, a Harvard-trained Stanford professor and veteran of three Himalayan expeditions, designed the app being used in the #K2Adventure16 Madison Mountaineering expedition. The app is running on a Thuraya SatSleeve+ mobile device, continuously sending data back to the WiCis-Sports Internet platform, where it can be viewed two seconds later (access to the dashboard is available at http://publicdashboard.wicis.com/#e7812).

The 10-man expedition, led by Seattle mountaineer Garrett Madison, began June 12 and is scheduled to reach the summit of K2 in mid-August.

The mHealth hookup enables both the participants and monitors stationed elsewhere (Montejo is following the expedition from California) to monitor each climber’s health in real-time, watching for signs of oedema, hypothermia and cardiac difficulty, as well as indicators of many other health issues. Charting that data on a dashboard allows monitors to spot a health concern in advance or as it begins, enabling them to intervene before an emergency occurs. 

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