Facebooking your physician appointment

Telemedicine, which allows doctors to communicate, diagnose and even treat their patients remotely is on the rise thanks to advances in information technology. It allows healthcare workers to securely monitor patients in inaccessible parts of the world as well as providing more timely responses for patients in many situations. New research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics suggests that the well-known social networking site, Facebook, and smart phone use could make telemedicine even more common and useful in healthcare.

Agostino Giorgio of the Politecnico di Bari, Italy, points out that, for most patients, telemedicine means fewer hospital visits, but it also provides critical services that might otherwise be unavailable. Remote heart monitoring and other diagnostic tools are quite common. Now, Giorgio has developed smart phone software, an application or “app”, that connects patient and doctor via the social networking site Facebook, although it could be adapted to work with another such networking system.

The Care-App allows private and secure communication between doctor and patient as well as offering a medication diary for the patient rescue call and clinic search and booking utility. Video connectivity makes the visit more personal but also allows a patient to show the doctor some symptoms or problems. There is also the option to use a “tele-stethoscope” device that connects to the smart phone headphone jack and would be provided to the patient or their carer. Giorgio and colleagues in the Cardiology department have already tested and validated a tele-stethoscope with this app. Other devices such as blood-oxygen saturation and pulse monitor, electrocardiogram (e.g. the AliveCor Heart Monitor), thermometer could also be used in conjunction with the smart phone input or in some cases simply through the video connection or a verbal/textual reporting of temperature, for instance.

@The patient also may use the Facebook share button or private message button, to send the doctor any other kind of information he may acquire and store with its own smart phone, concerning its own health status,’ says Giorgio. ‘Care-app manages all these steps, apps and operations, performed by the doctor and by the patient during the remote medical visit.’ Care-App is written in HTML5/Java, and so should work on any operating system with all smart devices – smart phones, tablets, notebook and desktop computers.

‘The app offers patients frequent and easy check-up in the privacy of the home and by avoiding expensive hospitalization,’ adds Giorgio. ‘This could permit a significant saving of the healthcare expenses and an improvement of the quality of chronic patient’s life.’

Giorgio, A. (2016) ‘Social networks, apps and smartphones for telemedicine’, Int. J. Medical Engineering and Informatics, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.183-195.

Electricity and economics

A nation’s electricity consumption has been seen as a useful proxy for measuring economic growth offering a useful alternative to conventional measures such as gross domestic product (GDP) by incorporating the assumption that greater consumption means a better quality of life. However, country-by-country analysis reported in International Journal of Global Energy Issues suggests that this may not necessarily be the case.

Sunderasan Srinivasan and Vamshi Krishna Reddy of Verdurous Solutions Private Limited, based in Mysore, Karnataka, India, have looked at the impact of aggregate electricity provision on all-round socioeconomic development as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI). The team analyzed data from a sample of 21 countries chosen on the basis of average annual HDI scores of 4.00 and above cumulated over the periods 1981–1990, 1990–2000 and 2000–2012.

They found that for four of the countries analyzed, specifically China, Egypt, Morocco and Nepal, there was the expected unidirectional causality linking electricity consumption to human development. However, the reverse was true for five other countries, Algeria, Egypt, Myanmar, Sudan and Yemen. “Despite staggering improvements in energy efficiency of production processes as well as of end-user appliances, growth in emerging economies is as energy-intensive as witnessed among the industrialized nations four decades past,” the team reports. Their new study avoids the limitations of traditional measures of aggregate production and consumption that ignore the effects of economic activity on individuals in whose name the macroeconomy is said to be managed.

“The present study observes that the availability of electricity plays a significant role in achieving development outcomes in a few instances, while developmental outcomes such as higher incomes, themselves drive higher electricity consumption in others,” the team explains. They suggest that if the production-consumption gap can be narrowed by managing technical and commercial losses in transmission and distribution more effectively, human development outcomes could be improved for those nations where a negative impact is seen in their data.

“Our paper takes the argument further to attempt and establish a causal relationship from electricity consumption through HDI to stated “life satisfaction” among citizens in the countries analyzed,” Sunderasan explains.

Srinivasan, S. and Reddy, V. K. (2016) ‘Full Circle: Electricity, Development and Welfare’, Int. J. Global Energy Issues, vol. 39, no. 5, pp.289–304.

An algorithm for juicier gossip

Today, more and more of us get our news and information from social networking sites, which include the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and countless others. This runs in obvious parallel with the slow decline of printed magazines and newspapers as well as television being usurped by YouTube and on-demand video streaming services such as Netflix. Our lives are changing as a result.

A new study from the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Engineering (NRIEE), in China, suggests that there is now a need to improve exactly how information is spread through online social networking. A “gossip algorithm” could improve the reach and rate at which important, useful or simply entertaining information spreads, Bo Yang and colleagues suggest in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing. Their findings are particularly pertinent to the ease with which information can be divested across a mobile social network.

The team has demonstrated how a gossip algorithm can be used to spread information with simplicity and robustness through the 4G-enabled world of smart phone ad hoc social networks that utilise D2D (device to device) technology including LTE Direct and Wi-Fi Direct. The team has successfully tested their protocol under in two typical application scenarios where smart phone users took a random walk. They determined the theoretical upper bounds of how long a piece of information would take to spread to all users in the ad hoc D2D mobile network. “Simulation results indicate that the growth of communication cost is almost linear [as opposed to geometric or exponential growth] when the scale of mobile social networks becomes larger, which is a quite encouraging result for application,” the team reports.

Given just how reliant we are all becoming on continuous and rapid access to information even when we are on the move, the advent of mobile social networks that allow clusters of smart phone users to spread that information efficiently without recourse to all devices interminably sending and receiving data to and from the cellular network and thence the internet will become increasingly important. Yang and his colleagues offer a novel solution in their gossip algorithm for reducing the cellular network overheads.

Yang, B., Liu, D. and Zhang, W. (2016) ‘Information dissemination in mobile social networks with gossip algorithms‘, Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp.259-265