There are a lot of use cases for NFC in medical devices and healthcare. The possible areas include monitoring and management of homebased care. The application may include monitoring systems for a variety of chronic diseases, including but not limited to diabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases (infarctions, heart failure, arrhythmias and other rhythm abnormalities), pulmonary diseases like asthma and COPD, and neurological abnormalities like seizures, chronic renal failure, etc.
For example, a biometric device called “MiniME” developed by Ergonomidesign monitors various vital parameters like ECG, blood pressure, heart rate, pulse oximetry, body temperature, blood glucose, cholesterol, hemoglobin and prothrombin time, and transmits the data using NFC to the cloud.
Another company working on medical devices with NFC embedded in them is Impak Health. They are involved in home-based cardiac, pulmonary and sleep monitoring. They have incorporated NFC in devices such as “RhythmTrack” that tracks a person’s ECG, and “SleepTrack,” which tracks the sleep cycle and duration. Similarly, FITBIT – a fitness monitoring company – has incorporated NFC for transferring details like calories burned, number of steps taken and other details from a wristband to the user’s smartphone which houses a user-friendly application.
Gentag, a company specializing in mobile health, is using NFC to transfer data from devices ranging from diagnostic assays to skin patches. The concept of home-based healthcare using NFC doesn’t end there. Nedap, a Netherlands-based security and identification specialist, has rolled out 50,000 NFC phones for nurses. They are used for recording home visits for the elderly. A similar phenomenon is seen in France.
NFC is becoming widely accepted for medical devices in some markets like Japan. Sony Corporation has developed an NFC Healthcare Library which enables communication between healthcare products embedded with the NFC Dynamic Tag (FeliCa Plug) and healthcare applications installed on smartphones. This library is available free of charge for a number of OS, including Windows, Linux and Android. Companies like Omron, Terumo and A&D are incorporating Sony’s solution into their devices like BP monitors, pedometers, blood glucose meters, etc.
Various other companies like Qolpac and Identive WPG have brought NFC into the mainstream with uses ranging from medication compliance to X-ray image sharing.
NFC is also viewed with skepticism by some industry leaders and opinion makers. According to PayPal President David Marcus, NFC doesn’t offer any advantage over traditional methods like swiping a credit or debit card.
Similarly, the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) predicted that NFC will fail to have a significant commercial impact in 2012. Another skepticism is that NFC-based mobile wallets won’t take off until NFC readers are installed in a significant number of stores. However, these predictions are based on the fact that NFC is not being adopted by mobile phone OEMs, and not due to any inherent disadvantage of NFC per se.