Wireless sensor network monitors vital signs on the go

Wireless sensor network monitors tracks patients vital signs on the go
A clinical warning system that uses wireless sensors to track the vital signs of at risk patients is undergoing clinical trials at a hospital in the US.

Developed by researchers at Washington University in St Louis, the system's sensors are designed to take blood oxygenation and heart rate readings from at risk patients once or twice a minute. The data is then transmitted to a base station, where it is combined with other data in the patient's electronic medical record, such as lab test results.

The incoming vital signs and data in the medical record are continually scrutinised by a machine-learning algorithm, which looks for signs of clinical deterioration. If any such signs are found, the system automatically calls a nurse on a mobile phone, alerting them to check on the patient.

"The idea was to create a virtual intensive care unit where the patients weren't wired to beeping machines and instead were free to move about as they please," said Chenyang Lu, pictured left, a computer scientist at the university. "So far, the prototype trials have shown us that wireless sensor networks can successfully monitor vital signs to support real time detection of clinical deterioration in patients."

According to Lu, it won't be long before a patient with a serious medical condition, such as diabetes or asthma, wears a wireless medical device that will allow them to monitor their own vital signs on a smartphone that will also call relatives or doctors if serious problems arise. "This will change the future of medicine," he claimed.

Laura Hopperton

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