EBV’s business development manager, Borut Kastelic, explains how IoT technology and compact, low power sensing devices are changing the medical landscape
The medical sector is fuelled by access to detailed data. Through this, practitioners can get a better understanding of their patients’ health issues and ascertain whether their prescribed medication or treatment are proving effective. Also, such data can be indispensable for diagnostics. By leveraging it, practitioners may uncover signs of conditions not previously identified and decide on the appropriate response.
In the past, capturing vital signs data for heart rate, blood oxygen levels, temperature, etc had to be conducted in a clinical environment. This had significant drawbacks, both logistically and regarding patient convenience. The emergence of IoT technology, along with advanced, compact and low power sensing devices means a larger proportion of these activities can be done at home.
Shifting vital signs monitoring away from hospitals/GP practices into the domestic domain offers significant benefits. The time and effort of this work no longer burdens already overstretched healthcare staffing resources. Monitoring can be carried out over a longer period, rather than within the short timeframe of a doctor’s appointment. Consequently, the information acquired is more likely to be of value. Patients remain in the comfort of their own home rather than making regular visits to a medical facility: particularly advantageous to those with long-term conditions.
Among the sensing techniques employed in remote vital signs monitoring are:
Photo-plethysmography (PPG)—Here, using optoelectronic hardware, modulated light signals are applied to body tissues to monitor the patient’s pulse rate. From this, different cardiovascular-related parameters may be determined, including heart rate variance, blood pressure and peripheral capillary oxygen saturation. Enhancements at the component level, combined with more sophisticated algorithms and mechanisms for augmenting signal integrity, have all contributed to PPG performance improvements. This means the effects of body movement on the data captured can be compensated for, which has proved game-changing for remote monitoring.
Electrocardiogram (ECG)—This relies on electrodes detecting differences in electrical potential generated by the heart. Via this, problems like cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation can be detected. Technological progression over the course of the last decade has resulted in ECG functionality being incorporated into wearable devices.
Temperature monitoring—Non-contact temperature measurement to an acceptable degree of accuracy is now possible from wearable devices and smartphones. Having established the surface skin temperature, the patient’s body temperature can be extrapolated. Superior results will be achieved by taking measurements at places where the skin temperature is nearer to the body temperature, such as in the ear or from fingers.
By collaborating with leading vendors, like ams Osram and Renesas, EBV Elektronik offers next generation components for vital signs monitoring.