Anytime we come into contact with healthcare, we will most likely encounter some type of patient monitor. Whether it is a basic vital signs monitor at the physician’s office or a multi-parameter, full-screen monitor in the Intensive Care Unit, physiologic monitors provide the foundational information for a multitude of care-related decisions.
Until recently, the patient had to go to the monitor, which provided a snapshot of their condition at that moment. However, with long-term or chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, a snapshot doesn’t provide the scope of information that most healthcare professionals would like to have in order to truly personalize a patient’s plan of care.
Welcome to the world of wearable patient monitoring, also known as Wearable Health Devices (WHDs). WHDs is a booming technology that allows for the monitoring of a variety of vital signs during our everyday lives. These monitors are becoming smaller, lighter, and wearable anywhere, including work, home, the fitness gym, and even in social situations. This allows the healthcare professional to look at the patient’s whole existence rather than the 15–30 minutes spent in the office.
Vital signs that can currently be monitored on these devices include electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP), and respiratory rate (RR). The ECG waveform is a key factor in the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, and it can monitor the effectiveness of current pharmacological therapies. Heart rate has become an important factor in the sports/wellness arena, providing information on how the body tolerates the increased level of activity. Monitoring of respiratory rate is important in the detection of issues such as sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma.
Research being conducted by the Joint Research Centre is looking at the possibility of a device capable of measuring a wide range of biomarkers. This information would then be incorporated into a smartphone platform and linked to an electronic health system for analysis by your healthcare professionals. In addition to being able to monitor patients who have a pre-existing health condition, such a device would offer an opportunity to be proactive with intervention before these conditions occur.
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