Researchers in Chicago have started a pilot study to see if a wearable sensor can safely monitor COVID-19 patients at home.
The University of Illinois health system has partnered with PhysIQ, a digital medicine startup, to develop artificial intelligence (AI) that people with COVID-19 could wear that would track vital signs like oxygen levels and heart rate.
Doctors will watch the signs remotely and if the system shows something is wrong, they can contact patients and tell them to go to a hospital.
The team says the sensor will not only help prevent hospitals from becoming overcrowded, it will keep patients from not caring until it’s too late.
The University of Illinois Health System has partnered with PhysIQ, a digital medicine startup, to develop wearable technology for COVID-19 patients (Courtesy NBC5)
A chest-worn sensor tracks the patient’s vital signs, including oxygen levels and heart rate, connected to a smartphone via bluetooth (courtesy of NBC5)
According to the MIT Technology Review, every patient receives a take-away kit with a pulse oximeter, a sensor patch with Bluetooth, and a paired smartphone.
The patch that is worn on the chest uses an AI algorithm to determine a patient’s normal vital signs.
If a patient has a different oxygen level or a different heart rate, the patch sends data to the smartphone, which alerts the doctors.
“It’s a tremendous benefit,” said Dr. Terry Vanden Hoek, director of emergency medicine at the University of Illinois Health, the MIT Technology Review.
“You may be breathing faster, your activity level may drop, or your heart rate may differ from your baseline.
Doctors like Dr. Terry Vanden Hoek (pictured) will remotely monitor the data and contact patients if the warnings are abnormal and tell them to go to a hospital
A trained doctor can look at the warnings and contact the patient and tell them to go to a doctor’s office or hospital, he explained.
It happened to Angela Mitchell, 59, who tested positive for COVID-19 in July 2020 while working as a pharmacy technician at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago.
Mitchell told MIT Technology Review that they could either quarantine themselves in a hotel or isolate themselves at home and get the patch for 24/7 monitoring, and they opted for the latter.
She woke up for two nights in isolation and could not breathe.
She went to the bathroom to take a shower, but she was sweating, dizzy, and trying to catch her breath.
“I was sitting in the bathroom literally holding on to the sink when my phone rang,” Mitchell told the MIT Technology Review.
The call came from doctors at the hospital who had remotely monitored her vital signs through the patch she was wearing.
They told her she had to go to an emergency room straight away.
She was late but received another call that morning telling her that an ambulance would be called for her if she didn’t get to the hospital.
Her husband drove to the Northwestern Memorial in Chicago, and upon admission, doctors told her that her oxygen levels had dropped to dangerously low levels.
She stayed in the hospital for a week.
“I owe this surveillance system my life,” Mitchell told the MIT Technology Review.
“This device is used in communities that are deprived of these possibilities. That can help everyone. ‘
The study is now recruiting about 1,700 participants from across Chicago, many of whom are at higher risk because they have underlying conditions like obesity or diabetes, or are people of color, including African Americans and Latinos.
“When you work in the emergency room, it’s sad to see patients who have waited too long to get help,” Vanden Hoek told MIT Technology Review.
“You would need intensive care on a ventilator. They couldn’t help but ask, “If we could have warned you four days earlier, could we have prevented all of this?