New ear sensor safely monitors COVID-19 patients at home

October 18, 2021
New ear sensor safely monitors COVID-19 patients at home

Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) are harnessing the power of telemedicine for continuous and remote monitoring of COVID-19 patients. They have designed an in-ear sensor that measures vital indicators of patients at considerable risk of severe disease: these patients will be evaluated by a team of doctors at a telemedicine centre for timely and effective treatment.

TMU’s research trialled a system whereby COVID-19 patients flagged at high risk of severe disease (i.e., with existing comorbidities) were fitted with a device that would monitor a number of vital signs including heart rate, core body temperature, blood oxygen saturation, and respiratory rate. The device resembles a small hearing aid and contains a photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor element, a contact temperature sensor, and an accelerometer.

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The health data captured by the device was monitored remotely by a team of health care workers and patients were called in to hospital when vital signs indicated a deterioration in their condition.

At least 150 patients were recruited – over the course of the study 20 patients were flagged for deteriorating vital signs and admitted into hospital for life-saving treatment. Blood oxygen levels were a key indicator of deterioration in these patients. The average measurement in patients before hospitalisation was 88%, whereas the average measurement in patients not hospitalised was 96%.

In addition, a striking 90% of patients hospitalised said they would not have come to hospital at the time they were contacted to be admitted. This suggests monitoring vital signs remotely can catch disease deterioration and ensure better outcomes for the patient.

The researchers propose remote monitoring to “relieve the burden on general practitioners and medical officers, reduce the risk of infection for medical and nursing staff, and [simultaneously] increase the patient’s chances of survival.”

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Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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