Editorial Feature

How Sensors are Developing the Healthcare System

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The incorporation of sensing technology into medical devices and applications is well established. However, the advances in this technology have also stimulated its application in various healthcare system and devices. Current research in this area has been especially promising for the use of both wearable and implantable sensing systems to monitor the physiological parameters of patients1.

For example, monitoring a pregnant woman’s blood pressure (BP) and heart rate, as well as the heart rate and movements of her unborn child, from outside the hospital could be a particularly useful tool. Especially when this patient is at a higher risk of developing conditions, such as preeclampsia, which is a disorder that could be fatal to both her and her unborn child.

Therefore, it can be determined that the use of sensors for this specific application will improve the overall quality of life in numerous individuals, especially those living with complex medical conditions2. By maximizing the independence of these individuals from requiring constant hospital visits, physicians can still provide quality care to their patients by taking advance of these recent advances in information technology and its related fields.

Advances in the field of material science have also enabled for the development of sensors that can be directly integrated into textile materials. A sensor that is embedded in a garment can be equipped to collect various forms of information n the individual such as electrocardiographic and electromyographic data by analyzing any changes in the resistance of the garment.

Wearable Sensors

The current systems that are used to monitor the vital signs of patients often limit their mobility to hospital beds. However, the continuously advancing technology of sensors has allowed the development of systems that allow patients to move freely while simultaneously monitoring their daily activities and physiological parameters.

The use of wearable sensors can be useful for both diagnostic and monitoring purposes within the medical field, as their successful application has already provided useful information through the use of physiological, biochemical and motion sensing technology1. The use of physiological monitoring, in particular, is expected to assist physicians in patients requiring ongoing treatment of various neurological, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, such as seizures, hypertension, and asthma.

Transmitting Patient Data

The remote monitoring of these patients is broken down into a series of steps that transmits important information on the patient wearing the sensor to allow healthcare professionals to immediately respond and implement interventions as needed. Wearable sensors will gather important information on the movements and physiological status of the patient, such as heart rate, breathing rate or mobility.

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The patient’s data is then transferred to a mobile phone or another type of access point that is ultimately stored in the online databases. In the case of an emergency situation, the sensors can immediately detect an abnormal physiological symptom of the individual wearing the sensor and alert a nearby emergency service to provide immediate assistance to patients, as well as alert any direct family members or caregivers of the emergency.

Challenges in Healthcare Sensors

Despite the numerous advantages associated with the utilizing of these types of remote monitoring systems to ensure patient health, there are a number of challenges that affect the realistic implementation of these types of systems on a large scale. For example, an improvement in current battery technologies must be achieved before developing wearable and remote monitoring systems to last for extended periods of time. Additionally, certain cultural barriers may associate wearable health devices to certain stigmas that may cause patients to be less cooperative with wearing their sensors on a daily basis.

References

  1. Patel, S., Park, H., Bonato, P., Chan, L., & Rodgers, M. (2012). A review of wearable sensors and systems with application in rehabilitation. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation. DOI: 10.1186/1743-0003-9-21.
  2. Jovanov, E., Milenkovic, A., Otto, C., & de Groen, P. C. (2005). A wireless body area network of intelligent motion sensors for computer assisted rehabilitation. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation. DOI: 10.1186/1743-0003-2-6.

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine; two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are used in anticancer therapy.

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