NHS tests patient-monitoring Wi-Fi patches

First we told you about smart bandages, now plasters get their turn to show off. The NHS is about to trial a small, wireless patch designed to monitor patients’ health.

Made by Oxford-based firm Sensium Healthcare, the plaster-sized patch is battery-powered and stuck on just above the heart, where it collects information on pulse, breathing and body temperature. This data is wirelessly transmitted to a box in each room that sends it on to the hospital’s IT system.

While nurses check on patients throughout the day, this is done around every four hours, and some people will likely deteriorate in-between. The patch, on the other hand, collects data every couple of minutes and if readings fall outside its pre-set parameters, it sends out an alert.

It will initially be used in one NHS trust but 20 more are considering its use. It’s already been tested in a private hospital in Brighton, where the matron said patches had warned staff of a worsening in symptoms in around 12% of patients who wore them. It’s cost effective, at £35 for a patch that lasts up to five days. And it means that nurses can attend to patients who need more care while being assured that there isn’t a crisis in a nearby room. (As long as there isn’t a battery malfunction, I guess…)

Patients are free to move around instead of needing to be hooked up to machines, and there’s the possibility that it could be worn at home in future – allowing patients to leave hospital sooner, safe in the knowledge that their health is still being monitored. But before that can happen, it will need to become more sophisticated, so the developers are now working on a new model capable of measuring blood pressure and oxygen levels as well.

Image via COD Newsroom’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley