GE researchers develop disposable, wireless vital sign monitor patch

Wireless medical sensor--Courtesy of GE

The innovation in wireless vital sign monitoring is coming fast and furious. The latest to reveal its approach is GE ($GE), which has developed a wrist-worn patch about the size of a Band-Aid that can be used to remotely analyze sweat and check vital signs. It's expected to be used after a patient is no longer being treated and has returned home.

GE competitor Royal Philips ($PHG) and Silicon Valley startup Vital Connect each also have chest-worn, wireless vital sign patch monitors that are designed to help patients transition from hospital to home. In addition, a myriad of contactless vital sign monitoring systems based on camera, radar, under-the-mattress and even ingestible technology are in development and starting to reach the market.

Within 5 years, GE expects that body worn sensors will routinely enable remote, wireless patient monitoring to allow physicians to track them on any connected device.

"The same transformation that happened with mobile phones is taking place in patient monitoring," Erno Muuranto, the engineer leading the GE research effort, said in the company's blog. "The world is going wireless and wearable.

"We could run hospitals like smart factories," he continued. "Wireless sensors and data analytics will help correctly diagnose patients in the ambulance. It will allow us to administer correct treatment faster, which could lead to faster discharge. It will also allow us to monitor people remotely from home. All of this will help improve care and costs."

GE's wireless medical sensor was developed with the support of the Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. It could be able to track heart rate, blood pressure, hydration and blood-oxygen saturation levels, with an EKG capability also a possibility. The device adheres to the inside of the wrist.

The technology is based upon research that had long been shelved at GE on organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). Researchers resurrected the work on OLEDs as the basis of this sensor technology; it enables a small, flexible patch with the computing power of an inflexible silicon-based chip.

The monitors are already in clinical trials to track hydration levels during intense exercise; the testing could also be expanded to a measure of stress.

Separately, GE engineers are also working on ways to take all the data generated from this continuous monitoring. They are looking to place all that heartbeat, blood pressure, respiration and other data into massive data banks. There, software would analyze it and alert physicians to potential patient problems.

"This will really improve patient experience and get doctors better data about patients," noted GE Global Research Chief Scientist Anil Duggal.

Up next, GE plans to go even further to explore how soft, organic semiconductors can interact with human tissues--offering a true fusion of electronic and biological tissue. The researchers think this could offer a means to enable better neural implants to treat epilepsy or electronics that interact with the skin.

- here is the blog post