Smart bandage advances patient monitoring technology

Patient monitoring technology is a growing niche within the industry, with big and small operations looking for their cut of the profits. A new device from a team of nurses, engineers and computer scientists takes the trend one step further, monitoring a patient's health through a bandage.

As the New Scientist reports, scientists at the National Taiwan University in Taipei are developing "Bioscope," a bandage-like system that tracks a hospital patient's temperature, heart rat, movement and bodily noises and wirelessly transmits the data to a computer. Sensor modules are 3D printed onto the bandage, and can be swapped in and out by a nursing staff depending on each patient's unique needs. The system includes a heart rate monitor that measures electrical activity at the skin surface, a contact thermometer that measures temperature, an accelerometer that monitors physical movement and a contact microphone that picks up on sound patterns from internal organs.

Scientists hope that eventually the device could allow physicians to make diagnoses remotely and monitor patients once they've left the hospital, according to the New Scientist article. The team plans to present its Bioscope system at the UbiComp conference in Seattle, WA, in September.

The innovation joins a host of other patient monitoring products under development. Earlier this month, the FDA cleared the first sensor to monitor heart rate, respiratory and movement in a chair. EarlySense's Chair Sensor Solution is placed underneath a chair cushion and tracks a patient's health without any attachment leads or cuffs. A new iOS device, Cue, allows consumers to test their vital signs at home with simple swabs of bodily fluids. The product consists of a small tabletop analyzer and color-coded cartridges that detect biomarkers such as testosterone, inflammation, vitamin D and fertility. Cue is being presold under an Investigational Device Exemption, but has not yet received full regulatory approval.

Big name companies like Philips Healthcare ($PHG) and Medtronic ($MDT) are also hedging their bets on a profitable patient monitoring market. In February, Philips closed a new patient telemonitoring tech deal with Partners HealthCare, one of the nation's leading healthcare providers. In May, Medtronic announced that it was in the final stages of acquiring medical sensor company Corventis for more than $150 million. The acquisition gives the company access to Corventis' two FDA-cleared patient monitoring products, including a peel-and-stick PiiX sensor that measures vital signs and a mobile cardiac telemetry system that transmits data to a wireless receiver worn on a clip or a belt.

- read the New Scientist story

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