USAID backs wearable tech initiative for Ebola from Scripps

Ebolavirus under an electron microscope--Courtesy of CDC

Amid growing efforts to quell the Ebola outbreak, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding a new initiative from the Scripps Translational Science Institute to develop wearable technology to monitor patients with the virus and identify the condition earlier.

Scripps, along with partners Sotera Wireless, Rhythm Diagnostic Systems and personalized analytics outfit PhysIQ, will use funds to create wireless devices to screen for or confirm suspected Ebola cases. The grant will be made available through USAID's "Fighting Ebola" program, which aims to help healthcare workers provide better field care to patients with the virus, Scripps said in a statement.

The new program, dubbed "Sensor Technology and Analytics to Monitor, Predict and Protect Ebola Patients" (STAMP2), could represent an advance on current diagnostic methods, which only screen for Ebola after a patient becomes contagious and the virus has already had a chance to spread. STAMP2 uses a mobile system and Band Aid-type sensor to pinpoint changes in individuals' condition, and continuously monitors patients' vital signs through two wireless monitors.

Data from the monitors is transmitted to PhysIQ's analytics platform, which uses next-generation algorithms to detect changes in patients over time. The platform provides automated analysis, offering information about an individual's condition before symptoms develop or worsen.

Dr. Stephen Steinhubl

Scripps researchers see the devices as monitoring up to 500 patients, but the program could be ramped up or down as needed. Scientists plan to run the system on a number of wireless health monitoring devices, including wireless rugged computers, smartphones and tablets with specially created apps. The completed program will also include a web portal that allows doctors to access a patient's status online.

"The new approach will provide unprecedented visibility into a patient's physiology that we believe will be invaluable in improving care in minimizing risk of exposure during an Ebola virus outbreak," Dr. Steven Steinhubl, director of digital medicine at Scripps Health, said in a statement. "This will open the door to being able to identify warning signs very early on, when potentially lifesaving care can be provided."

- read the release

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