University of Missouri researchers have announced they are working to develop an in-home health monitoring and alert system that streams patients’ individualized health information between homes and hospitals.
The research on closed loop healthcare was presented by Marjorie Skubic, Ph.D., a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the MU College of Engineering, along with her collaborator Julian Goldman, M.D., of Harvard University and several other team members, on June 11 in Washington, D.C., as part of the SmartAmerica Challenge Expo.
In a news release, Skubic said the technology she and her colleagues are developing would give adult children and other caregivers a peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are monitored and will receive help if needed. “Consider an elderly man who lives alone and falls and breaks his shoulder; when he falls, the system of sensors detects his fall and sends for help immediately. Additionally, the physicians could evaluate video of the fall captured by the sensors to determine how the man fell or what led to the fall. The fall data also helps medical professionals educate the patient on how to prevent similar falls in the future.”
According to university officials, technological advances have provided medical professionals with many devices and systems to collect and analyze patients’ health information, but many of these technologies do not share data with each other. The lack of streamlined information-sharing creates inefficiencies and, potentially, inconsistencies in patient care.
As such, Skubic and her colleagues have been working with sensor technologies for more than a decade and have successfully integrated video-game technology into residents’ rooms at assisted-care facilities. Sensors detect falls and walking patterns as well as pulse and respiration rate. Sensors also monitor how often individuals use the restroom, which may suggest whether someone is experiencing a urinary tract infection or stomach virus. Now, Skubic and her colleagues hope to make these sensor technologies available in elderly individuals’ homes so they can “age in place” and live longer, healthier lives independently.
“In the system we’re developing, the home and hospital devices would be interconnected, which would allow more coordinated care with lower risk of complications,” Skubic said. “As patients transfer between care units, sensor data are automatically delivered to their bedsides by the integrated healthcare platform. When patients return home, the system continues to track their activity, behaviors and vital signs and send alerts if health changes are detected.”