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Vital Signs Monitoring

Factors such as ageing populations, rising health costs and the increasing incidence of long-term chronic disease are creating a growing crisis in health care. This is driving a trend towards increasing levels of care in the home, with early discharge from hospitals, or "ageing in place" initiatives, in which the elderly are encouraged to maintain independent living for as long as possible. 

 

CSIRO is developing a non-contact monitoring system which will make use of recent advances in sensing, telecommunications and information technologies. By using sensors which do not rely on gels or adhesive patches, and using mainstream wireless technology, the system will be able to provide truly continuous monitoring of vital signs for extended periods, and in almost any location. 

 

Continuous monitoring has several advantages: 

  • Alarms can be raised immediately when assistance is required. 

 The main components of the system in development are:

  • Non-contact sensor, measuring: heart rate, respiration rate, movement and activity.
  • A user-alert system ('panic' button) 

Sensor 

The vital signs monitor will use a new technology (patent applied for) which records heart and respiration rates but does not require electrodes or chest bands like other systems. Motion sensors record movement, measure long-term trends in activity level.

Communications system

By carrying a mobile telephone with Bluetooth and GPRS capability, users of the system will be continuously monitored wherever they are, provided that mobile phone coverage is available. Within the home, a Bluetooth communications channel will be able to provide a regular data summary and/or alarm notification via the home telephone. 

Data system 

Information recorded by the system from many users can be recorded in a data system. This can be accessed by carers using standard web browsers. In an emergency, the software controlling the data system can send text messages to family physicians or other carers, set up a direct voice link between the subject and a call centre (similar to centres already used by personal alarm systems), or notify emergency services directly.