Technology advances change what doctors can do.
Multiple companies are developing products to allow in-home patient monitoring through wearable monitoring systems, or patient self-performance of certain vital sign measurements. These measurements are logged into an in home system, and relayed to stations that are monitored by clinicians. If the clinician detects abnormal readings, they can request the patient to come into the clinic for follow up treatment. These particularly benefit older patients living alone. They can enjoy a better quality of life uncompromised by concerns around falling. Sensor-equipped monitors can detect activity and location, which helps bring peace-of-mind for the homebound and their families, knowing that care can be automatically dispatched in the event of an emergency. The new technology for home healthcare is also enabling individuals to better monitor and manage their physical well-being. With fitness tracking devices nearly ubiquitous, it is common to hear other discussing the activity they recorded on their devices. The next generation of home-healthcare electronics promises to provide a more detailed picture of our health so that we can detect – early and with clarity – possible health issues.
TE sensors are similar to receptors of the central nervous system of major medical devices in hospitals, monitoring multiple key parameters critical to proper equipment operation and patient survival. These sensors are designed into applications where failure is not an option, as patient’s lives are at stake. Since the early commercial heart lung machines, our sensors have monitored the temperature of the blood flow returning to the body. For patient warming/cooling applications our pressure sensors and temperature sensors confirm proper functioning of the device. In dialysis equipment, pressure, force and temperature sensors monitor critical parameters. Based on this long history with equipment manufacturers, use of these sensors have extended into home healthcare equipment. In these devices, sensors play an even more critical role. Since trained clinicians are less directly involved in patient monitoring, healthcare professionals and medical centers are increasingly relying on sensor-equipped instruments to track and detail patient health with minimal risk to the patient. By adding sensors to home health device, they become smarter, capable of being integrated with other systems and communicating critical information remotely. In each application, manufacturers have identified key parameters that must be measured and controlled for proper instrument function in a home setting. Some examples of these sensors include, temperature, pressure, force and bubble detection sensors in dialysis equipment. Each of these sensors allow the equipment to monitor and control its own function to the point that a patient can be trained to operate the complex equipment successfully. Piezo film sensing technology allows bedridden patient monitoring for activity, respiration, and movement. Patients are also monitored for temperature and SpO2 using application specific sensors. For fall detection and activity tracking, sensitive pressure sensors that can detect small changes in altitude are used to differentiate between vertical and horizontal positions or to “count” the number of stairs climbed in a day. For congestive heart failure monitoring, weight gain driven by fluid retention is a key parameter to monitor. Precision force sensors allow remote monitoring of daily weight fluctuations that could indicate cardiac difficulties. As sensor technology advances, further and further intelligence can be added to devices to allow simplified use of a complex piece of equipment. With TE’s broad line of sensors, integration into multiple parameter sensors is feasible. What the future holds for in home medical applications seems ever expanding.
(Written by Brian Ream, Principal Field Applications Engineer, Sensors)