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Wireless monitoring to ease patients' pains

11 January 2013

Prof Lian (left) is heading the innovative healthcare programme that uses wireless technology to monitor patients' vital signs

Patients in Singapore can look forward to greater independence and comfort with a technology-driven plan that allows wireless monitoring of their vital signs. NUS, Fujitsu Asia Pte Ltd and Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe Ltd have set up a new research programme called Body Sensor Network for Disease Management and Prevention-Oriented Healthcare to achieve this goal.

Fujitsu will work closely with the University's engineering and medical teams and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, tapping research and development innovations jointly developed by both Fujitsu entities, including the cloud data platform and a range of associated services.

The initial phase will focus on designing a wireless body sensor network for continuous patient monitoring, in both hospital and home. This will connect to a "Health Cloud" for remote processing by computers and healthcare providers. The body sensor network will enable a patient's key physiological data to be collected and transmitted in a context-sensitive way. The recorded information is stored and processed in the Health Cloud, such that any abnormalities detected will be flagged out to alert healthcare providers.

NUS will contribute its knowledge in creating specially engineered devices for medical problems to develop wireless wearable biomedical sensors and data mining algorithms. Professor Lian Yong, Provost's Chair Professor from NUS' Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who focuses on wireless and monitoring research, is heading the programme. He said security will be built within the system for data storage, transmission and access to ensure privacy.

Clinicians from the NUS medical school and healthcare practitioners from the National University Hospital (NUH) will define the user requirements of this project, and conduct in-patient clinical studies. The Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health will carry out field trials for outpatient applications.

The programme aims to further develop a wireless sensor plaster for ECG, temperature, and respiration monitoring, as well as wireless wristband sensors for taking patients' blood pressure, temperature and oxygen saturation readings. A range of medical team applications, designed for use by doctors and nurses, will be tested during pre-clinical trials in a training ward, followed by full clinical trials in a general ward at NUH.

The final goal is to enable patients to be mobile, removing them from monitoring and sensing stations to free up hospital resources. Healthcare professionals also benefit by eliminating the need for regular patient measurements and complex data analysis, so they can have more time to focus on patient care.

Prof Lian revealed that pre-trials will start in two to three years, with engineers, doctors and nurses involved. The team targets to recruit about 100 patients for the clinical and home trials which will last one to two years.