The underlying premise of the article reviewed above is the need for remote ways of monitoring patients which may otherwise be adding to the growing strain on an already stressed health care system, whilst attenuating the increasing demand for better care due to an ever growing number of patients dealing with long term conditions, all at the same time providing independence and participation of these individuals. Certainly a difficult task for even the most innovative of minds.
This is without doubt a key issue and one that will, if solutions are found, not only benefit the health care system as a whole, but patients in rural areas. Through having access to clinical care in rural areas that may otherwise make adequate care inaccessible without relocation, the overall management of long term conditions can be drastically improved by aiding diagnosis, treatment, and further understanding of the effects of the disease whilst also aiding response times to emergencies and accidents.
With all of this in mind the paper in question focused on the progress of technologies with potential application in a clinical setting that may help begin to solve such an important issue, then moving on to the application and positive effects of these technologies.
The article immediately turns its focus onto the recent advances in the related fields of sensor technology, microelectronics, telecommunication, and data analysis techniques allowing the development of smaller sensors to unobtrusively collect remote data. An aspect that is often overlooked but highly relevant. From a practical stand point simply enabling the end user to consistently feel comfortable wearing the technology is a gap that needs to be bridged and one that is seemingly being tackled. With the development of sensors imbedded into clothing as outlined in the article it appears that scientists and patients may finally be working towards cooperating synergistically in a happy medium allowing collection of accurate data without resistance or uncomfortable feeling.
Not forgetting that with the advances in wireless technology, the monitoring of such parameters has seen huge strides in the collection of long term data as demonstrated through the wireless ECG sensor outlined. Through this wireless technology the transmission of data from patient to clinical hospital setting has become quicker and more efficient for all parties, with vital management and response time applications.
Moving on the authors look into wearable sensors analysing a number of parameters including all vital signs as well as GPS and movement data, which has huge benefits for improving reaction times for falls and accidents in elderly populations, especially removing the need for wearing emergency buttons or panic alarms which have obvious problems in a population that notoriously show resistance to wearing such items, as well as cognition and memory problems leading to misplacement and loss.
In my opinion the most exciting area of development that is bridged in the article is the progress of biochemical sensors analysing blood glucose, carbon dioxide, blood PH, sodium levels and alike with developments in this field uncovering endless opportunities for a vast number of populations ranging from emergency services experiencing dangerous situations and therefore requiring real time data, to diabetics looking for automatic injection of insulin whilst managing their condition. An area of research that not only has huge practical advantages but influential clinical and emergency implications as well.
The development of ambient sensors, such as motion detectors and “smart home technologies”, appears to be rapid with the monitoring of activity patterns in long term health conditions leading the driving quest for knowledge in this area, attempting to further understand the problems associated with underlying conditions and therefore affecting clinical practice in terms of diagnosis, monitoring, decision making and application in the future. Through application to household appliances, monitoring conditions of potentially dangerous items is also seen as a huge benefit of such technologies i.e. a sensor that determines if the kitchen hob has been left on.
Examples of the developments outlined above can all be found within the article however the overall message was as follows. Through the rapid development of areas in the field of wearable sensors the consequences and applications of these technologies are vast and hugely beneficial to everyone involved.
They will enable patient care to improve exponentially with response time being reduced, better informed decisions being made, and independence being given back to the patient all whilst wearing technologies almost unnoticeable.
Clinical practitioners will gain greater understanding and knowledge of long term conditions allowing better management, diagnosis and action in the future, all whilst reducing the resources through wireless technology allowing easier connection with patients.
With the future shifting away from development and application of technologies and more towards more efficient structuring of financial models and funding such projects, the future is exciting for all involved and we can only hope that the progress of such fields continues at such a rapid rate, allowing application of innovative technologies being wide spread improving patient care, understanding and management of long term conditions as well as all other relevant fields of which there are many.
Patel et al. must be commended for writing such an in depth review and spreading the message of great excitement as we look to the future of all wearable sensor technology.
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)
Patel, S., Park, H., Bonato, P., Chan, L., Rodgers, M., et al. (2012). A review of wearable sensors and systems with application in rehabilitation. Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, 9(12), pp. 1–17.