Enter a new smartphone app that aims to use technology to help COPD sufferers to recognize emergencies, and avoid unnecessary doctors’ or ER visits.
Ted Smith is the CEO of Revon Systems, a tech company based in East Louisville, and the developer of the “Smart COPD” app. The app is designed on a simple premise: that some of those emergency room visits could have been prevented if people were able to track their symptoms.
“The focus of the app is helping you keep track of whether your systems are starting to deteriorate so that you don’t have to get to a point where you have to go to the hospital for emergency care” Smith said.
When you open the app, it poses a series of questions: “Shortness of breath?” “Cough?” and “Running nose or feeling like you have a cold?” It also asks for temperature, and for users to punch in the readings from a separate device that measures oxygen saturation and heart rate.
Finally, the app evaluates the information and tells the user whether they need to head to the ER, call their doctor, check back in a few days or that no medical attention is needed.
It’s simple, and requires only a cell phone and a cheap finger oxygen and heart rate monitor.
“People have telephones, they’re our life line. So putting a self-management tool on a cell phone is just a genius idea,” Montague said.
He sees that as a possible opportunity for Smart COPD to reach more people with low-incomes.
“If there’s one thing I wish for, it’s that we take advantage of something we’re already paying for as a society and turn it into health care,” Smith said.
Interested? Search for ‘Revon Systems’ in your App store and look for the “Smart COPD” app.
The doctor could give instructions on taking readings such as blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, or sugar or oxygen levels, using equipment dropped by the drone. And the doctor could talk a survivor through ways of giving aid, such as applying tourniquets, cleaning, clotting or bandaging wounds, and injecting medicines.
The medical world has used sensors for a long time now from pacemakers to insulin pumps to help monitor various bodily signals from blood pressure to heart rate but these sensors are cumbersome, involve wires, internal sensors require surgical implantation and removal and they can get in the way of clothing and mobility. The standard hardware also carries risks of causing infection, scarring and provoking immune reactions and rejection. With ever increasing numbers of people living longer and suffering from long-term chronic conditions, the need for being able to monitor your body more effectively and in more detail in order for medicine to be most effective in treatment has also increased.
Technology has advanced enough now that scientists have created tiny sensors that can be positioned internally or externally on your body and are made of materials that can just simply dissolve away once their duty has been performed.
They would constantly monitor the functioning of your organs and tissues, transmit this information to your computer, harmlessly dissolve in the body when their job is done and detect the earliest sign of malfunction when medical intervention is easiest. Some of these devices can even make medical interventions themselves. The new electronic devices are woven into the body, do not provoke an immune reaction and are almost imperceptible to the user. “Epidermal electronics” are very thin patches that stick on the skin and can accommodate the normal bending, stretching and swelling motions of the body. These devices are biodegradable and packed with sensors that can detect almost all the vital signs, including temperature, pulse, heart electrical activity, hydration, Parkinson’s disease tremors and can detect increased stiffness in arteries, which is a predictor of heart attacks.
The dissolving electronic implant is like a more sophisticated version of dissolving sutures, but can be injected into organs and cavities and come with WiFi. The chips are made from silicon, which is inert and wont provoke an immune reaction and magnesium of which we have a RDA of 8 of these chips a day so it wont cause an overdose. A polymer coat keeps the chip from dissolving straight away but slowly wears away over a few days; the thicker the coating the longer the sensor will last.
Sensors like this will revolutionize treatment as sensors can monitor exactly what is going on inside our bodies every second of the day. It will enable scientists and doctors to understand how disease progresses and why to enable new treatments and medications as well as allowing the patient to be monitored more closely from blood pressure and oxygen levels to temperature and internal brain pressure and concentration levels of various compounds within our bodies such as medications.
With those with chronic or long-term conditions such as COPD, heart disease, transplant or cancer patients on-going monitoring can indicate to doctors at the earliest possible moment when treatment needs to be altered to reduce further damage to your body and to improve your outcome. It can also indicate the earliest moment of rejection of tissue to allow an immediate response. Being able to adjust oxygen therapy flow or medications on a daily basis depending on your health status at that moment with allow for an improved quality of life as you can be more in control of your own treatment and it will always be the most optimal level of treatment as well as being more carefully understood and monitored to allow for a better outcome or increased life expectancy.
References: http://www.irishtimes.com and http://www.extremetech.com
Professor Schatz and colleagues at the college of medicine at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois have developed a smartphone app called ‘MoveSense’ which can monitor a patient’s oxygen saturation level by analysing the way they walk.
Patients suffering from cardiopulmonary disease could use this app to help them accurately monitor their condition and warn doctors early at first signs of trouble simply by carrying their phone around with them.
Unlike other methods of measuring oxygen saturation levels, which detect sharp drops causing desaturation, this app continuously monitors saturation, making the resulting patterns and trends possible to model accurately and visually.
“The ability to accurately measure oxygen saturation without the use of a pulse oximeter is something that has never been achieved, until now. The oximeter, a non-invasive medical device usually placed on the patient’s finger, measures the proportion of oxygen in the blood, combining status of the two major circulatory systems, the heart and the lung. The saturation level is an overall measure of the patient’s cardiopulmonary fitness,” said Schatz.
In a previous discovery Schatz realised that phone sensors can accurately measure people’s walking patterns or gait. Doctor’s often use a 6 Min walk test for patients with heart failure or COPD to provide information regarding a patient’s functional capacity and response to therapy.
It was tested out on patients who used both a pulse oximeter and the phone app at the same time so that results could be compared and that a gait model could be computed to predict transitions in oxygen saturation.
The researcher’s discovered that oxygen saturation readings clustered patients into three pulmonary function categories: one with high saturation, with low saturation and one with variable unstable saturation. In addition they discovered that analysis of the saturation combined with gait data could predict saturation category with 100% accuracy.
The ability to predict the saturation category of the patient internally from the motion of the patient externally is remarkable. This new capability will allow medical professionals to monitor patients’ vital signs, predict their clinical stability, and act quickly should their condition decline. Patients just need to carry their personal phones during daily living, as testing has shown that periodic samples are sufficient and that even inexpensive smartphones are powerful enough to record these.
“A discovery like this will impact general medicine, many medical specialities, and the lives of millions of people suffering from chronic cardiopulmonary diseases.”
London’s ecoLogicStudio has designed a prototype of its urban algae canopy. It is the “world’s first bio-digital canopy that integrates micro-algal cultures and real time digital cultivation protocols on a unique architectural system” with flows of water and energy regulated by weather patterns and visitor usage.
This is a ‘bio-digital’ structure that combines biology with technology. In the structure there is fluid filled with micro-algae organisms that are pumped around a transparent canopy which provides shade to the space underneath the canopy. It also produces energy in the form of biomass and produces a large amount of oxygen. An additional feature is that the structure can respond to the presence of visitors by producing interesting visual effects.
In the presence of sunlight the micro-algae will photosynthesise naturally and grow in numbers and volume which turns the almost transparent fluid into a deeper shade of green to provide shade to anyone standing underneath the structure. This means that the structure is weather=pattern dependent and will produce more in the presence of high levels of sunlight.
The interactive parts works by electro valves in the structure being triggered by the presence of someone walking into each different area of the canopy. The valves alter the speed at which the fluid flows through the canopy creating different colour shades and effects.
The prototype will hopefully be scaled up to a larger installation that will be able to provide the same amount of oxygen as four hectares of woodland and also produce 150kg of biomass.
Using micro-algae colonies rather than relying on woodland photosynthesis also results in a massive reduction in the amount of CO2 produced which benefits the atmosphere.
Integrating organic systems with artificial ones opens up possibilities for everything from temperature control to power generation methods using the advantages of both natural and digital parts. There are even designs being put forward for smog-eating algae street lamps among many other fascinating ideas.
As ecoLogicStudio puts it: “We believe that it is now time to overcome the segregation between technology and nature typical of the mechanical age, to embrace a systemic understanding of architecture. In this prototype the boundaries between the material, spatial and technological dimensions have been carefully articulated to achieve efficiency, resilience and beauty.”
References: www.gizmag.com and http://weburbanist.com
Home Oxygen Therapy is a medical treatment for patients suffering from chronic lung diseases. It involves the use of an oxygen concentrator to deliver oxygen via a nasal cannula or face mask to the patient and some may require being tethered to the machine on a constant basis. COPD is an umbrella term for these conditions and patients have restricted airflow through the lungs and experience coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. The effect on quality of life can be significant and some are unable to participate in physical activities and require help to move. Home oxygen therapy aims to improve the patient’s freedom, health and quality of life by allowing treatment at home. Patients are encouraged to try and maintain a certain level of activity as research has shown that if exercise and mobility are retained then lung capacity and respiration improves.
However some patients find this difficult as they are tethered to a pressurized oxygen container via tubing and the weight, which is typically 4kg, can make transporting and lifting awkward especially for the more elderly patients. Some patients use a small hand cart to transport their equipment around or use a portable unit which they can carry over their shoulder. Despite the huge benefits of H.O.T it still imposes restrictions on the user’s movements, mobility, ability to participate in certain activities and quality of life.
A Follower Robot has been devised to help improve these patient’s lives. The robot can carry the equipment thereby reducing the physical burden and increasing freedom of movement. It is capable of following the patient’s movements and can follow behind the patient. It is simple to use, low weight, compact and at a low cost.
They have started testing these robots on H.O.T users to see if they are indeed beneficial and can aid them in their daily activities efficiently. Most users have found the robot easy to use and to manoeuvre with. It is hoped that after more trials are completed it can be manufactured and sold commercially for COPD patients. These robots could drastically improve patient’s lives allowing them to easily move around and enjoy more out of life which could have a positive effect on their health also. More importantly, how amazing would it be to have your own robot?!
References: www.robomechjournal.com and http://link.springer.com
When the people at iFixit took the new Apple Watch apart they found something strange, there wasn’t the expected optical module you usually find to measure your blood flow rate but there is a pulse-oximeter which can measure your oxygen levels.
It works by shining a light through your skin and it measures changes in your blood flow. As your pulse increases it changes the light transmission through the skin which a sensor measures. Additionally it can test how oxygen levels affect the way your blood interacts with light. The more oxygen in your blood, the brighter the red of the blood and the more infrared light it absorbs.
This component is currently disabled in the Apple Watch for unknown reasons but it looks as if Apple hope in the future to allow their customers to be able to monitor their own blood oxygen levels.
Being able to do this would be incredibly useful for a lot of people. If you’re hiking you can get a better sense of how you’re adapting to high altitudes, an athlete can monitor their performance and those with medical conditions such as asthma can instantly see if their oxygen levels are dropping. For those using oxygen at home you could simultaneously see if the oxygen that you are breathing in is improving your oxygen levels. A record of your data would be stored as your activities alter throughout the day and your doctor could use these results to help improve your treatment.
There is a danger that people may use the device as a self-diagnostic tool with regards to their health. This may be one of the reasons that Apple has left it disabled for now. Also perhaps there are issues with the accuracy of the measurements. It may be that arm hair, sweat and dirt could prevent the infrared light sensors from being accurate enough.
The possibility that very soon in the future we may have yet another helpful device to help monitor our health at home is exciting and good news for many suffering chronic respiratory diseases. It would be a helpful way for many to understand how their disease affects their respiration throughout the day and enable them, with their doctor’s help, to react quickly to changes in their blood oxygen levels to improve their health and quality of life.
References: http://thenextweb.com and http://venturebeat.com
Portable oxygen concentrators have started a revolution in the medical oxygen industry, with their use having sky-rocketed over the last five-10 years. Industry experts are optimistic about the future of portable oxygen and that patients will be able to get hold of even better equipment in the future to make their lives as close to normal as technology can allow.
Portable oxygen technology is ever-evolving and improving, with POCs at the heart of it. This is driven by the increasing demand for these devices which in turn has been driven by an increase in diagnosed sufferers requiring oxygen therapy, improved availability and increased affordability. These factors are constantly driving down costs for the industry, allowing them to reinvest to improve devices whose demand then continues to help grow the industry and improve it. However it seems these advancements will come with a little give and take.
Patients and doctors want smaller, lighter, quieter devices that also have a higher oxygen output and a longer battery life. The providers also want in addition more durability, reliability and all at a lower cost.
As with other technologies if you move in one direction to improve a singular feature it often has an negative impact on another and getting the balance is difficult.
The patient is the final target audience and their requirement for freedom will be the ultimate guidance for the future of oxygen technology. They require the freedom to easily fly, drive or boat and do daily activities without worrying about running out of oxygen. Freedom also comes from not waiting on deliveries from the oxygen supplier and all this provides patients with the chance to feel normal again.
A main inhibiting factor on their advancement is the highly competitive nature that the industry has evolved into. This has led to providers dramatically lowering prices in order to maintain market share, which is highly beneficial to the patient however it leaves less money available for re-investment into research to drive improvements. With the steep increasing trend of COPD diagnosis around the world it seems there will be an ever-increasing amount of patients and therefore providers seeking to purchase POC’s which will then still allow for re-investment.
It is hoped that the units will become smaller and lighter with increased battery life which is very important as the current units are not as portal as they could be for end-stage COPD patients.
It is agreed that ‘POCs are still in their genesis’ but the ultimate goal is so that the POC is also the primary oxygen concentrator, so you would only need the one unit.
Making something increasingly portable also brings along other problems and the unit then needs to be made increasingly durable and resistant to banging and dropping and other associated hazards. Replacing a bolt or armrest on a wheelchair is a lot easier and less of an inconvenience to the user than replacing a part in a POC.
Future oxygen technologies will continue to be focused on medically accurate and improved oxygen therapy and delivery/recycling methods but also incorporate much more software and intelligence in the design and lighter weight models. In order for companies to drive down costs more of a focus may also be put on patient maintenance and repair so that parts can be cleaned or replaced easily by the patient and not having to send the unit back and forth to the manufacturer.
As our life spans increase, more services and care will be needed for the elderly, especially those who live independently. Technology clearly has an increasing role to play in improving home care and health monitoring. The latest developments from German research group Fraunhofer are a case in point.
Wearable home care assistance system
The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems, in association with the German Ministry for Education and Research, has designed of smart watch-like device that can be programmed according to the needs of the elderly wearer and is accessible to all authorized personnel and carers via a web portal.
The concept system provides support services such as reminding users to take their medication or assisting them in navigating trips to and from the doctor, according to Fraunhofer. It can directly contact support staff and also offers Wi-Fi and phone connectivity, so emergency services can be easily contacted. The large interface (though not quite the largest smartwatch design we’ve seen) contains a few basic symbols for simple operation and is programmed in advance according to the person’s needs.
Fraunhofer will present the system at the Medica medical trade show in Düsseldorf this month.
Home health monitoring platform
The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology has developed a health monitoring system that uses miniature non-invasive sensors, as well as blood sampling equipment to provide on the spot health analysis which can be relayed to a doctor via an internet connection.
Based around a unit where the software and the analytical equipment is housed, Fraunhofer says the system can monitor parameters like blood pressure, glucose, lactate or cholesterol level using wireless sensors that could be, for example, placed a Bluetooth module in the patient’s ear.
The system can also analyze blood samples taken from a finger prick, determining markers via a fluorescence sensor and passing this information on to a doctor who can view it on a smartphone app.
“Miniaturized sensors in the home unit, which can detect traces of the markers down to the nano level, analyze the blood sample”, says Professor Harald Mathis of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT.
There’s no indication at this point as to whether either system is destined for commercialization.
Sources: Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology