A new approach using portable or wearable monitoring devices and point-of-care medical equipment promises to improve patient outcomes and reduce pressure on public healthcare facilities.
Large-scale transformation in the way healthcare is delivered was already under way before the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, put new impetus into medical innovation. Prior to the 2020 pandemic, aging populations in developed nations, the near-universal availability of mobile broadband connectivity, and the development of sophisticated sensing technologies were propelling the adoption of more personalized, digital or remote methods of monitoring and diagnosing patients. As the coronavirus pandemic increases pressure on limited hospital facilities, medical service providers are accelerating the implementation of new technologies for testing and monitoring outside the hospital. Innovations in sensors now enable vital signs to be measured with clinical-grade accuracy at home and specimens tested at the point of care, eliminating the need to send samples for processing at a remote laboratory and producing quicker results for faster diagnosis.
This marks a break with decades-old standard medical operating procedure. In the conventional model of medical treatment, a patient visited the hospital when symptoms became apparent, or for a routine annual checkup, and was subjected to a one-time set of tests that would often be sent away for laboratory analysis before diagnosis or a health assessment was made. In many cases, this diagnosis would come long after the original consultation, and based on this single snapshot of the patient’s condition.
This approach to treatment made sense when the sophisticated equipment required to monitor vital signs and symptoms was scarce and only available in hospitals or other dedicated medical facilities.
The development of new medical sensing technology has created the conditions for a radically different conception of medical treatment. Instead of the large, fixed medical monitoring equipment used in hospitals, the new approach to patient monitoring uses devices that:
- Are small or even wearable
- Consume little power, so they can operate from a battery
- Provide accurate, clinical-grade measurements
This enables medical monitoring and testing to be taken out of the hospital and performed in local facilities such as GP practices or in a patient’s home. For even greater convenience for the patient, wearable devices such as patches can operate continuously and discreetly to enable 24/7 monitoring anywhere.