One of the most time-consuming demands of any care environment is the need to check on the condition of patients. As well as stretching human resources, this can often result in patients being woken up unnecessarily. Emfit has developed a particularly elegant solution here, in the shape of highly sensitive, non-invasive sensors that can be used to detect patient movement and monitor a range of vital signs.
Emfit’s core technology is based on a ferroelectret film, incorporating thin electrically charged polymer layers separated by air voids, that produces a small electrical charge in response to changes in thickness. When the thickness of the film changes, the movement of the charged polymer layers generates an electromechanical signal.
Emfit has included this technology into a range of products, including systems for caring for people with dementia and epilepsy. One of its most promising new products is its Discreet Vitals Monitoring (DVM™) system, which can be used to measure and monitor a patient’s vital signs without the need for electrodes, leads, cuffs, or a cannula.
Communicating information rapidly
The DVM system consists of a digital signal control unit and a thin-film sensor placed beneath a patient’s mattress. Despite its distance from the patient, the extremely high sensitivity of the sensor enables it to detect the minute pressure changes caused by a patient’s heartbeat and respiratory movements. The control unit then uses specially developed algorithms to calculate heart and respiration rates, and detect movement as well.
|Ethernet connectivity enables data to be collected from multiple beds.
A range of alarms can be generated, depending on whether the system detects the presence or absence of a patient in bed, or if the heart or respiratory rate exceeds or falls below a predefined threshold.
Thanks to twin channel output, the system can alert personnel both through a nurse call system but also if problems are encountered with saline or drug drips, for example. Ethernet connectivity means that a DVM installation can be hooked up to a LAN and collect data from multiple beds, and will soon be able to communicate alarms to cost-effective thin client monitors, which are rapidly becoming more widely used.
The system also has the potential to be used for long-term trend tracking, such as monitoring things like how a change in medication affects a person’s sleep activity or even BCG strength over longer periods of time.
More potential in the pipeline
The most obvious advantage of Emfit’s DVM technology is that it does not need to be in contact with a patient’s body, and can bring remote monitoring to more patients and cut the workload of nursing staff.
It is also considerably more rugged than the piezoelectric systems and strain gauge belts that are typically used to monitor patients’ respiration rates, and its sensors do not have to be changed so often for hygiene reasons. A single Emfit sensor can be used for up to five years, representing a potentially huge saving in financial terms.
Emfit is currently investigating a range of future applications for this technology outside hospitals and care facilities, including smart jail cells, where it could be used to monitor the health of suspects in custody.
|The extremely high sensitivity of Emfit sensors enables them to detect the minute pressure changes caused by a patient’s heartbeat and respiratory movements, without the sensor and the patient needing to be in direct contact.