--> Openlink Vol 23 Issue 1 (March 2014)<!--M-health technologies improve quality of patient monitoring--> | Hong Kong Metropolitan University
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  •  Openlink Vol 23 Issue 1 (March 2014)
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    M-health technologies improve quality of patient monitoring
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    M-health technologies improve quality of patient monitoring

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    M-health technologies
    improve quality of patient monitoring

    Biomedical Engineering (BME) is a multidisciplinary area that applies engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology. BME combines engineers’ problem-solving skills with medical expertise in order to advance diagnosis, monitoring and therapy. One emerging area within BME is mobile health (m-health), which refers to the use of mobile computing, biomedical sensors, and telecommunication technologies for health care. In response to the profound impacts of the world’s ageing population, there has been increasing interest in m-health for personalized health monitoring. In a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), m-health has been recognized as a ‘marriage of technologies that can improve the quality of patient monitoring while reducing overall health care costs.’

    Wearing a ‘smart shirt’ to monitor health

    In the past three years, the Engineering Sciences Team at OUHK has been engaged in m-health research and has developed a ‘smart shirt’ prototype. Unlike conventional medical devices that only give sporadic readings upon user-initiated measurements, the shirt allows continuous and unobtrusive monitoring of the wearer’s health. This is especially convenient for chronic and elderly patients who need long-term care with minimal interruption to their daily lives. Such technology may reduce the number of trips necessary to hospitals for check-ups, while at the same time allowing timely intervention when necessary. The shirt may also serve as a useful prognostic tool, allowing early detection of abnormalities before obvious symptoms appear. The shirt is embedded with wearable sensors, which can simultaneously measure multiple physiological signals, including electrocardiogram (ECG), photoplethysogram (PPG), heart rate, and eye dynamics from an individual, and transmit the relevant information via a wireless link to a nearby station. The information can then be monitored and analysed remotely by a caregiver.

    Novel sensing techniques estimate more accurate measurements

    The development of the shirt involves the use of smart fabric and several novel sensing techniques. One is the intelligent finger-ring sensor, which could adaptively search for the optimal spot (i.e. the digital arteries) for PPG (pulse-sensing) near the base of the finger. This technique significantly enhances the quality of the acquired PPG signal, reducing the effect of motion artifacts, and thus increases the accuracy of heart rate measurements with a finger ring.

    Another novel feature is the monitoring of pupillary (eye) dynamics. The team has discovered that Pupil Size Variability (PSV), which refers to the continuous fluctuation of pupil size without visual accommodation or light stimulation, actually contains important information that is closely related to changes in heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. The advantage of eye-monitoring is that it is contactless and non-invasive measurement. The team has conducted research on how some of the health-related parameters can be estimated from the patterns of PSV. The researchers have also proposed an eyewear system with an integrated miniature camera, which would allow continuous monitoring, encryption and transmission of PSV for long-term care. On-going work in this area includes individualized calibration techniques and PSV modeling.

    BME-related studies at OUHK

    The team’s research work has been presented in international conferences both locally and overseas. Recently, the paper presented by research team leader Dr Kevin Hung won the Best Paper Award in a special session of an IEEE conference held in Vienna. Since 2008, many of the OUHK’s engineering students have been engaged in BME-related projects, and specialized BME-related courses will also be offered as electives to full-time students, starting in 2015.

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