ITRI develops system for contact-free monitoring of contagious patients  (2020/05/01)

  • 2020-05-01
  • 程志文

At coronavirus treatment centers across Taiwan, health care workers check on their patients as many as 15 times a day. But a new system developed by Taiwan researchers has allowed some of these workers to reduce those risky visits to just twice a day. The system is a camera with infrared sensors that's directed at a contagious patient. By capturing information like color changes on the patient's face, the system can calculate vital signs like body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. The vitals are sent to an online platform, so that nurses can monitor patient health remotely.

As soon as the infrared sensor detects a human face, it starts to measure microvascular function and the rise and fall of the chest to determine heart rate and body temperature. The vital signs are sent directly to an online platform.

Cheng Jen-chieh
ITRI Technology Center for Service Industries
The optical imaging system can measure the person’s heart rate and respiratory rate. It can work with a standard camera. In the future, you’d be able to use it with a smartphone camera or a regular webcam. For just a few hundred or a few thousand NT, you can monitor the heart rate and breathing rate. These vital signs can be consolidated and fed through the IoT gateway or transmission system and sent straight to a nursing station.

For health care workers, entering an infectious patient’s room means going through the laborious process of putting on protective gear. And even with a full kit of equipment, there’s still the risk of transmission. ITRI and Taipei Medical University have introduced their new remote sensing technology and IoT gateway in negative pressure isolation wards. The system saves nurses from risky, routine contact with patients to check vitals. Instead, a small camera at the bed collects the patient’s data, which is processed using AI and sent to an online platform. It helps medical professionals minimize the risk of infection.

Chen Ray-jade
Taipei Medical University
We can reduce visits to once every eight hours, given that there are no issues. That’s for patients who are highly infectious. But we are able to monitor their vitals the entire time. This system saves us time, while allowing us to monitor them continuously.

ITRI’s technology uses visual images to calculate heart rate and other vital signs. Using the system, nurses can cut their visits from 15 a day to just two. As cameras can cost as little as a few hundred NT, this system is inexpensive to deploy and can be mass distributed.

Hospitals have been trying out a range of new technologies to reduce COVID-19 spread. Cheng Hsin General Hospital is monitoring vital signs using tiny stickers that transmit temperature data. A cloud-based system, which tracks vitals like blood pressure and heart rate, allows 24-hour monitoring.

Besides enabling monitoring, the video cam also supports doctor-patient communication. ITRI hopes its tech solution can help staff reduce risky contact while providing round-the-clock care.