Wearable technology is one of the hottest areas of mobile health.

Given the increasing burden of chronic disease, the benefits of being able to remotely and unobtrusively monitor patients seems intuitive. How to realize that benefit is certainly a matter of debate.

One clear trend that is emerging, though, is that single-function devices are giving way to far more versatile and less onerous multi-functional sensors.

One of these next generation sensors is HealthPatch, a wearable biosensor that has the ability to continuously monitor everything from a single lead ECG to posture and sleep quality. Vital signs and other biometric data can be wirelessly transmitted to cloud-based devices where the data can be monitored by physicians and patients via Bluetooth. The HealthPatch, made by Vital Connect, is currently under FDA review, but has been cleared in Europe and in Canada.

iMedicalApps recently had the opportunity to get a full demo of the HealthPatch from the Vital Connect team.

How it works

The sensor is attached to a disposable adhesive patch that can be placed on the chest. The sensor itself has the capability to collect numerous biometric measurements, which can be seen in the list below.

  • Cardiovascular: Single-lead ECG, heart rate, heart rate variability, contextual heart rate
  • Pulmonary: Respiratory rate, sleep duration, sleep actigraph/sub-posture, sleep quality
  • Neurologic: Gait analysis, fall detection/severity
  • Other: Temperature, step count, posture, summarized activity, stress, energy expenditure

It’s worth noting that many of the measurements (ex. stress, energy expenditure, sleep analysis, gait analysis, etc.) are calculated based on raw data collected by the sensor using proprietary algorithms. For clinicians, an important takeaway here is that these are derived values whose meaning has yet to be defined – a quick review of the Publications section of Vital Connect’s website suggests the same.

Applications

One way of looking at how HealthPatch and other multi-faceted wearable sensors can be used is to think of potential applications in one of two categories.

The first is simple replacement of existing technology. If EMS applied this type of sensor to a patient in the field, not only could patients be remotely monitored as they are en route but really important data could be captured. Another example is cardiac monitoring –  these types of devices can and should replace Holter/Event monitors and the bulky units used in many hospitals. They are far less intrusive and can collect the same data (and more).

The other, and perhaps more interesting, category is the novel applications. For example, the potential applications to help support elderly patients with multiple medical issues is really exciting. It’s not hard to imagine how a combination of fall detection, activity tracking, and vital signs monitoring could be used to enable more effective remote care. Additionally, given the ample data about the use of pedometers in promoting healthy behavior change, additional targets like a composite activity level or caloric expenditure could be equally useful. Vital Connect is providing an API for others to capture and use the data being collected by the HealthPatch. While its API is restricted, its availability does hopefully open the door to many other potential, as yet unimagined, uses as well.