Reminiscent of those little brick-sized pagers restaurants provide to let you know your wait is over, ERs may soon start offering wireless monitoring of patients’ vitals to help triage unstable patients.
One of the hazards of hospital emergency rooms is that patients can deteriorate without staff noticing. Now they can be given a device to monitor their vital signs.
The Scalable Medical Alert Response Technology (SMART), developed by Dorothy Curtis and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, consists of an infrared blood oxygen sensor that clips onto a finger, and chest electrodes that monitor heartbeat. Both are attached to a PDA that sits in a belt pack and runs software that monitors their readings, and sounds the alarm if they change to a worrying extent. It also beams the data to a PC monitored by a paramedic.
In tests on 145 volunteers in the ER at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, SMART flagged three patients who were stable when admitted but later developed dangerously irregular heartbeats.