NHS Trust and Council Trial AI Sensor System to Monitor Remote Patients

20-04-2021 |   |  By Robin Mitchell

Recently, an NHS Trust and Stoke-on-Trent City Council have come together to trial an AI sensor system that allows remote patient monitoring. What problems does COVID cause with vulnerable patients, what does the sensor system do, and how will it help to reduce hospital admissions?

What problems do vulnerable patients face?

Ensuring adequate medical care is one of the most important factors in any medical industry. While it would be ideal for keeping every patient in a hospital with 24/7 monitoring, reality does not allow for this. Doctors and nurses are in finite supply as is equipment, and as such patients have to be prioritised. In the act of prioritising, there will always be patients that slip through who may form conditions that do not get properly noticed, and as a result, complications can arise.

The inability to monitor all patients has been made worse with the COVID-19 pandemic. Vulnerable patients who need constant monitoring may not be able to do so at the hospital due to the risk of infection. As such, doctors need to weigh the risk of COVID infection with the need for continuing patient care, and this is not helped with the need for free hospital beds should the pandemic accelerate.

Thus, the best solution would be for every vulnerable patient to stay at home and live independently while an invisible doctor closely monitors their vitals.

Patient Monitoring System to be Trialled

Recognising the need for remote patient monitoring, the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have come together to trial a new system that will utilise AI and sensors to monitor patients remotely. Currently, 25 patients have signed up for the trial, and the data from this trial will help to provide a foundation for further remote patient monitoring.

The system utilises MySense which is a company that produces medical monitoring systems. The hardware side of the system involved a wrist-worn sensor that monitors heart rate, movement, and steps which allows for direct biodata collection. Additional passive sensors are placed around the home which helps to capture behavioural patterns (such as agitation). From there, the data is streamed to a central platform that utilises AI to try and identify changes in health.

The processed data is then sent to medical professionals who can then determine if the patient requires immediate care or not. If the patient does require care, key individuals can be contacted to either address the patient or bring them into the hospital. As such, hospitals can free themselves of precious resources and isolate recovering vulnerable patients from potential secondary infections.

Is privacy a concern?

Data tracking systems use data tracking systems to question the risk of privacy and security, especially with the rise of IoT-targeted malware and data theft. It is not uncommon for wireless devices to use insecure communications or default passwords to provide an entry point for attackers. Furthermore, medical data tracking usually raises ethical concerns, especially if the company tracking the data can access it.

In the case of MySense, data ownership is fully in the hands of the users, and as such allows users to decide who exactly has access to any data logged by their system. Secondly, assuming that the MySense system is only used during the recovery period of a patient, the temporary nature of the system means that vulnerabilities are only around for a window of time.

However, one major benefit of the MySense system is that the data collected on individuals is not linked to medical records as it is merely a patient tracking system. As such, the data collected by patients could easily be made anonymous, which could help create more advanced medical AI systems. Furthermore, the lack of patient records eliminates the concerns of past private data being made available.

Privacy is important, and data protection should not be made light of, but everything in life is about balance. As such, patients using the may want to think about sharing their data, and how it could potentially save lives in the future.

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By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.

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