Vital signs are useful. They are used to detect medical problems. They are used to monitor a patient's health. But these vital signals are neither measured continuously in a healthcare facility (except ICU) nor at home. The consequences are significant. Either sudden changes indicating rapid deterioration may not be caught in time; or subtle trends showing health changes may not be found until a terrible impact occurs.
With our society aging and COVID-19 pandemic in the background, it is crucial to have continuous monitoring for patients at homes and healthcare centers to prevent rapid deterioration and identify subtle but potential health risks. By measuring temperature, SpO2, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate all the time, VitaPatch is one low-cost integrated solution to address the above healthcare issues.
Why entered the competition?
When the pandemic happened in Wuhan China and Lombardy Italy, we watched their hospitals overwhelmed by the surge of cases. What if we could help some patients at home by monitoring their vital signs remotely? Without going to a hospital during the pandemic, many cross-infections could be avoided.
Apple watch is great but expensive. It is very hard to open it and even more difficult to hack it. What if we have something low cost, open source and hackable? We could use our health data to educate ourselves for better.
When I read the design challenge at Nordic DevZone and RS DesignSpark, it struck me that I could get some help from the community and connect with other engineers and makers. So together we could build a low-cost integrated healthcare solution for everyone.
Can you briefly outline how your design helps people isolated by Covid-19 ?
VitaPatch aims to monitor vital signs for both short-term and long-term patient care at low cost. This will make it possible for sharing health data with your doctor remotely by your consent.
Can you explain what motivated you to come up with such a solution and take the time and effort to enter this challenge ?
There is no such device available in the market. The products on the market are either expensive or limited functions. VitaPatch is going to be a low-cost medical device. It will monitor the vital signs of body temperature, SpO2, heart and respiration rate , and blood pressure.
Can you briefly explain how your solution works both in terms of features and functionality (does it use an app, is it battery powered, what are the key functional blocks) ?
VitaPatch has several sensors to measure all vital signs directly or indirectly. Then it communicates over Bluetooth with a smartphone for results or further processing. A free app installation is required. It is battery powered and measurements are taken periodically.
How are the above features enabled technically including any Nordic chips and wireless technologies used, battery life (if applicable), sensors employed etc.
For the first prototype, a Nordic nRF52840 module is used. This is the main processor to schedule the measurements and do the preliminary computations. It also handles the BLE communication. Another critical part is the integrated PPG and ECG sensor from Maxim. Both battery life and size are critical. nRF52840 is quite efficient in power management.
Is this design a brand new concept or an evolution of something you’ve worked on / developed / were developing before ?
VitaPatch is a new category of product. It's low cost. It has no display screen but several LEDs of status. It aims to be a medical-grade device to monitor vital signs for both short-term and long-term patient care. By short-term, it tries to catch sudden changes in time that signifies rapid deterioration. By long-term, VitaPatch tries to detect subtle changes before egregious impact strikes. It will be open-sourced.
Can you give us a brief summary of your background / career and where you would like to take your career in the future if you are a student ?
I am a professional engineer. Electronics is my hobby. VitaPatch is the first wireless prototype I have designed by myself.
Is there anything else you think important worth mentioning about your design and why you developed it not covered by the questions above ?
Apple, Fitbit, and many others are working on smart watches to provide the measurement of vital signs. But they are expensive and close-sourced. VitaPatch is going to focus on the measurement of vital signs. It strives to measure those signs accurate enough to be a medical-grade device. Please check out an introduction to VitaPatch, https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/what-is-vitapatch