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7 October 2005 PR 05/96

Loughborough University makes major breakthrough in mobile phone health monitoring

A unique system which uses a mobile phone to transmit a person’s vital signs, including the complex ECG heart signal, to a hospital or clinic anywhere in the world has been developed at Loughborough University.

Created by Professor Bryan Woodward and Dr Fadlee Rasid from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, the system enables a doctor to observe remotely up to four different medical signals from a freely moving patient. Signals that can be transmitted include the ECG, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and body temperature. The technology marks an important advance in telemedicine and is thought to be a world first.

Talking about the invention, Professor Woodward said: “The idea of using mobile phone technology is that a doctor can monitor a patient who can be literally anywhere, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of miles away, and they can speak to each other at the same time. It could be used for a number of medical purposes, such as remote routine check-ups, as well as in emergency and rescue situations and to gather sports science physiological data.”

 

  New device makes remote health monitoring possible.

When the new system is fully developed its main use will be in healthcare, where the technology could improve the quality of life of patients, particularly for those undergoing post-operative care or living remotely from a hospital. It will allow medical services to be delivered to any location within the coverage of cellular networks. A patient from a rural area can be given a check-up by mobile phone without having to commute regularly to a hospital. Routine inspections and monitoring could be done while the patient is at home, travelling, at work or at leisure, thereby relieving resources for more demanding hospital cases.

At Loughborough University, the country’s premier university for sports development, research and training, the system will also be used in the area of sport and exercise science. In the build-up to the 2012 Olympics the technology would allow coaches and physiologists to monitor the performance of athletes remotely while they are training, and the data could be stored for later analysis.

A working prototype of the system has now been tested successfully under realistic conditions. For the tests small sensors were attached to a persons wrist and they were given a mobile phone and processor. They were then instructed to continue with their normal daily routine, which included driving along the motorway. The tests showed that heart data and other vital signs can be transmitted from a mobile phone in real time and received error-free on a computer many miles away. The next challenge is to miniaturise the processor and phone so that the patient - or athlete - carries a unit no bigger than a credit card.

Professor Woodward added: “The most important aspect of the system is the integrity of the signal. A cardiologist needs to see a heart signal exactly as if it had come directly off the patient’s chest. Fortunately we can reproduce signals very accurately. The only limitations appear to be the temporary loss of mobile phone signal when going through a tunnel or other areas not covered by a mobile network.”

Ends

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Notes to editors

  1. Photographs of Professor Woodward and his research are available upon request to the Public Relations Office.

  2. Professor Bryan Woodward is available for interviews. To arrange a meeting please contact Judy Smyth.

  3. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place Loughborough in the top flight of UK universities, and industry highlights Loughborough in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 45% of the University’s income is for research. The University has been awarded four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; and for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development.

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