Take a minute to think about the Life Alert commercials: “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” An elderly woman falls and can’t reach her phone. She clicks a button on the pendant hanging around her neck and within minutes, the local authorities are on their way.
TV audiences have mocked those commercials for years, even though the seriousness of a fall and being unable to reach for help is no laughing matter. More than a quarter of a century after Life Alert started, medical advancements have taken that cumbersome technology, shrunk it, advanced it, and turned it into a comprehensive medical patch.
Wearables, devices either adhered to the body, ingested, or surgically implanted typically consist of three modular components: sensors, displays, and computing architecture. The primary goal is real-world information for health and wellness monitoring.
A more recent entrant into this market – and one that is expanding the scope of remote healthcare monitoring – is Campbell, Calif.-based Vital Connect’s HealthPatch MD.
“The HealthPatch MD is a wearable biosensor that provides clinical-grade measurements of eight core health metrics,” explains Nersi Nazari, Vital Connect’s chairman and CEO. “After data collection, it delivers intelligent health measurements by processing thousands of data points per minute with the SensorFusion algorithms.”
The core health metrics collected for analysis by the algorithms are:
- Single-lead ECG
- Heart rate
- Heart rate variability
- Respiratory rate
- Skin temperature
- Posture Steps
- Fall detection/severity
With the above data, the algorithm analyzes multiple biometrics and generates intelligent health measurements that Nazari says are more meaningful and accurate than an individual biometric.
These measurements can include stress, energy expenditure (caloric burn), sleep quality, and contextual heart rate.
Manufacturing a patch requires embedding sensors into the patch material and connecting them to an external or remote data-capture device. As these devices continue to shrink, designers and manufacturers have to adjust, producing ever-smaller components and connectors, making devices as unobtrusive as possible.
“During the past three years, design of the HealthPatch MD has it sized down to the point that patient experience is no different than putting on a bandage,” Nazari explains.
Encapsulated in the adhesive patch, which weighs one-third of an ounce, is the sensor, chip, a single-lead ECG, and a battery. An accelerometer works to detect a fall or collapse and can call for help without the push of a button.
The HealthPatch consists of a fully disposal patch and a reusable sensor. Worn on one of three specified locations on the torso, the medical-grade disposable patch has a two to three day use. The used sensor module is then removed from the old patch, placed in the new one, and the patch is then applied to a new spot on the torso.
Less obtrusive than other sensors on the market, HealthPatch MD can be customized for type and frequency of data collection. It communicates wirelessly and securely transmits biometric data via Bluetooth 4.0 to a smart phone, body-worn mobile communications device, or hub. Data can be relayed in real-time to a HIPPA-compliant cloud.
It’s designed to meet three broad healthcare categories:
- Remote monitoring
- Clinical environments
“A user might be continuously monitored if they were just discharged from the hospital, or they might use it for period monitoring if they are just looking for a baseline of their health,” Nazari notes.
Since it is worn on the chest, rather than the wrist, HealthPatch MD is able to detect signals coming from the body with more accuracy. Measurements are taken continuously, rather than just showing a single snapshot in time. Because of this technology combination, Nazari explains that the company is aiming to combine affordable smart phone technology with the type of accuracy users would get in a hospital. With always-on monitoring, it functions as an early warning for at-risk wearers, with alerts being set for measurements such as heart-rate rise or fall from a preset point.
HealthPatch MD has received the CE mark for distribution in the EU, is CMDCAS-certified for distribution in Canada, and is currently under FDA review.
The technology fits a variety of cases that push forward wearable health devices, but Vital Connect is not resting on just one product. Nazari explains that the company is developing an array of products to leverage its biosensor technology for additional vital sign measuring and other advanced biometric measurements.
The HealthPatch MD can improve the safety and quality of life for seniors, monitor patients with dementia, or manage needs of patients who have chronic disease. Additionally, the patch works well in clinical setting where physicians or emergency responders can boost the quality of patient care, reduce the number of readmissions, and facilitate telehealth capabilities.
Third-party services and applications integrate seamlessly with the HealthPatch MD technology, with data streaming for a variety of users. Since its launch, Vital Connect has been collaborating with application and medical product and service providers to expand the uses of the technology. Most recently, it worked with Aventyn Inc. to commercialize the combination of the Vitalbeat mobile remote monitoring platform and the HealthPatch MD. Vitalbeat is designed to help clinicians better manage chronic disease patient populations.
At the consumer level, individuals can use this for personal health management, fitness tracking, stress feedback, and whatever the next need might be.
About the author: Elizabeth Engler Modic is the editor of TMD and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330.523.5344.