Taking Care of Mobile Patients

By Roland Piquepaille

After a patient has been hospitalized for a surgical intervention, he usually wants to return to his normal life. But doctors would like to monitor him to be sure that the operation was successful. How can they manage this without being too intrusive? In "Health Care Monitoring of Mobile Patients," Italian researchers offer a three-layer networking solution. First, a body area sensor network would continuously record your cardiac activity or your body temperature. A second level would involve a home sensor network, including for example a PC wirelessly receiving this information. Finally, this home network would be able to alert an hospital network if needed. Right now, this whole idea is at the proof-of-concept level, but it really looks promising. Read more...

How can you monitor patients without asking them to come back weekly at the hospital after a cardiac surgery? The answer of the researchers from two different institutes of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) in Pisa, the Istituto di Fisiologia Clinica (IFC) and the Institute of Information Science and Technologies (ISTI) is to integrate several networks, from one located next to the patient, to remote ones, in hospitals which might be located in another part of the country.

The three layers of health care monitoring of mobile patients This illustration shows the three layers of health care monitoring of mobile patients (Credit: ISTI & IFC -- CNR, Pisa, Italy).
The inner layer which provides monitoring support is organized as a body area sensor network. This network, hosted by the patient, combines the patient's physiological data with information from the outer layers to support (basic) early diagnosis and produce (basic) alerts.
The outer layer (for example the patient's domotic network) may include an environmental sensor network and one or more powerful nodes. Examples of such nodes could be an electrocardiograph offering diagnostic information or a PC receiving all the data and managing an advanced monitoring and alert detection service.
This layer interacts with outermost layer (the hospital network) to exchange physiological data, alerts and patient-related data. Wireless connections should be used where possible to support mobility and adaptability at the various levels of the network.

The system has been designed to minimize the burden of sensors on the patients and to optimize the amount of data to be transmitted over the different networks.

Of course, transmitting such sensitive data on public networks needs secure protocols. And the researchers are working on it.

Future work includes the study of dependable and secure communication protocols to connect the body area sensor network with domotic and hospital networks. These protocols should ensure confidentiality and protection against the transmission of malicious queries.

What do you think of this idea?

Source: Giuseppe Amato, Stefano Chessa, Fabrizio Conforti, Alberto Macerata and Carlo Marchesi, ERCIM News No. 60, January 2005

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