Remote medical technology is a useful tool in combating the pandemic in Japan

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Local authorities and Japanese hospitals are using a range of remote monitoring devices to keep tabs on coronavirus patients who are recovering at home or in designated hotels during the pandemic.

The equipment includes innovative technology such as a gown that measures a patient’s heart rate and a bed that tracks respiratory function.

And according to a team from St. Luke International University in Tokyo who has developed their own remote monitoring system, such devices could even play a role in reducing the risk of infection for overworked healthcare providers.

“If used effectively, they could reduce the risk of infections (COVID-19) that come from in-person medical care and outpatient visits,” said Tomoko Kamei, professor of geriatric nursing who leads the team. development of the remote monitoring system at SLIU. “The systems can be applied in treating coronavirus cases at home when a condition becomes serious.”

The shirt, developed by Mitsufuji Corp., a Kyoto-based textile manufacturer, uses special threads that conduct electricity with a small sensor attached to measure heart rate and perform a real-time EKG.

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The data can be sent to the patient, a caregiver such as a family member or medical workers using a special application or via email. An alarm sounds if an abnormality, such as a person falling, is detected and a distress signal is sent.

Kyoto Prefecture has acquired the Mitsufuji shirts to be used for the telemonitoring of recovering COVID-19 patients in hotels, allowing healthcare providers to respond immediately to a drastic change in a patient’s condition. patient.

Tokyo-based Paramount Bed Co. sells a “smart bed system” that uses a sensor attached to the bottom of a bed to monitor a patient’s respiratory function, heart rate and sleep status.

The sensor is sensitive to the subtle movements of the body with each breath. The data appears on a bedside monitor for patients to view and is routinely sent to hospital nurses. An alarm is triggered in an emergency.

In addition to using the beds for remote home patient monitoring, several hospitals have also acquired them to allow nurses to observe coronavirus patients at their posts without making frequent visits to check them in person. In Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, the beds were used last year for patients staying in hotels.

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Watches that constantly track oxygen levels in the blood, such as the Apple Watch and Apple Inc.’s Blood Oxygen app, have also become popular, although they are not technically medical devices. A sudden drop in oxygen saturation is a possible indication of worsening respiratory disease, making oxygen levels essential to monitor.

Fitbit Inc. of the United States has a watch with sensors that emit red and infrared light on the skin of the wrist and blood vessels and uses the reflected light to estimate the amount of oxygen in the blood – with poorly oxygenated blood. reflecting more infrared light than the red of light, richly oxygenated blood doing the opposite.

However, both watches were developed to monitor a wearer’s health and general condition during workouts and are not suitable for medical decision-making, experts say.

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Kamei’s team at SLIU developed a remote wireless system that uses a patient-controlled tablet to record medical history, including blood oxygen saturation levels using a pulse oximeter. The data is automatically sent to a nursing monitoring station at the university.

Nurses verify the data and confirm any concerns with patients via video chat. The information is then shared with the doctors who evaluate the treatments.

Some local authorities have distributed medical pulse oximeters to patients with COVID-19 while recovering at home or hotel, but stocks are running out.

“It has been popular with users,” Kamei said. “They say it gives them the peace of mind to be watched, even from a distance.”

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