Accountable Healthcare - A new wearable device aims to detect COVID symptoms
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May 14, 2020

A new wearable device aims to detect COVID symptoms

Northwestern University researchers have developed a wearable device that can detect early signs and symptoms of coronavirus.

The device, developed in conjunction with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, is designed to be worn 24/7 on the neck. It uses artificial intelligence to detect suspicious coughing and respiratory activity that suggest a patient could have coronavirus. It monitors coughing intensity and patterns, chest wall movements, irregular breathing, respiratory sounds, heart rate and body temperature. It can’t, however, measure blood oxygenation levels, which are an important component of lung health.

But the device is designed to pick up on symptoms even before a patient may feel them. And once a patient has a confirmed case of COVID-19, the device can monitor the patient as the illness progresses.

The device, which is about the size of a postage stamp, is soft, flexible and wireless. It sits just below the suprasternal notch, the visible dip at the base of the throat. As the device collects patient data, it wirelessly transmits it to a HIPAA-protected cloud, where automated algorithms produce graphical summaries tailored to help healthcare professionals facilitate rapid, remote monitoring.

The new coronavirus device is built on previous research for a different device that was designed for stroke patients. This device monitors swallowing and speech disorders in patients recovering from stroke.

The coronavirus symptom device is being made in an engineering laboratory at Northwestern and uses custom algorithms created by scientists at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where the devices are currently being used on about 25 COVID patients. These patients, which began using the device a couple week ago, are being monitored with the device both in the clinic and at home.

“We anticipate that the advanced algorithms we are developing will extract COVID-like signs and symptoms from the raw data insights and symptoms even before individuals may perceive them,” said Arun Jayaraman, a research scientist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab who is leading the algorithm development, in a statement. “These sensors have the potential to unlock information that will protect frontline medical workers and patients alike—informing interventions in a timely manner to reduce the risk of transmission and increase the likelihood of better outcomes.”

Northwestern said because the device allows for continuous monitoring, patients can get the treatment they need sooner, especially because COVID-19 symptoms vary person to person. The constant monitoring allows for patients to ensure physicians can intervene at the slightest sign of trouble, according to the research.

“Having the ability to monitor ourselves and our patients—and being alerted to changing conditions in real time—will give clinicians a new and important tool in the fight against COVID-19,” said Mark Huang, a physician at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, in a statement. “The sensor also will offer clinicians and patients peace of mind as it monitors COVID-like symptoms, potentially prompting earlier intervention and treatment.”

Original article by Katherine Davis (