Friday, November 13, 2020

Importance of AI-based remote patient monitoring for Covid-19
The world is undergoing a Pandemic situation. Most of the countries have locked down their main cities. People are advised to remain inside their homes. Hospital bed capacity of Covid-19 affected countries is almost saturated. Frequent monitoring of patients who are at their homes has been a major concern for healthcare workers because of the infectivity of the coronavirus. At the same time, it is important to have contactless remote patient monitoring systems to reduce the spread of the disease at this time of the global pandemic. 

Remote patient monitoring can be used to monitor vital signs such as body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, ECG rhythm etc. Especially in Covid-19-affected asymptomatic patients, body temperature measurement at least two times a day is important. With an ideal remote monitoring system, where the temperature is measured using a digital thermometer, such reading can be pushed to a database in a cloud system where the health data is stored. Stored data can be shared with relevant healthcare professionals with the consent of the person. Including an Artificial Intelligence (AI) inference engine to this chain can add more value to the processes by sending reminders and alerts if the temperature fluctuates, and even to inform the relevant authorities to take necessary actions depending on the patient’s health condition. If the respiratory rate needs to be monitored by using a device it can be done via an AI-driven monitoring system. This will be a very valuable measure when monitoring first-contacts who are in home-quarantine. In case an abnormality is detected in the breathing pattern or any respiratory symptom is detected, the AI-driven remote monitoring system will be able to inform the relevant health authorities and also guide the patient on what to do next. If such a system is coupled with an AI-based remote tracking system, it can be used to track the current geographical location of the patient including a history of past locations the patient has been to. This will be very useful in home-quarantined contacts who need strict monitoring. 

Wearables also play an important role in remote patient monitoring. Continuous monitoring of body temperature and heart rate can be done via properly calibrated wearables. It can be a band, a wrist watch or even a cloth item with appropriate sensors. If these wearables are connected to a centralized message delivery bot that runs on AI, frequent health advice can be delivered to selected individuals depending on their vitals. 

The world is moving into a digital era. The Health sector also should grab the opportunities created at this Pandemic situation to change and adapt to the new era with technology. Remote patient monitoring and artificial Intelligence may certainly add a lot of value for the healthcare industry. As a healthcare entrepreneur, I believe that more investment should be made in these fields during the next decade. 

Dr. Harsha Jayakody 
MBBS (Sri Lanka), MBA in Health Admin (Malaysia), MSc in Biomedical Informatics (Sri Lanka) 
Healthcare Entrepreneur

Dr. Harsha Jayakody is a medical doctor and a healthcare entrepreneur, who has a special interest in artificial intelligence. Click here to read more about him.


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