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Flattening the Curve with Tech: Wearable Vital Sign Monitoring

Azita Emami
Andrew and Peggy Cherng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute; Executive Officer for Electrical Engineering

Chiara Daraio
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics

George Alba
Pulmonary & Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital; Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Professors Azita Emami and Chiara Daraio and their colleague Dr. George Alba (Mass. General Hospital) aim to change how we monitor patients with COVID-19- like symptoms by designing a small wearable device that is administered at the point-of-care (clinics and hospitals), and then allows the patient to be monitored at home. Physicians believe that we are likely observing and admitting too many patients to hospitals because the natural history of COVID-19 is still evolving, which unnecessarily strains the healthcare system. Profs. Emami, Daraio and Dr. Alba have estimated that a 4% decrease in admissions will result in a more than $2 billion cost savings, in addition to freeing up resources for those in need and reducing unnecessary disease exposures. The team aims to build a device that will continuously measure the most important vital signs related to COVID-19: oxygen saturation level, cardiac abnormalities, heart rate, respiration rate, and core body temperature. It will be small and comfortable to wear for at least 7 days with a waterproof adhesive. In addition to the built-in algorithms that process data to alert for abnormal ranges, it will allow patients to indicate distress for immediate attention. GPS can be also added to help locate patients. The goal is to design the sensors and algorithms to achieve very high accuracy to avoid picking up artifacts, generating false positives, or generating false negatives. Prof. Emami's group is currently working on miniaturized wireless devices to measure blood oxygen level and to detect heart abnormalities using machine learning algorithms. Prof. Daraio's group has developed highly accurate core body temperature sensors that can be easily deployed on the skin with a small Band-Aid. The temperature sensor will interface with a mm-sized integrated circuit, which will be developed by Prof. Emami's group to further reduce the size and power requirements. Throughout the project, the Caltech team will work closely with Dr. Alba to evaluate the device, interpret the data, and develop reliable algorithms.

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