Researchers from three Canadian universities are teaming up to create a low-cost Covid-19 bracelet for seniors living in nursing homes.
The bracelet is being developed by researchers at McGill University (Montreal), Université Laval (Quebec City) and the University of Alberta (Edmonton). They’ve teamed up with Montreal-based iMD Research to create the bracelet that monitors vital signs of patients in real time.
The bracelet, projected to cost around $20, can detect abnormal vital signs and dispatch life-saving medical attention, if needed. It will monitor seniors for signs of COVID-19, including fever and respiratory distress.
Using biomedical sensing technology, circuit and system design and artificial intelligence (AI), the researchers say the bracelet is able to predict the likelihood that the wearer will need to be hospitalized based on their vital signs. It can detect GPS location that eventually will help with the provinces’ contact tracing systems.
The research is being done through an internship program funded by Mitacs — the not-for-profit, government-funded organization that funds small and medium-sized businesses in Canada.
“Canada’s reopening of the economy will in large part be dependent on the country’s ability to measure and monitor the fluctuation in COVID-19 cases and this initiative could be of immense help to that effort,” said McGill University Assistant Professor Sharmistha Bhadra.
The researchers want to develop the bracelet to detect symptoms of the virus. Statistics showing that about two to eight per cent of COVID-19 cases experience severe symptoms that lead to respiratory distress, organ failure and even death,
“Across Canada, we saw issues in nursing homes that put seniors in troubling situations and left their loved ones worrying,” said iMD Research founder Nathaniel Lasry. “This device alerts the physician and nursing staff if a patient has sudden abnormal vital signs. Most of the time, it lets authorized family members know that their loved ones are ok. There are currently no commercial wearables that target seniors and easily provide this kind of reassuring information.”
A virtual solution
Using the combination of biomedical sensing and AI, the bracelet and its app software compile data on the patient’s heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels, temperature, movements and location.
Based on the compiled data, the system can detect symptoms of COVID-19, such as the sudden onset of fever or respiratory distress. The wearer’s location is also measured to allow the dispatching of help and eventually enable contact tracing of COVID-19 patients.
Now in the prototype stage, the device is currently being tested by users in labs.