Biomedical Informatics and Technology — Introduction
For people living with long-term conditions such as diabetes, heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, being able to monitor their own health can help them to better understand it, as well as improve how they manage aspects of it such as blood sugar, blood pressure or weight. Telehealth also enables patients to interact with healthcare professionals when help or advice is needed, without an emergency visit to the GP or hospital. Our telehealth team is currently carrying out studies with people who have diabetes, including one designed specifically to help pregnant women with the condition, or who had it in a previous pregnancy and people who have heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is hoped that telehealth, which allows patients to self-monitor, will improve both their health and quality of life.
Four data fusion studies are underway, in pregnancy, emergency care, cancer surgery and the special care baby unit. In the latter, the baby’s heart rate and breathing rate are monitored from a webcam placed on top of the incubator.
Each of the four studies will develop new computer-based methods to measure patients’ heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen level, blood pressure and temperature, with the aim of identifying patterns in or combinations of these that indicate that the patient is getting worse. This sort of “early warning system” will enable healthcare workers to identify – and hopefully deal with – problems, more reliably and earlier than they can at present. Such an approach should reduce the risk of complications such as cardiac arrest – when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body – or admission to intensive care.