Clinical monitoring is key to early recognition of patient deterioration. Monitoring also allows us to track changes following clinical interventions. Most monitors need direct contact with the patient. Monitors are either attached to the skin, or placed inside the body (implanted), requiring needles and procedures for sterile insertion. Keeping skin sensors attached can be difficult, and limits patient mobility. Implanted sensors take time and can be unpleasant for patients.
We aim to reduce these problems and improve clinical monitoring by assessing patients using video cameras. Our team combines clinicians from the Critical Care Research Group and engineers at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering. Working together, we bridge the gap between medical insights into what happens at the skin surface in health and disease, and expertise in technological innovation.
Cameras closely resemble the way our eyes work. However, camera sensors are sensitive to tiny changes that our eyes cannot see, including detecting signals beyond the visible spectrum. For example, thermal cameras can sense the heat radiating from the human body. In addition, the images captured by cameras can be analysed by ever-improving computing power to detect changes and trends well before they would be detected by a human observer.
Our work includes the introduction of continuous, longer-term monitoring in critical care settings after major surgery, non-contact monitoring of preterm babies on NICU, and detection of changes that occur during dialysis sessions at Oxford Kidney Unit. Alongside this work we use volunteer studies to investigate skin blood flow and how it changes with exercise and medication.
The COVID-19 pandemic is transforming the face of healthcare around the world. Camera use is becoming widespread and telemedicine is rapidly turning into a larger, more routine part of medicine. Improving patient monitoring using optical signals captured at the skin surface will improve the accuracy of monitoring and lesson the burden of monitoring for patients.