Telemonitoring solutions for Covid-19 patients in community care facilities

Patients can have their vital signs monitored round the clock, with a sensor device worn on their upper arm (left) and doctors can use the real-time data to detect any signs of deterioration early and intervene quickly (below). PHOTOS: BIOFOURMIS
Patients can have their vital signs monitored round the clock, with a sensor device worn on their upper arm.PHOTO: BIOFOURMIS

Covid-19 patients being cared for in community care facilities (CCFs) are getting their vital signs monitored round the clock using smart tracking kits that send their data remotely to doctors.

The Biovitals Sentinel, developed by local biotech firm Biofourmis, comes with a sensor device worn on the patient's upper arm, recording physiological data from over 20 biomarkers such as temperature, blood oxygenation levels and respiratory rate.

From their Web-based dashboard, doctors are able to receive real-time information on their patients' vital signs, enabling them to detect any signs of deterioration early and intervene quickly.

Since April, more than 5,000 patients at CCFs and Swab Isolation Facilities (SIFs) who were identified as having moderate to high risk of developing complications and required continuous monitoring have used the artificial intelligence kit as part of the remote monitoring programme.

About 2,500 kits have been procured by the Ministry of Health (MOH) since April.

This is part of broader efforts to use technology as a "force multiplier" to get the same or better outcomes for patients using less time and fewer resources, said MOH.

CCFs were set up at places such as Big Box shopping mall in Jurong East, Singapore Expo, Changi Exhibition Centre and D'Resort NTUC in Pasir Ris to treat those with milder Covid-19 symptoms so that hospital beds could be freed up for sicker patients.

SIFs are used for suspected Covid-19 cases awaiting their swab test results.

Once clinicians have ascertained the patients are no longer at risk, they will be removed from the programme.

 BIOFOURMIS
Doctors can use real-time data to detect any signs of deterioration early and intervene quickly. PHOTO: BIOFOURMIS

Patients are given a smartphone with an app to record their symptoms and remotely communicate with the Biofourmis' support team in case they face technical issues.

Mr Kuldeep Singh, founder and chief executive officer of Biofourmis, said: "A clinical trial of the device was conducted in March as part of a partnership with the University of Hong Kong, which showed that the Biovitals Sentinel was able to detect worsening in Covid-19 cases almost 21 hours in advance of deterioration."

 
 
 

For instance, a drop in the patient's oxygen level would send an alert to clinicians, prompting them to provide more breathing support. Rapidly worsening cases can also be quickly identified and diverted to the hospital.

"In order to reduce unnecessary false alarms, the data takes into account contextual information such as variations in the patient's heart rate during sleep and his physical activity, which is highly specific to him," said Mr Singh.

Compared with routinely checking the patient's temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, the continuous set of data collected offers a more robust, personalised and accurate set of information, he said.

After assessing and evaluating several vital signs monitoring (VSM) solutions in April, MOH awarded the contract to Biofourmis "to provide continuous VSM telemonitoring as it met the healthcare requirements and had the resources to implement the system at short notice".

Biofourmis' VSM solution has been on trial at the Singapore Expo CCF since end-April, working in tandem with the Integrated Health Information Systems' VSM solution. Since mid-May, Biofourmis' VSM solution has also been progressively rolled out at various SIFs. Other VSM telemonitoring solutions are also being deployed at other CCFs, added MOH.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2020, with the headline 'Telemonitoring solutions for Covid-19 patients'. Print Edition | Subscribe