We are officially in the throes of a pandemic - The Covid-19 outbreak caused by a novel strain of coronavirus from Wuhan, China, has now reached alarming proportions. The ramifications of this outbreak are now starting to be felt across the globe. Hospitals worldwide are struggling to cope with this massive surge. The pandemic is already starting to have a debilitating effect on the lives of millions of people the world over. Home-based solutions enabling remote patient monitoring are going to play a key role in helping us combat this outbreak.
Back in early January when a number of people were admitted with an atypical type of pneumonia in China’s Hubei province, not many were able to foresee the egregious turn events were to take. Today, practically all of humanity stands exposed in the face of a pandemic, the likes of which have probably never been encountered before. Yes, there have been large scale outbreaks of virulent infectious diseases before - Zika, Ebola, SARS - but never before have we been faced with a contagion that has spread this wide, this fast. In a period of just 8 to 10 weeks, the coronavirus has spread to 5 continents, killing over 6500 people!
As this piece is being written, the global Covid-19 case count is estimated to be a spine-chilling 169,000. And as if the events of the past week weren’t macabre enough, leading experts believe that this is only the first phase of the pandemic, which is expected to play out over the course of several months!
We simply will not be able to provide hospital-care to all infected patients. The US alone is expected to have upwards of 1 million cases by the beginning of April! Around the world, there are just not enough hospital beds to accommodate all patients. In Lombardy, Italy, healthcare providers are already having to resort to placing patients in operating rooms and hospital corridors. Healthcare systems, especially in countries like Iran and Italy which have been hit the hardest, are stretched way past their limits.
Now factor the patients who are already ill and occupying hospital beds and also the severe crunch on healthy medical personnel and you can quickly see why home hospitalisation is going to play a huge role in this pandemic.
With COVID-19, the loudest message being delivered by health authorities worldwide for those infected with SARS-CoV-2 is this - Stay home!
Guidelines issued by healthcare bodies such as the CDC and the NHS strictly emphasise the importance of isolation. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends complete restriction of all activity outside the home, except to receive medical care. And worryingly, there is an increasing problem with availability of hospital-care. The current situation in Northern Italy is absolutely dire. There are simply not enough hospital beds going around
And the situation in Italy is sounding a sharp alarm for countries all over the world, including the US. Italy’s healthcare system, with 4 M.Ds and 3.2 hospital beds per 1000 people has been stretched to breaking point by this outbreak. In comparison, the US only has about 2.6 M.Ds and 2.8 hospital beds per person. Most healthcare setups are just not built to handle this type of surge in demand for in-patient care.
There is going to be a dire shortage of hospital beds and medical supplies and home hospitalisation is going to play a key role in containing this pandemic. Isolation and social distancing are absolutely necessary to contain the spread of this virus. Therefore, unnecessary trips to healthcare centres need to be eliminated. WHO reports suggest that over 80% of those who will contract the virus will have a mild or asymptomatic form of the disease. So, a majority of patients won’t actually need to be treated in a hospital. This is also essential in order to prioritise precious hospital resources for those at the highest risk - elderly people, pregnant women and those with serious pre-existing illnesses such as chronic respiratory illness, heart and liver disease, cancer, HIV, auto-immune conditions etc.
Fortunately, the data from China seems to indicate that COVID-19 can successfully be managed at home in large parts of the population. In China, where there are already reassuring signs of the spread being contained, only 15% of 44,000 confirmed cases were admitted to a hospital. Even in Italy where the situation has so far been the most alarming, only 50% of infected people required hospital care.
However, even those with the mild form of the disease would require professional monitoring. This is where technology that empowers home-based patient monitoring could make a huge difference, in this pandemic. Technologies like continuous fever monitoring could play a major role in enabling remote patient monitoring. They enable doctors to get real-time health data from their patients, remotely. This could help in the management of the disease in the large numbers of patients with a mild form of the infection, who will still need some professional assistance.
Before you read on, please consider that ONiO.temp is a medical device that is not yet medically approved and thus cannot be directly applied in the worldwide viral outbreak that we are witnessing in 2020 as of yet.
ONiO.temp is a continuous temperature monitoring device that is able to measure your core body temperature and send it to your smartphone through a cloud backend in real-time. It’s basically a small skin patch/plaster that you stick onto your skin. You can see how it looks in the video below - the patch on the child’s forehead. Loaded with some serious tech, the patch measures the patient’s core body temperature, calibrates the measurements and wirelessly transmits this information over a secure link. And it uses a self-powered MCU that enables it to do all this without a battery! It uses energy harvesting technology to draw the small amounts of energy it requires from the surroundings.
Tell Me - An introduction video for ONiO.temp
Basically, the patch tracks your core body temperature and enables this data to be accessed by you or your healthcare provider. The data is securely collected in ONiO’s cloud where care providers could seamlessly access high-quality data of a large number of patients.
For a personal standpoint, the patch could prove to be a nifty piece of tech to have. Firstly, it’s just a breeze to use: you literally just pair the device with the app and stick it on your forehead or chest and you’re good to go.
ONiO.temp accurately measures your core body temperature and sends time-series data to the cloud-based backend system. You can access this information as detailed and accurate core temperature trends, right on your smartphone. The information can also be securely made available to your healthcare provider.
For starters, you can use the patch to pre-emptively monitor your core body temperature. It allows you to study your body temperature trends over a period of time. You can even set alarms to alert you and your doctor if your body temperature goes over a certain threshold. And if you already have a mild version of the infection, ONiO.temp could help facilitate remote-monitoring. Your physician will be able to get updates on your body temperature trends which can help him/her monitor your treatment and recovery.
Even a mild version of COVID-19 will require weeks of home-isolation and significant levels of monitoring. Patients will be required to track their body temperature assiduously. Having the patch just continuously track your temperature saves the patient the pain of having to measure their body temperatures accurately, multiple times each day, over weeks! And accuracy becomes an issue from a macroscopic viewpoint - accounting for human error, it simply doesn’t make sense, over entire populations, to manually take temperature readings. Continuous fever monitoring, done automatically, saves effort and time and moreover, makes for vastly improved accuracy, over a large sample size.
Remote temperature monitoring will allow physicians to perform efficient triage - i.e assess the severity of various patients’ illnesses and sort out those that require the most intensive or immediate care. Having access to detailed time-series data with accurate core temperature readings will enable physicians to reliably ensure that intensive care is prioritised for those at a higher risk. This data will help separate out low-risk patients who could be directed towards social isolation and home-based care.
From a community standpoint, there are even more advantages. The ONiO.temp patch can be used independently but also as part of a larger ecosystem that could prove invaluable to hospitals and communities. ONiO.temp can be used with ONiO’s cloud connector to conveniently monitor up to 10 patients at any given time. The cloud connector also helps calibrate environments that facilitate the best standard of care. For example, if a patient running a temperature is in a room that’s getting warm and humid, the system could automatically direct the cooling and aeration of the room.
These benefits could also be scaled-up to have some serious epidemiological benefits. From a public-health perspective, ONiO.temp could be invaluable in monitoring the spread of the infection. This would empower policy-makers to make the best possible administrative decisions. ONiO-temp could allow healthcare bodies to have access to truly secure big-data about the spread of the infection.
It can facilitate the accurate city-wide or province-wide monitoring of pathogen spread, allowing healthcare authorities to contain the spread more effectively, using big data.It has to be mentioned here that ONiO’s patient data system doesn’t link personal data and fever data. Only your healthcare professional is allowed to access your personal data along with your fever data.
Large amounts of fever-data, collected over large areas, can be put through high-end analytics to help us better understand the epidemiology and spread of the infection. This is vital to develop strategies to contain the infection.
With ONiO.temp, we believe that we are able to empower patients to be fully informed about their health and recovery. We believe that with capabilities today, a patient should be able to have access to hospital-grade monitoring at home.
ONiO.temp enables this shift by empowering patients to confidently and accurately measure their body temperatures and fever patterns. As a patient, you have every right to monitor and track your own progress. Continuous fever monitoring allows you to have detailed data on how your fever is progressing. It allows your healthcare provider to monitor your condition and respond to your illness appropriately.
Effective home monitoring could bring about some sorely needed relief to hospitals and healthcare setups that are being crippled by the huge numbers of COVID-19 patients. We believe that ONiO.temp can be an incredibly powerful tool in providing home-based monitoring solutions to patients.