Software to enable remote GP care


RESEARCHERS IN Galway have developed a new technology which will enable doctors to monitor their patients remotely in real time even when they are in another country.

A GP in Galway, for example, will be able to monitor his patient's heart rate and pulse while that patient is holidaying in Spain and if the readings cross a certain threshold, he can alert the patient.

The researchers at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) at NUI Galway have succeeded in developing the software to allow the monitoring take place and have already tried it out.

DERI researcher Vinny Reynolds said the prototype created had demonstrated real-time remote monitoring of a patient between Tenerife, Spain and Galway, Ireland.

"We are using off-the-shelf biomedical sensors to monitor the patient's heart rate, pulse, etc," he said.

"These are wireless sensors that the patient wears on the top of the finger and which are attached to a bracelet that powers the device although there are newer models out now which are more discreet and would be more suitable," Mr Reynolds said.

He added that the heart rate, pulse levels and other sensor data were streamed to a local computer using a global sensor network middleware platform developed at DERI.

The technology is flexible enough to integrate with industry-compliant GP management systems and electronic healthcare record systems.

The system supports multiple sensors, enabling the remote monitoring of patients with a wide range of chronic illnesses.

"A doctor can set certain parameters or thresholds for a patient and when the reading goes above or below these levels, we can notify the doctor or the patient.

"The doctor can view the sensor data in real time to take whatever action he feels is necessary," Mr Reynolds explained.

Ronan Fox, who is leading the Health Care and Life Sciences group at DERI which is investigating how advanced information technologies can be employed to enable an efficient healthcare service, said new technology could extend the time our growing population of elderly and chronically ill citizens can live fulfilling lives away from hospitals and nursing homes.

He said DERI was researching mechanisms which would open the way for this delivery of healthcare to happen on a scale appropriate to the forecasted population trends.

DERI business development manager Liam O'Morain said that once the research was out of the invention stage, the team would begin work on enabling the technology to operate in the real world by ensuring compliancy with privacy laws and security issues.

He estimated that it would be three to five years before the technology would be available to market.

DERI is a world-leading research centre in the area of next-generation web technologies funded by Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and the European Union.