New technology for monitoring corona patients

Wednesday 25 Mar 20


Helge Bjarup Dissing Sørensen
Groupleader, Associate Professor MSK, PhD
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 52 44


Eske K. Aasvang, Anæstesiologisk klinik, Rigshospitalet,, tlf.: 26 23 20 76

Christian S. Meyhoff, Anæstesiafdelingen, Bispebjerg og Frederiksberg Hospital,, tlf.: 24 91 05 42

A new and groundbreaking monitoring system using artificial intelligence and wireless technology to monitor patients will help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Under normal circumstances, hospital admission with a doctor and a nurse close by would be the safest choice when you are at risk of developing a serious, life-threatening illness. But nothing is normal these days. The lack of protective equipment and the risk spreading the disease through physical contact between healthcare professionals and patients is a particular challenge for healthcare service during the corona outbreak, and the capacity at the bed units may be under severe pressure in the coming months. 

New methods involving artificial intelligence and home monitoring could thus be an ideal solution. In fact, the technology is already well on its way to being introduced in hospitals around the country, and according to experts from Rigshospitalet, Bispebjerg Hospital and DTU Health Tech, COVID-19 patients should also benefit from this.

The project team is to receive DKK 3.9 million of the DKK 19.3 million grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation for research and activities in the battle against the corona epidemic and COVID-19. And the three experts behind the new WARD (Wireless Assessment of Respiratory and Circulatory Distress) monitoring system will implement the system in a few weeks and use data analyses to help the staff see any decline in patient condition immediately, thus reducing the spread of infection and the use of isolation equipment.

The technology consists of wireless devices and intelligent data monitoring which is transmitted from small sensors on the patient’s body, continuously measuring blood pressure, oxygen saturation, heart rate, and respiration.

The readings are transmitted wirelessly to a central computer that makes up the ‘brain’ of the new monitoring system. Using artificial intelligence algorithms, the computer reads, analyses, and interprets the many data and assesses whether the patient’s readings are normal or deviate to the extent that it can develop into a complication. In this case, the system immediately notifies hospital staff via wireless receivers after filtering out a series of false alarms.

Shift in focus from extensive surgery to COVID-19

So far, the project team has collected data from 700 patients, and the system is targeted towards high-risk patients with, e.g., COPD or heart disease as well as patients who have undergone extensive surgery. Now the project team is switching the focus to the coronavirus.

“With the grant, we now have the opportunity to implement the technology quickly while we’re in a very serious situation. Within just a few weeks, our monitoring system can come to the rescue with wireless devices that can be worn by infected patients and send important data about the patient’s condition to the hospital staff via our computers,” says Consultant Eske K. Aasvang. He is one of the driving forces behind the project and currently in charge of the Department of Anaesthesiology’s research unit at the Centre for Cancer and Organ Diseases at Rigshospitalet.

“Computer models can learn how to interpret data and notify doctors and nurses about critical symptoms when relevant, e.g. if breathing becomes severely affected, or other deviations occur indicating that the coronavirus infection is causing complications that will soon require action from a healthcare professional.”

Together with his project colleague, Research Leader and Consultant Christian S. Meyhoff from the Department of Anesthesiology at Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, he is preparing for the large number of patients who are expected to be admitted to hospitals with coronavirus in the coming weeks, and the system may prove to be a very welcome help:

“Right now, the situation is escalating, and we’re gearing up at all the intensive care units around the country. But we also see that the pressure on the bed units is getting serious, and unfortunately we can’t keep a close eye on everyone with the current number of personnel and equipment. That’s why we can use the new technology to improve safety in the bed units by monitoring patients and notifying doctors about patients whose conditions are becoming critical. It also means that many admissions can be avoided because we can wait until it becomes necessary thanks to remote monitoring. In this way, we can also protect both staff and patients from the spread of infection and save a lot of protective equipment, which is in short supply at the moment,” he said.

Also participating in the project is Associate Professor Helge B. D. Sørensen from DTU Health Tech.

“The artificial intelligence of the monitoring system will eventually be able to identify connections and patterns in disease development unknown to doctors today. This also applies to corona patients, where we don’t yet fully understand the patterns, but over time we can use these computer models to predict the progression of the disease, e.g. by measuring oxygen saturation, respiration, and a number of other parameters over the course of 24 hours. It will also help doctors with assessment and treatment later in the year, where we expect the coronavirus to peak once again in a second wave. Here the coordination and automatic interpretation of the large data sets will be a huge help,” he says.

About WARD and coronavirus

The project team expects to be able to begin monitoring patients in a week’s time and introduce the first version of automated data interpretation using WARD within four weeks after project launch. In the long term, the system can probably be used at home, in hotels, etc., thus reducing the pressure on hospital capacity and the risk of infection.

The project is scheduled for eight months with an immediate focus on the coronavirus, and the team expects to be able to implement a finished monitoring system in the coming years, which can be used for a wide range of purposes in hospitals both in Denmark and around the world.

The project has previously received more than DKK 18 million in funding from Innovation Fund Denmark, as well as funding from the Danish Cancer Society, Radiometer, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, Rigshospitalet, DTU, Isansys, and the A.P. Møller Foundation. The Novo Nordisk Foundation grant is intended specifically for immediate measures in the battle against the coronavirus and COVID-19 .

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