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At the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St Louis, Missouri a wireless sensor network is being put into place to monitor patients on the move as a clinical warning system. The system will be able to provide intermediate care for patients who no longer need critical care but still need monitoring.

The system will be able to take blood oxygenation and heart rate readings for patients who are at risk every minute. The data which is collected from the sensor readings will be transmitted to a base station which will combine it with the medical record for the patient. There it will be monitored constantly for signs of deterioration. In case something goes wrong the system will trigger a call to a nurse’s mobile phone.

The principal investigator of the trial, Dr Chenyang Lu of Washington University in St Louis said that the idea was to create a virtual intensive care unit (ICU) where the patients aren’t wired to beeping machines and instead are free to move about as they please.

The prototype network which was installed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and worked from June 4, 2009, to Jan. 31, 2010, was described at the SenSys ’10 conference in Zurich, Switzerland. The clinical warning system is part of a burgeoning new field called body sensor networks or wireless health that will change the future of medicine, Dr Lu said.

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