People with heart disease are notoriously poor at self-monitoring their health. In fact, 45 percent of all patients discharged from hospital with heart failure are hospitalized within 90 days.
This is not only a problem for the quality of life of cardiac patients, but also because Medicare and Medicaid penalize hospitals when patients are resumed too soon after their release. To address the problem, researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology have found a way to integrate sensors into an object that everyone interacts with several times a day and can passively monitor heart health without having to do more than sit down.
The next limit of heart health is a toilet seat.
"Even the most well-meaning patients do not measure their blood pressure every day," says Nicholas Conn, engineer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and CEO of Heart Health Intelligence. To find the easiest way to monitor the patient's health without his input, the RIT development team wondered, "What can we do to integrate technology into everyday life? A computer, a mouse, a steering wheel in the car? What do people use every day?
The toilet seat was the most obvious answer: it has direct skin contact (which facilitates monitoring) and is used by all.
The resulting Toilet Seat Monitor contains all the tools necessary to detect the debilitating health of a heart patient. The seat has three main instruments: an electrocardiogram that uses electrodes on the surface of the seat to measure the electrical activity of the heart. a photoplethysmogram, the same sensor as in a FitBit that measures the patient's heart rate; and a ballistocardiogram that measures the weight of a patient and determines, based on the fluctuation of the heartbeat, the volume of blood flowing through the heart. (This works because the heart builds up so much pressure that it physically presses your body while pumping.) The RIT team has shown for the first time that a ballistocardiogram can be used to calculate the volume of blood flowing through the heart.)
The Instruments are so sensitive that, according to the team, patients only need to sit on the seat for about 90 seconds to get a full measurement. And they even designed their algorithms to detect whether the patient is resting or trying. Because, bowel movement and urination can actually cause major changes in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. "Part of our innovation is algorithms that allow us to determine the physiological state of the patient. Are they rest or effort? We reject the sections where they are not at their baseline, "says Conn.
Although Conn says that he can see a future in which the toilet seat is available to anyone in the trade, his company is currently focusing on the development of medical applications. The final version of the seat will have a built-in battery that lasts for up to six years and is likely to use cellular connection technology so the patient only has to install it like a regular toilet seat.
Implantable medical heart monitors that can provide similar service cost up to 40,000 USD. Conn estimates that they can only charge $ 1
"We are really focused on reducing the cost of care and improving the quality of life for patients. "He says, noting that heart failure is not a curable disease. "With the average lifespan of a heart failure patient, 50 percent will die in five years. It has a worse prognosis than many cancers. It is a terminal disease. Will you be in the hospital or at home? We hope to keep people at home and improve their quality of life. "