Northwestern researchers create wearable patch to monitor COVID-19 patients' respiratory sounds, coughing intensity

Chicago-based Northwestern University and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab jointly developed a new wearable patch device that monitors COVID-19 patients' coughing and respiratory activity.

The wireless device is made from a soft and flexible material similar to a Band-Aid, and it sticks to the patient's skin, just below the base of the throat.

The device works 24/7 to produce continuous streams of data, including coughing intensity and patterns, chest wall movements, respiratory sounds, heart rate and body temperature. It then wirelessly transmits data to a cloud platform, where artificial intelligence-powered algorithms analyze the information and create patient summaries to help support clinicians' monitoring.

About 25 COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab are currently using the devices. The individuals began using the devices two weeks ago and are being monitored in both the clinic and at home, producing more than 1,500 cumulative hours and more than one terabyte of data.

The measuring capabilities of the device are specific to the platform and cannot be achieved by traditional watch or ring wearables that patients wear on the wrist or finger, according to John Rogers, PhD, engineering and neurological surgery professor at Northwestern and one of the leaders of the project.

"Nobody has ever collected this type of data before," Dr. Rogers said in the news release. "Earlier detection is always better and our devices provide important and unique capabilities in that context. For patients who have contracted the disease, the value is even more clear, as the data represent quantitative information on respiratory behavior, as a mechanism to track the progression and/or the effects of treatments."


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