Intelligent alarm system helps Covid-19 patients

A group of Danish researchers from DTU Health Tech in collaboration with Rigshospitalet, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital have developed a unique patient surveillance system with wireless monitoring. The system will now be distributed to all Danish hospitals.

An artificial intelligent system with wireless 24/7 monitoring of patients will make it easier for the country’s hospitals to keep an eye on whether the condition of patients with covid-19 is suddenly deteriorating. Initially, Rigshospitalet, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital will start using the system. But the Danish Regions have granted resources for up to 250 units to relieve the pressure on hospital staff and secure the best possible patient care in the hospital wards across the country.

The system is called WARD (Wireless Assessment of Respiratory and circulatory Distress) and has been designed and tested by Research Leader Helge B.D. Sørensen and his research group at DTU Health Tech. It has taken place in collaboration with medical professionals and researchers from Rigshospitalet and Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital. During the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, the system was finalized and tested on 100 patients.

The researchers have designed knowledge-based algorithms, which in real-time can follow the development of the condition of the individual patient and raise an alarm, when critical disease levels are reached. The system can become an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, but also in general for critically ill patients, Eske Kvanner Aasvang, Chief Physician and responsible for research at the Department for Anaesthesiology at Rigshospitalet and one of the developers of WARD, explains.

“An experienced medical doctor can usually rather easily evaluate when a patient’s condition deteriorates, but in the middle of a pandemic, there is often a shortage of doctors and nurses, who can monitor the patients 24 hours a day. Therefore, we now use our wireless WARD alarm system, so nurses are contacted automatically on their dedicated phones with alarms, if the artificial intelligence has estimated that a patient with Covid-19 reaches critical levels. There is a huge potential in knowledge-based systems that use wireless sensors, and we believe that the combination with artificial intelligence in a system like ours will save a lot of lives because we can detect deteriorations much earlier,” he says.

Sensors and algorithms

The clinical support system WARD consists of small sensors that are placed on the patient, and a mobile unit that sends raw data to a bigger computer in the cloud. Here the algorithms constantly work and learn to continuously catch the smallest signs of deterioration and raise an alarm – likewise the system sorts out irrelevant fluctuations to avoid alarming the staff unnecessarily.

Today, due to limited resources manually measures are only made a few times per day on admitted high-risk patients, including Covid-19 patients. The new system provides security and enables efficient supervision of the patients – also for staff, who do not have experience with monitoring Covid-19 patients.

Collaboration is essential

According to Helge B.D. Sørensen, the close collaboration between the doctors at the three hospitals is the foundation for making the research a success. By taking departure in the challenges of the health system, the researchers can invent new and innovative solutions interdisciplinary.

“We have asked the medical doctors to describe scientifically how they analyse the patients’ signals and find complications based on these. Following this, we have developed knowledge-based mathematical models, which automatically estimate these complications and early biomarkers for them. The system forwards alarms based on an estimation of the complications,” he explains.

“We are currently seeing a good example of collaboration, where nurses and doctors evaluate and make demands to how the WARD system’s mobile phone user-interface should be. We have given them free rein to make wishes for the design, as they would like it to be, because we have to make sure that they want to use the system.”

The WARD project was originally developed to monitor e.g. circulation and respiration after major cancer surgeries or hospitalization of high-risk patients due to severe medical illness such as cancer or acutely deteriorating Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). With the Corona pandemic outbreak, it was a clear-cut opportunity for the researchers to test the system on patients with Covid-19, and they received funding for the project from among others The Novo Nordisk Foundation and Danish Regions.

Looking ahead, WARD is still an ongoing research project, and admitted patients with Covid-19 will be invited to take part in the research project. Researchers will at the same time include surgical and medical patients to these tests.

Large grants to the WARD-project

The WARD project has previously been supported with more than 18 MDKK by the Innovation Fund Denmark and a number of grants from the Danish Cancer Society, Radiometer, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, Rigshospitalet, DTU Health Tech, Isansys and A.P. Møller Fonden.

In the spring, the researchers behind the project received a grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation of 3.9 MDKK for extending and testing the system on Covid-19 patients.

Danish Regions and the company Radiometer support the project with further 5.5 MDKK primarily for purchasing the alarm units for use in the hospitals.

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