Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston will conduct a clinical trial of wearable health monitoring devices from Zephyr Technology to monitor pregnant women as they give birth, then quickly roll the system out to a hospital in Uganda in an effort to stem high infant mortality.
Mass General’s Center for Global Health is testing Annapolis, Md.-based Zephyr’s BioHarness wireless vitals sensor and ZephyrLife monitoring system in Boston for 30 to 60 days before deploying the technology abroad, according to Paul Costello, Zephyr’s VP of sales. ZephryLife measures movement, respiratory rate, heart rhythm and other vital signs to help health workers identify conditions such as arrhythmia, pressure ulcers and potential falls early.
The company previewed ZephyrLife at the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium in Boston last week. Mass General is part of Harvard-affiliated Partners. “Small devices the size of a silver dollar will communicate to a central system,” Costello explained to MobiHealthNews this week.
Zephyr and the Center for Global Health are moving to get the system over to Uganda as quickly as possible because of the dire conditions associated with childbirth there, according to Costello. He says that maternity wards and other birthing centers typically have just one caregiver — rarely a physician or even a nurse — for 50 to 60 women at a time, and 14 babies and one mother die every day. “I mean, the numbers are appalling,” Costello says.
The BioHarness and ZephryLife combination will help the overwhelmed caregivers better prioritize their patients and allocate their scarce resources more efficiently. During both the trial in Boston and the implementation in Uganda, Mass General researchers will work with Zephyr to design computer algorithms to detect and manage patient risk.
Eventually, clinicians in Boston will be able to provide remote care by telemedicine, Costello adds. “This could be a continuous monitoring program,” he says.
Zephyr, in partnership with Under Armour and the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing, provides wearable BioHarness monitors to measure vitals of draft prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine each spring. The same technology measures stress and other physiological conditions in firefighters, soldiers and NASA astronauts.
The company also has been working with Flagstaff Medical Center in Arizona to help the hospital reduce readmissions for patients with congestive heart failure.
BioHarness won FDA 510(k) clearance in 2010.