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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK
Medicine over the mobile network
Heart monitor BBC
Heart rate information may soon be available remotely
Researchers have developed an electronic system that allows signals from medical monitoring equipment to be transmitted across the mobile phone network.

The technology could eventually enable doctors to monitor patients in remote locations thousands of kilometres away.


The system can be used for anything that can be monitored electronically, such as heart rate, blood pressure or temperature

Professor Bryan Woodward
Lead researcher Professor Bryan Woodward, of Loughborough University, UK, said: "The idea of using mobile phone technology is that someone who is not confined to a bed can be monitored remotely by a consultant in a hospital.

"For example, someone who lives in the Highlands of Scotland a hundred miles from the nearest hospital could be given a routine check by mobile phone."

The system could also be used by emergency rescue teams and in sports science to take physiological measurements of athletes while they are training.

Professor Woodward said: "The system can be used for anything that can be monitored electronically, such as heart rate, blood pressure or temperature."

To measure heart function electrodes from the patient's chest would be fed into an electronic circuit contained with a holster on the patient's belt. The holster would also accommodate a standard mobile phone.

Electronic circuitry


Just because more information is being gathered about patients does not mean that they will receive better health care

Dr Paul Cundy
The signal from the electrodes would be processed by the electronic circuitry and converted into an infrared signal, similar to that used in a TV remote control.

The infrared signal is then transmitted to an infrared receiver on the phone, which then beams it across the mobile phone network to the doctor's computer.

Professor Woodward said: "Modern phones are equipped to receive infrared signals, so no modification is needed.

"A cardiologist wants to see a signal exactly as if it had come directly off the patient's chest.

"Fortunately, we have been able to reproduce signals very accurately indeed. The only limitations appear to be those inherent in the mobile phone network - losing the signal if you are going through a tunnel, for example."

Dr Paul Cundy, a GP in Surrey and a member of the British Medical Association's IT Committee, said the general concept of being able to monitor patients using mobile technology was a good one.

However, he said: "Just because more information is being gathered about patients does not mean that they will receive better health care - it is a question of what you do with that information."

The research was funded by the Swindon-based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

See also:

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