BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 23 February 2008, 00:12 GMT
Heart-check beds to be developed
Bed sheets to measure their vital signs
Vital signs can be measured during sleep
A bed packed with sensors could keep a close watch on the health of heart failure patients, it has been claimed.

It is hoped the system, alongside similar devices built into clothing, could help reduce the need for emergency hospital treatment.

The project will be funded by the EU, and led by electronics giant Philips.

The UK cardiologist helping to develop the devices said the key to dealing with long-term health problems was to help patients treat themselves.

The real challenge for this technology is not taking the measurements, but working out what to do with it, so that we are not constantly getting false alarms
Dr Nicholas Robinson
TeleHealth Forum, Royal Society of Medicine

It is estimated there are around 63,500 new cases of heart failure each year in the UK which, if poorly controlled, can lead to a much shorter life expectancy.

Repeated hospitalisation also puts an expensive burden on the NHS, and one of the aims of the "MyHeart" initiative is to help spot problems several days before they become life-threatening.

The bed would include, not only an electronic weight scale and blood pressure monitor, but also sensors which measure heart rate, breathing rate and body movement while sleeping.

In addition, the patient could wear a vest with woven-in electrodes to provide a full electro-cardiogram reading.

All this information would be analysed on a PDA and the results sent via a telephone line or broadband connection to doctors.

The device, it is claimed, could even provide clues to interrupted sleep by measuring sleep phase patterns.

False alarms

Professor John Cleland, head of cardiology at the University of Hull, said: "The greatest challenge and opportunity for the management of long- term medical conditions is to help patients to help themselves.

Vest with integrated electrodes
Vests with electrodes allow measurement of heart rate

"Investing directly in people who need help and not just in services that do things to or for them makes sense in terms of improved care, greater affordability and the effective deployment of scarce nursing and medical resources."

Dr Nick Robinson, a member of the Royal Society of Medicine's Telehealth forum, said that, while the technologies involved in gathering, storing and transmitting the information were becoming far more readily available, doctors might struggle to interpret the results.

He said: "We are used to making decisions based on taking a blood pressure reading on an occasional basis - and all the evidence we have for intervening is based on this.

"The real challenge for this technology is not taking the measurements, but working out what to do with it, so that we are not constantly getting false alarms."

It is not yet known which EU countries involved in the four-year project will be chosen to test the technology, or precisely when it will become available.

NHS Stories: Telemedicine
12 Sep 03 |  Health
Healing hearts by remote control
14 Aug 03 |  South Asia

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific