The smart plaster could be used to monitor patients from afar
Clinical trials have begun of a smart plaster - a sensor-studded band aid that wirelessly monitors vital signs.
Once stuck to a patient's chest, the band aid monitors heart rate, blood pressure and other health indicators.
Its creators hope it will eventually take over from the wired devices that limit a patient's movement.
As well as monitoring standard vital signs, the gadget can be tuned to capture far more subtle indicators of a patient's condition.
The trials will see how the disposable device performs in several different scenarios, said Dr Nick Oliver, a clinical research fellow at Imperial College's Institute of Biomedical Engineering, who is overseeing the trial.
Initial trials will test the integrity of the data being gathered and transmitted by the plaster to ensure it gives accurate readings of a patient's condition. The basic device monitors temperature, heart rate and respiration.
The second series of trials will see it placed on patients who are recovering from minor illnesses and assess how it fares when the patient has a shower or an x-ray.
Finally, said Dr Oliver, the band aid will be used to monitor the health of those recovering from more serious respiratory diseases.
Training could be enhanced with wireless health monitors
"We'll look at the data in far more challenging circumstances," said Dr Oliver. "We need to challenge the device a little bit and make sure it is reliable."
The smart plaster was developed at Imperial College by Professor Chris Toumazou who wanted a way to improve the range of data that can be gathered from a patient that did not involve festooning them with more wires and dermal patches.
Dr Oliver said the wireless plaster could also allow patients to be monitored from afar as data could be piped beyond a bedside readout to a central location for immediate analysis.
In addition, Keith Errey, co-founder of Toumaz Technology which is developing Prof Toumazou's idea, said the smart plaster could monitor far more than just basic vital signs.
He described the plaster as a "platform" that can be loaded with all kinds of sensors that can keep an eye on other bodily indicators, such as glucose levels, blood pressure in different parts of the body and other fleeting signs that show a patient is recovering or getting worse.
It could also be used as a location monitor so staff can keep an eye on the whereabouts of patients or those at risk of falls.
Professional sports stars were also interested in using the device, said Mr Errey, so they can fine tune their training regime.