During the first month after birth, premature newborns are at risk of contracting disease or dying from a variety of causes. The best indicator of a problem with neonatals is low body temperature. In developing countries, particularly in rural areas where facilities and staff are spread thin, neonatal monitoring is not consistent. The neonatal mortality rate India is significantly higher than in more developed countries.
Researchers from the Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber-Physical Systems (IISC) and Saint John’s Research Institute (SJRI) have been working on a method to continuously monitor newborn temperature. The key is developing a way to monitor from any location, including outside medical facilities. If monitoring methods can be established together with alert systems, timely response could save lives and lower the overall Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR).
The IISC and SJRI team have developed a wearable device sensor that continuously monitors a baby’s temperature and transfers the data to a local gateway device via Bluetooth. The gateway uses algorithms to recognize dangerous levels or changes and send an alert via the Internet to a wider communications network that can trigger an appropriate and available response. Alerts could be sent to the cell phone of a nurse or a family member, for example. A wireless temperature sensing device that is taped to the chest of newborns is in clinical testing at St. John’s Hospital.
Testing against other technologies has shown the wearable wireless thermometer is within plus or minus 0.5 degrees Celsius (about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of traditional hospital instruments, according to the researchers. The team is currently testing the system in several other city hospitals before testing the temperature monitoring system in rural hospitals in India.