When a stroke victim goes through rehab, therapists monitor muscle activity, motion, vital signs, and more in order to track progress. One limiting factor is that the sensors require wires to carry their signals. This can be inconvenient in the clinical setting, but it becomes downright impractical when the patient goes home.

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed wireless sensors that stick directly on the patient’s skin, and then transmit the data to a smartphone, tablet, or other device.  The flexible patches bend and stretch, so that the patients hardly notice them. Not only does this give them greater freedom of movement during therapy sessions, the technology also makes it possible for rehab staff to monitor the patient’s motion during normal daily activities after they leave the clinical setting. The sensors also make it possible to measure some biometric data better than traditional methods. For example, a throat sensor is much more accurate as it is only sensitive to the patient’s muscle activity in their neck, and does not capture the ambient room sounds the way a standard microphone does.

The researchers are looking to apply the sensors in treating patients with other conditions, such as Parkinson’s. In the end, these small and convenient devices could change the way healthcare workers monitor and assess a wide range of factors for patients with a variety of health conditions.