Health tech offerings of late have frequently focused on remote patient monitoring and its benefits in reducing the risk of COVID-19 for healthcare workers. Obtaining high accuracy biometrics, however, usually requires a stationary device available only in onsite medical facilities. Kyocera Corporation, in collaboration with Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU), hopes to bring high accuracy capabilities not only to remote patient monitoring but also to remote rehabilitation.

Kyocera and TMDU recently announced a joint research project designed to help patients recovering from moderate to severe COVID-19 to avoid complications such as blood clots or stroke. The rehabilitation center at TMDU helps get recovering patients moving to regain strength and improve respiratory and vascular health. Experts at the center are now studying a headset produced by Kyocera that can monitor blood oxygen saturation and other biometrics in real-time, as therapists work with patients without contact.

The current prototype is a wrap-around headset supporting a device wired to a thick ear clip and a microphone. It communicates data over standard cellphone technology. Bone-conduction audio technology provides more accuracy when collecting audio data than a standard microphone/speaker combo. This enhances the device’s relevance for physical rehabilitation; motions during exercise can generate ambient noise that might interfere with obtaining a clear signal.

Next to so many sleek consumer wearables, the new prototype has a bulky, cumbersome appearance. The research team has indicated, however, that minimizing the size of the device is a priority task. A smaller device that’s easy to use could make the headset useful for at-home remote rehabilitation.

Kyocera and TMDU believe the new headset’s enhanced accuracy can boost rehabilitation outcomes, leading to faster recovery times. The device could reduce therapist-patient contact during in-clinic sessions, decreasing infection risk, and preserving valuable PPE. The long-term study will also assess how well the headset performs for patients in rehabilitation for health conditions other than COVID-19.