Researchers have developed an all-in-one health monitoring patch. It sits on the neck from where it tracks blood pressure, glucose and other chronic conditions.
The soft-stretchy skin patch was developed by engineers at the University of California (UC) San Diego. It consists of a thin sheet of stretchy polymers and is fitted with a plethora of sensors.
“This type of wearable would be very helpful for people with underlying medical conditions to monitor their own health on a regular basis,” says Lu Yin, Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and co-first author of the study.
‘It would also serve as a great tool for remote patient monitoring, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are minimizing in-person visits to the clinic.’
Can I buy it?
The patch is not meant for consumer use and its questionable whether it ever will. Rather, it was designed to eliminate multiple monitoring devices for hospital patients. Due to its small size and portability, the patch can be used in or outside of hospital conditions. The connected tech allows healthcare professionals to follow vitals stats remotely in real-time.
The yet-to-be named device attaches to the neck via adhesive. From there it can track can monitor blood pressure, glucose and heart rate. Apparently, the neck is ideal for this kind of monitoring as it provides clear signals to the blood pressure and two chemical sensors.
Mind you, this is not the first health monitoring wearable patch that we’ve seen. The added value of this one is that it can monitor both cardiovascular signals and biochemical levels.
‘The novelty here is that we take completely different sensors and merge them together on a single small platform as small as a stamp,” said Joseph Wang, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego and co-corresponding author of the study.
The blood pressure sensor is positioned in the middle of the patch. It contains two small ultrasound transcducers that send ultrasound waves towards the arteries and measuring the rebounding waves.
The chemical sensors are printed along the top of the patch using conductive ink. As mentioned, there are two of them. Measurements they can spit out by analysing sweat include levels of lactate, caffeine, glucose and alcohol. Researchers say the patch is very comfortable to wear and completely non-invasive.
Where the tech is going
For future versions, scientists will attempt to shrink the sensors and add new ones. The other aim is to make the whole thing completely wireless. The current version needs to be attached to a power source and benchtop machine to display its readings.
It’s just a matter of time before this type of technology is available to the regular Joe. One can imagine using a smartphone app to access all the readings from the comfort of your home.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadets
Glucose, blood pressure, lactate, caffeine and alcohol levels are not metrics that can be gathered from the current generation of consumer wearable tech. The first two are, however, expected to make their way to some of them, perhaps in the latter part of this year or in early 2022.
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