The future is near at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Medical experts are testing smart hospital technology. Wireless vital signs monitors are being tested in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Every year at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, close to 900 newborns and premature babies depend on wired vital-sign monitors to survive. The monitors measure heart rate, oxygen saturation, temperature, and other vital signs, but can be very intimidating to new parents.
“What we want is to eliminate those wires and those cables by using Bluetooth technology,” said Dr. Guilherme Sant’Anna, a Neonatologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and one of the principal investigators of the Smart Hospital Project.
The wireless technology will not only be able to send the same information back to the monitors, but will provide even more data.
“The wireless sensors that we are attaching have more inside the patch that can give movements of the baby, position of the baby, blood pressure, temperature in one patch,” said Dr. Sant’Anna.
Currently, critically ill newborns in the NICU have five to ten wires attached to their skin, which limit their movement and make it difficult for parents to cuddle and bond with their babies during a critical time of their development.
“Sometimes they hold the baby and a cable gets disconnected or breaks or touches the floor and it can get infected,” said Dr. Sant’Anne.
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“So it is a situation that sometimes prevents or decreases the number of times parents hold their babies and babies need their parents,” he added.
With wireless technology there are only two sensors: a small patch on the baby’s chest and a bracelet around the wrist or ankle. This means the world for Nathalie Nicolas. She is one of 25 parents participating in the trial.
“When I saw him with all the wires, it was quite impressive and stressful,” said Nicolas. “You feel like you did everything you could while you are pregnant but now he’s on his own, so it’s his fight,” she added.
Nicolas says being able to hold her son without wires getting in the way makes it easier for new parents to learn the ropes. “It helps you gain confidence,” she said.
It will be a few years before the wireless technology is the standard, but the Montreal children’s hospital is one of the first in the world to test the bluetooth technology.