Znak Politechniki Warszawskiej

MediControl – a system facilitating the work of physicians and nurses

phot. BPI

Students from the Scientific Club of Biomedical Devices at the Faculty of Mechatronics of Warsaw University of Technology are carrying out a project which will allow an improved control of fluids in medical drips and registration of pulse deficits. It is an answer to suggestions and demands of health-care staff.

Our students decided to create a patient monitoring system that would be inexpensive to manufacture and maintain as well as easy to use. They assumed the system would consist of several elements: a system for measuring the level of drip fluid; ECG measuring device; heart rate monitor; system collecting data from multiple patients and presenting the results, e.g. in the nurse room, and software used for presenting the data.

Currently, the students are working in two groups: one group is focusing on measuring the amount of fluid in drips and creating a network which will allow gathering data; the other group is working on cardiology-related aspects.

Innovative and non-invasive measuring device

'My girlfriend, who studies medicine, had her nursing internship and told me how big a problem the shortage of personnel in Polish hospitals was,' says Bartosz Kowalski, explaining the origins of the project. 'If there are two nurses in a ward, they find it difficult to keep checking which patient has run out of the drip. And once the fluid is finished and not immediately replaced, blood is sucked back.'

Our students have also interviewed physicians, who have raised that issue, too. And so, they started to act. 'We knew that our device could not interfere with the dripping fluid, so from the very start we ditched the idea of floating device measurements, which would require entering the drip bag,' explains Krzysztof Apolinarski. 'Laser-based measurement proved too complex because the nurse would have to devote a lot of time installing the device; plus, we do not know whether all bags transmit light in the same way. Therefore, we opted for a weight-based measurement. It is a difficult thing in terms of writing the algorithm, as you need to predict various vibrations and moves of the drip bag. However, apart from the basic calibration, you will only need to hang the device on the rack and then hang the drip bag on the device.'

'Solutions applied in medicine must be very, very safe,' points out Szymon Krasuski. 'In the project, we combine consumer electronics with a human body, but in no way do we put the patients' health at risk; instead, we make use of physical phenomena which are already here.'

In the aspect of meeting the requirements for medical devices, students from the 3D Print Scientific Club are lending their support. 'They are doing us a great favour: they are using a special anti-bacterial material to print casings for the project,' says Szymon Krasuski. 'Such material is used only in state-of-the-art medical devices. Usually, we would have to pay over PLN 1,000 for the print.’

The market has never seen a measuring device like the one the students are working on. 'There is a device for automatic drip control. Its use consists in setting the volume of fluid that the patient is to be administered,' says Krzysztof Apolinarski. 'This device is, however, quite expensive and defective.' Bartosz Kowalski adds that the device is used in critical cases, e.g. in morphine therapy. 'Our device will work in a completely different way,' he says.

phot. BPI

Obtaining a reliable measurement

During the interviews, physicians also raised other issues — the problems connected with registering the pulse deficit. This is a case when the difference between the myocardial heart-rate and peripheral arteries is too large. This may mean that blood vessels of the patient are becoming stiff, which can be the cause of numerous diseases. 'Physicians have special devices they use to carry out the measurements,' says Szymon Krasuski. 'But the result is more of a rough estimate.' So, physicians rely on their experience. And for pulse deficit analysis, such single measurement, e.g. made twice a day, is of little use. It also requires the participation of an experienced physician, and so the nurse cannot walk around the hospital and take measurements more often.

Our students came up with the idea to monitor the pulse deficit with the use of two elements: ECG and heart-rate measuring device gathering data about the pulse from the index finger. 'The measurement will be made on a continuous basis and thus the physician will be able to control on a current basis what is happening with the patient and to analyse the data,' explains Szymon Krasuski.

In the works over this part of the project, the members of the Scientific Club of Medical Devices are cooperating with "BioS" Bio-physical Measurements Scientific Club operating under the Faculty of Physics at Warsaw University of Technology and of the Scientific Organisation of Physicians from the Medical University of Warsaw.

Connection

The communication of data from the devices measuring the level of drip fluids and pulse to nurses and physicians will be possible thanks to the use of a network. 'In each hospital room, there will be a router, which will use Wi-Fi to connect with all measuring devices,' explains Krzysztof Apolinarski. 'Then, through an ethernet network, the router will transmit information to the second, master router, from the nurses' room. The second router will be connected with an equivalent of a server: a computer or a tablet-like device.’

The students are planning that physicians and nurses will monitor the data on a large screen. The screen will display a list of patients with information about the level of drip fluids and the values of heart-rate. With such a structure, physicians will be able to enter a patient's room and connect with the network, and monitor measurements through his or her mobile phone.

These are not all ideas of the members of the Scientific Club of Biomedical Devices. They are already trying to figure out how to make MediControl work also when patients are outside the hospital while providing proper security of data transfer.

 

Agnieszka Kapela

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