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Northwestern, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Develop Wearable Device To Track COVID-19 Symptoms

CHICAGO (CBS) --  Northwestern University researchers and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab have created a wireless wearable monitor for COVID-19 patients to help track symptoms and other information for themselves and healthcare professionals once they leave the hospital.

The size of a postage stamp, the device sticks just below a patient's throat. It monitors coughing and patterns associated with coughs, chest wall movements, respiratory sounds, heart rate and a person's body temperature.

COVID-19 Wearable Device
(Credit: Northwestern University)

"Our device sits at the perfect location on the body, the suprasternal notch, to measure respiratory rate, sounds and activity because that's where airflow occurs near the surface of the skin," said Northwestern's John A. Rogers, who led the technology development. "We developed customized devices, data algorithms, user interfaces and cloud-based data systems in direct response to specific needs brought to us by front line healthcare workers."

Right now, the device is being used by 25 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus. They're currently being monitored at home and at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. The device can also put out information as to what kind of treatment options are working and not working for COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 Monitoring Device
(Credit: Northwestern University)

"These sensors have the potential to unlock information that will protect frontline medical workers and patients alike, informing interventions in a timely manner to reduce the risk of transmission and increase the likelihood of better outcomes," said Arun Jayarman, a research scientist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, who is leading the algorithm development.

It's not just for COVID-19 patients. It can also detect early warning signs and signals for front line workers most at risk of catching COVID-19.

"Nobody has ever collected this type of data before," Rogers said. "Earlier detection is always better and our devices provide important and unique capabilities in that context. for patients who have contracted the disease, the value is even more clear, as the data represent quantitative information on respiratory behavior, as a mechanism to track the progression and/or the effects of treatments."

If a patient has been hospitalized, that person can wear the device so their healthcare provider can keep track of their condition. Northwestern said it is working on deploying more of the items for COVID-19 patients, developing dozens a week and increasing that number to hundreds per week. But it's unclear when more will be available to more patients and healthcare providers.

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