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Medical Sensors – What Are They and How Are They Helping Combat COVID-19?

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An essential part of daily healthcare, medical sensors are leading the fight in treating patients struggling to beat or recover from COVID-19 infection. But while they play a vital role, few individuals understand what they are, and the improvements technology has provided over the last couple of decades.

So, how have sensors improved and how are they helping lead the fight against COVID-19 today?

What are medical sensors?

Used to detect key vital signs from patients, medical sensors are physically attached to individuals undergoing study or care and can track a number of key vitals and variables. These include temperature, blood pressure, light, weight, pulse rate and much more – with embedded technology allowing machines and systems to provide tailored care when required.

The advent of computer chip technology has allowed practitioners to use a wide range of devices and, combined with our understanding of anatomy and microbiology, providing a standard of care that is unparalleled in human history.

How has technology changed?

When it comes to modern technology, the sector has never experienced so much positive change.

Sensor tech is now embedded in almost every corner of the medical sector and plays a vital role when it comes to first-hand care, diagnosis, recovery, and more. This includes looking at respiratory issues, videoscopes and probes, pulse oximeters, oxygen concentrators, blood sugar monitors and more. These allow users to easily and efficiently secure readings that would have taken significant time and effort to secure.

The rise of the Internet of Things also allows for networked sensor technology to be added to devices, allowing for remote care, ease of maintenance and allowing kit to be used by a range of platforms and devices. Companies such as Sensoronics sensors even specialise in developing a highly compatible kit that works with a range of hardware. This allows practitioners to take a modular approach to care and ensure that any sensors or connectors used are cost-effective and fit for purpose.

How are they helping with COVID -19?

With the NHS currently struggling under the weight of COVID-19, adequate sensor technology is more important than ever before. As the virus causes pneumonia-like symptoms in patients due to lung inflammation, monitoring vitals like pulse rate, blood oxygen saturation, and more becomes essential. These can often be painlessly administered and track vitals and patient information in a highly accurate way.

This allows short-staffed teams to monitor a wide number of patients on a ward and be alerted to issues before they become serious. The collection of sensor data also allows teams to analyse patient vitals and better understand the risk the virus presents. This can help administer better first-hand care to patients, develop better strategies to help fight the virus long-term, and to make changes to our approach to prevention and care in the years ahead.  


Image credit: Freepik

James Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.

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