If you want an example of how the pandemic is fostering the growth of long-distance medicine, look no further than the following.
Maimonides Medical Center and Meridian Health System have agreed to work with remote diagnostic tech vendor Nanowear to conduct a clinical trial. The goal of the project is to monitor confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients remotely to detect signs of clinical deterioration.
Nanowear will support the project by providing cloth-based nanosensors. Users wear a one-size-fits-all adjustable undergarment designed to detect physiological and biomarker changes. The Nanowear platform, SimpleSENSE, captures real-time ECG data, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, blood flow hemodynamics, respiration, long volume and fluid, and temperature trends.
As the vendor’s news release states, gathering such data remotely is an attractive prospect. After all, there’s never been a better time to monitor patients without having to touch them or meet with them face-to-face.
That being said, most wearables are still emerging and in many cases, relatively untested. While Nanowear got FDA 510 (k) clearance for its SimplECG technology in 2016, it doesn’t seem that the broader SimpleSENSE has gotten such a clearance for the SimpleSENSE platform. This doesn’t mean that Nanowear’s platform is any less legitimate, but it does raise concerns about how effective it is at doing such a critical job.
Another question that hangs over remote monitoring tools is how comfortable physicians are with using that device. In its statement, Nanowear makes a point of describing the undergarment as “clinical grade” but my guess is that some physicians would be skeptical about this claim. Despite being a full-time professional observer, I don’t know precisely what that means. To me, it’s like calling food “organic.” It may make people feel better but it’s still not clear what separates the good, bad, and ugly devices.
At this point in the pandemic, however, health systems and hospitals have strong motives for checking out virtually any credible technology which could help them manage COVID-19 cases effectively. Given that hospitals and even ICUs are critically short of beds, it’s definitely a good idea to determine whether solutions like nanosensor-based clothing can help physicians manage at least some patients safely from their homes.
Regardless, investing in evolving remote monitoring platforms is likely to pay off even when the pandemic begins to ease. Vendors are developing remote monitoring tools at a rapid pace, and at least some of them will offer a solution that helps doctors manage acute conditions and helps them manage chronically ill patients in their homes.
Expect to see more providers make aggressive investments in such technology when the pandemic smoke clears.