An international team of researchers has developed wireless skin-like sensors for collecting temperature and pressure information from bedridden patients.

The researchers from the US, China and Korea described the small devices, which are about the size of a US cent coin, in the Science Translational Medicine journal and explained the advantages of their product compared to conventional sensors.

They claim that the thin, soft, skin-like sensors are capable of precise, continuous measurements of physiological health and could have a broad relevance within clinical health care. The sensors were tested on human subjects in sleep laboratories and in adjustable hospital beds to demonstrate their functionality, potential to monitor circadian cycles and ability to help to avoid pressure-induced skin ulcers.

The basic functions of the sensors are applicable to numerous medical situations. Hospital patients regularly have their temperature checked as it is a quick way to test for the onset of infection. Testing for pressure in bedridden patients is also important for alerting caretakers of the need to prevent bedsores. This typically involves the insertion of an anal probe. Methods for both these kinds of temperature and pressure tests also only provide information about one part of the body. The new sensors could provide solutions to these problems as they provide constant temperature and pressure readings from multiple sites and wirelessly send the information to healthcare workers.

The sensors are designed to be used as part of a set with several sensors applied to the skin of the patient at various sites. The average number of sensors per patient is 65 depending on patient size. Each collects information and sends the data to a near field communication (NFC) transmitting coil under the patient’s bed. The coil device is also the means of power for the sensors and sends the data it receives to a computer that monitors the information and can send alerts to the healthcare providers. Each of the sensors contains its own pressure sensor, temperature sensor and NFC system.