Although the boards looked suspicious, they were only "motes," wireless sensor nodes that were part of a testbed of 79 nodes that let the scientists test software and network protocols (rules for communication among nodes).
The motes contained sensors for light, temperature and humidity, says Lu, professor of computer science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science. "We had to assure our colleagues there were no microphones or cameras."
Prototype in a step-down hospital unit
Once they worked out the kinks, the computer scientists installed a prototype network in a cardiac step-down unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Lu says he was pleased to find physicians and hospital administrators at Barnes-Jewish who were technology savvy and willing to let him install the prototype network. A step-down unit provides an intermediate level of care for patients who no longer require critical care but still need more care than is available on the general medical units.
During the trial, consenting patients in the step-down unit wore a telemetry pouch around their necks and, on a finger, a pulse oximeter that measured heart rate and blood oxygenation. The sensor nodes transmitted the oximeter data through relay nodes to a base station, where it was saved in a database.
The prototype network was not integrated with clinical-warning algorithms. The data it reported was examined only after the fact to see whether it could have been used to correctly identify patients whose condition was deteriorating.
Clinical deterioration is a major concern in every hospital unit, says Thomas C. Bailey, MD, professor of medicine (infectious diseases) in
|Contact: Diana Lutz|
Washington University in St. Louis