US researchers have found a new way to monitor chronically ill people: sensors in toilet goggles record data about cardiac activity and send it to a cloud.
Nicholas Conn presents the electronics in the intelligent toilet seat.
Photo: A. Sue Weisler / RIT
Heart failure, also called heart failure, is a common disease. Exact surveys do not exist, but in Germany alone between two and three million people are affected. They mainly suffer from shortness of breath and a poor performance, which can be so pronounced that the quality of life drops sharply and a normal everyday life is no longer possible. In people over the age of 65, heart failure is the most common single diagnosis for hospitalization – in many cases it is fatal. It is therefore all the more important to keep a constant eye on the state of health of those affected. Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the US have upgraded an everyday item for this purpose: they use toilet seats to monitor the heart.
Intelligent toilet performs regular monitoring
Heart failure is a chronic disease in which it is important to adjust the treatment to your individual situation if necessary. If this happens on time, hospital stays can often be avoided. The new development of the scientists is based on this principle. “Normally, 25% of patients with congestive heart failure will be re-admitted within 30 days of hospital discharge. And 90 days after discharge, 45% of patients have been admitted again, “says Nicholas Conn, who designed the smart toilet seat with his colleagues. It’s exactly this number that should reduce the new technology.
The concept is for hospitals to buy their goggles and supply them with them when they leave. In financial terms, this approach may be worthwhile, as clinics in the United States will face penalties for short periods of time between two admissions based on the same diagnosis. The intelligent toilet should therefore support the doctors in monitoring the patients. If the values are too negative, it is up to the attending cardiologist to adjust the therapy, for example, using a different dosage of medication.
Algorithms evaluate data from different sensors
The toilet seat measures the electrical and electrical system mechanical activity of the heart and can monitor heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygenation, and weight and stroke volume of the patient, that is, the amount of blood pumped out of the heart. For the toilet seat was equipped with a complex technology. Three different types of sensors collect information simultaneously: sensors on the top of the seat measure the electrical activity of the heart and create a simple electrocardiogram (ECG).
A single sensor, also located at the top, captures the blood volume visually, by perceiving two wavelengths – red and infrared – at the back of the thigh, as in pulse oximetry. This is based on the fact that oxygen-containing hemoglobin and hemoglobin, which is poorly oxygenated (deoxygenated), absorb light differently. Hemoglobin with high levels of oxygen absorbs more infrared, while hemoglobin with poor oxygen saturates more red light. The seat is individually calibrated for each patient for this procedure. Then, thanks to the optical measurement, it is possible to estimate the oxygen supply.
In addition, the seat is attached to the toilet body with a movable hinge so that the four load sensors on the underside of the seat can absorb the ballistic force of the cardiac cycle , All these data are transmitted to a cloud, where algorithms calculate stroke volume, blood pressure, and blood oxygen saturation.
Good readings of toilet seat during test run
The toilet seat is battery operated and easy to clean, Therefore, the scientists assume a high acceptance among the patients. They do not have to be active in any way. The digital report is automatically forwarded via the cloud to the treating cardiologist, who contacts the patient if his condition should deteriorate. The decisive factor is the sensitivity of the measurements. Because the system should recognize negative developments, as long as they are asymptomatic – so the patient still does not feel it. Because at this point the doctor can often counteract this by adjusting the therapy.
In a test phase, 18 patients have already tried the seat over a period of eight weeks, and the results were promising according to the researchers. All measurements were very accurate and meaningful. Conn and his colleagues are now working to get an official approval for their smart toilet goggles.