In collaboration with six medical and technology companies, Henkel has developed a smart health patch that allows continuous, remote, and wireless monitoring of patients’ heartbeat and respiration. Initially set up to monitor the vital functions of patients with heart failure and epilepsy, the product will soon be tested for the use of monitoring coronavirus patients in a Belgian hospital. The partners aim to further roll out the technology over the next month to respond to a potential new coronavirus surge in autumn.

The “COVID-19 smart patch” is the result of a collaboration between the Belgian companies Byteflies, Melexis, Quad Industries, Televic, and Z-Plus, as well as the Belgian departments of Henkel and Nitto. Henkel reports that all partners provided expertise and technology components for the 15-cm-long adhesive patch, which can easily applied to the left side of the chest. The patch was developed for skin-friendly medical use and contains electrodes and conductive inks to register vital signs.

A “sensor dot” located in the center of the patch collects the patient’s vital signs and wirelessly sends the data to the cloud. A mini temperature sensor will also be integrated soon. The healthcare center’s nurses and the patient’s general practitioner or specialist can then access this cloud data on a user-friendly platform. Thus, the patch can improve patients’ follow-up at home and reduces time and effort for medical stuff in data management. Henkel reports that it developed the electrodes and conductive inks for the patch, which can be used for five days rather than just one day.

“The innovative smart patch demonstrates the huge potentials of printed electronics applications and the power of collaborative approaches in the market,” said Stijn Gillissen, global head of Printed Electronics at Henkel. “At the moment most COVID-19 patients’ vital signs are recorded manually. The staff in hospitals and care homes need to take these vital signs several times a day and then process the data manually. Our system has the potential to save them a lot of time and reduce the amount of times they are exposed to possible infection.”

In addition, the system also offers advantages to patients in home quarantine or in care homes, as it enables measurements to be automatically taken and sent. Patients can be certain that the measurements are correct and they are being monitored constantly, which means that they can take the appropriate action quickly and can contact a care provider at a healthcare center immediately if necessary.

The Oost-Limburg Hospital in Belgium will be the first medical institution to start clinical trials with the smart patch. The hospital will start testing the patch for about 20 of its patients in the next weeks. Based on this test, the partners aim to roll out the system more widely in other hospitals and care homes over the upcoming months.

“The latest global developments have exerted pressure onto the global healthcare systems,” said Gillissen. “The need for smart technical solutions based on printed electronics such as the new health patch is increasing as innovative technologies can support medical professionals to remotely monitor patients—allowing for better patient treatments, shorter hospital stays and most importantly more patient convenience.”

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