If These Monitors Could Talk: This Technology Helps Doctors Hear Patients' Stories

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Spain, the University Clinic of Navarra in Madrid focused solely on responding to it, shifting resources and personnel; reducing and eventually suspending non-COVID-19-related procedures; restricting visitations; and implementing temperature checks as well as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

When someone with COVID-19 is admitted to the hospital, clinicians rely on monitors to provide critical insights into how the patient is responding to the virus as well as to the subsequent treatment.

“During a scarcity of resources, a monitor can save lives,” said Dr. Guillermo Miguel, an anesthesiologist at the University Clinic of Navarra, following his work surrounding COVID-19. “These are the most challenging patients we’ve ever come across, so the more information, the better.” 

A monitor can show a clinician the patient’s blood pressure – a main indicator of the status of the circulatory system – heart rate, oxygenation and many other aspects, including sedation.

“The monitor is the main tool we rely on – from the operating room to sedation area to the intensive care unit,” said Dr. Miguel. “In the case of COVID-19, these patients are sedated and can’t talk, so the monitor becomes their identification card, telling us about the patient.”

Dr. Miguel, noting that while monitors are ubiquitous in health care, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unique challenges requiring flexibility from monitors as well.

GE Healthcare’s lightweight multi-parameter monitor, CARESCAPE ONE, brings standardization on a single platform. For example, a flexible set of medical grade USB connections accommodates different parameters, such as oxygen saturation and CO2, important measurements used to monitor and detect changes in the respiratory capability of a patient. Managing different parameters on a single monitor allows clinicians to move the patient from ER to the OR to the ICU, while also maintaining visibility to patient data without interruption.

Dr. Miguel emphasized the critical role that devices, including monitors, play in the fight against COVID-19.  “Cooperation is key across professions and across countries, and that’s enabled by modern technology,” said Dr. Miguel. “We know very little about corona because it’s a fast-moving, fast-evolving virus, so we have to share information and act quickly and aggressively.”

COVID-19 is also accelerating the need for Virtual Care Solutions or remote patient monitoring (RPM) as evidenced by the Food and Drug Administration’s recent move to expand guidance[1] on use of such devices in the United States, where hospital systems, such as Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, saw virtual care visits increase by 20-fold in one month during the pandemic.[2]

“In the context of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the leveraging of current non-invasive patient monitoring technology will help eliminate unnecessary patient contact and ease the burden on hospitals, other health care facilities, and health care professionals that are experiencing increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to diagnosis and treatment of patients with COVID-19 and ensuring other patients who require monitoring for conditions unrelated to COVID-19 can be monitored outside of health care facilities,” noted the FDA.

Healthcare systems around the world are responding to COVID-19 by pushing technology boundaries using solutions like patient monitors and RPM to better tell their patients’ stories.