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New Zealand Unlocking Respiratory Data

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The researchers from Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha University of Canterbury (UC) have embarked on Breath-to-Breath Observed Biometrics (BOB). It appears that they uncovered a significant challenge during their previous research: respiratory data, crucial for patient monitoring, was locked within medical devices, rendering it inaccessible to patients and healthcare providers.

Breath-to-Breath Observed Biometrics (BOB) is a system that provides real-time, high-quality breath-to-breath data that can be used for patient monitoring. This data is accessible to patients and their clinicians, potentially revolutionising the field of healthcare monitoring.

Ella Guy, one of the PhD researchers, explained that using BOB makes regular monitoring as easy as simply breathing normally into the device each morning. Their specialised software interprets and transmits these results to your GP, enabling data-driven care, which is currently not feasible with appointments one to three months apart.

She also highlighted the challenges of current respiratory illness testing, which can be time-consuming, expensive, and often require multiple visits to specialised clinics that may not be accessible to everyone.

“The existing diagnostic process for respiratory conditions like COPD is often slow and expensive. It typically involves multiple visits to specialised clinics that may not be readily available to everyone,” she asserted.

Respiratory testing is presently challenging, especially for individuals outside major urban centres. This lack of accessibility is further exacerbated by extended appointment waiting times, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with severe health conditions.

Jaimey Clifton, another PhD researcher, emphasised that there has been a significant uptick in various respiratory illnesses over the past few years. Despite this surge in cases, the capacity to effectively treat these patients has yet to see a commensurate increase.

The introduction of this software offers the potential to revolutionise the field by automating the diagnosis process and significantly increasing the frequency of patient monitoring. It can substantially alleviate the strain on healthcare professionals who often face constraints on their time and resources.

The limitations in appointment availability, often due to cost and scheduling issues, might have left patients grappling with health challenges for extended periods without the opportunity for timely care adjustments. However, BOB provides a valuable solution by enabling the continuous daily tracking of objective health metrics.

“This wealth of data empowers clinicians, and even software systems, to promptly identify instances where a patient’s current treatment plan is not yielding optimal results. It opens the door for timely intervention and care adjustments, ultimately enhancing patient outcomes and quality of care,” Clifton said.

Furthermore, BOB offers the potential for integration with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices, commonly employed in treating sleep apnea and COPD, to enhance the utilisation of these devices for improved patient outcomes. A related discussion on low-cost CPAP device research can be found here.

Trudy Caljé-van der Klei, another researcher, envisioned broader applications, including the device’s use in intensive care units (ICUs) to aid in decision-making processes. It could assist in determining when mechanically ventilated patients can safely undergo extubation or when care adjustments are warranted, potentially reducing ICU stay durations and associated costs. Currently, clinicians lack the data necessary to make these critical decisions optimally.

They are optimistic that this software can be deployed across various healthcare settings and units. It can also enhance care quality and outcomes for individuals with chronic and acute respiratory conditions while alleviating the burden on an overstressed healthcare system across New Zealand.


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