March 28, 2011
School of Engineering, Amritapuri
In a unique example of cross-continental cooperation, students from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham collaborated with students at University of Texas (UT) at Austin to develop a low-cost RPM (remote patient monitoring) system.
Over the past decade, telemedicine has provided timely health-care benefits to people in remote areas with limited medical facilities. A major hindrance, however, is high infrastructure costs of computing equipment as also that of body function analyzers such as ECG heart rate monitors.
The cross-continental student team took up the challenge of addressing this hindrance. They developed a low-cost biomedical kit that included an electrocardiogram, an oximeter and the means for measuring body temperature.
This kit built in-house, using low-cost materials was tested for safety and meant to work with the OLPC XO Laptop provided by the One Laptop Per Child organization, whose goal is to make available a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop to children of developing countries.
“We devised our kit to be a self-learning and self-monitoring tool,” explained the students. “Awareness of human body functions and the body’s response to external factors such as food and physical activity can help children realize the importance of a healthy lifestyle.”
The four-member student team from UT’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering consisting of Daniel Toshio Harrell, Rick Delhommer, Burton Chen and Issac Sanchez built the ECG kit, with analog hardware to detect ECG waves and measure the body temperature. Designing wooden ladles that would act as electrodes, they took care of the necessary safety precautions for ease of handling by students.
A four-member Amrita student team, consisting of Nevin Alex, Vysakh P, Sandeep Nair and Prithviraj built the Data Acquisition (DAQ) Module which included the USB Plug-in Module with support for five independent analog channels. They also built a Pulse Oximeter Circuit and deployed the needed software for data processing and GUI display in the OLPC-based Linux Reduced Platform Environment.
“The built-in feature of the XO Laptop enables it to communicate with other XO laptops in the vicinity using Wi-Fi protocol,” explained the students. “This facilitates sharing of test data results with multiple clients using browser mode. This allows for participation of a greater number of students who may not all have individual biomedical kits.”
The student project was completed during September 2008 – May 2009. A research paper based on the work, titled Low Cost Remote Patient Monitoring System Based on Reduced Platform Computer Technology was recently accepted for publication in the online journal, Telemedicine and e-Health.
“The work is a very encouraging breakthrough since body measurements can be transported on the computer and sent to any telemedicine unit in the world,” shared Dr. Sundar Gopalan, Chairperson of the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering at Amritapuri, who guided the Amrita students. “I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Dr. Vicki Almstrum from UT, who suggested the project idea and was intrumental in making it happen.”