- As seen in the case of wireless sensors being developed for infants in the NICU, the process of getting new healthcare technology to market can be demanding.
- Researchers are working to prove that the new technology provides the same or better quality of care while enhancing the patient experience.
- The new technology also shows the potential to lower costs by reducing complications in care episodes and allowing clinicians to do their jobs more efficiently.
A Northwestern University interdisciplinary team of engineers, materials scientists, pediatricians and dermatologists has developed wireless sensors to monitor infants’ vital signs in hospital NICUs. Although the sensors show potential to provide the same level of care as the previous standard but in a more efficient way, rolling out new technology in the highly regulated healthcare industry takes substantial time and effort.
“Any technology that offers a new window of safety or an enhancement to an existing technology is something that could improve care,” says Mitchell Goldstein, MD, chair of the Executive Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Advances in Therapeutics and Technology. “But it’s also important for any technology produced to be accompanied by evidence-based solutions.”
Through testing on infants at two of Northwestern Medicine’s Chicago-based facilities, Prentice Women’s Hospital and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, researchers note the sensors' capacity to improve quality of care and control costs.
Collaborating to evaluate new technology
Cross-functional collaboration between researchers and providers is essential to developing devices that ensure the same or better quality of care, testing innovations on human subjects and ensuring proper approvals. All parties adhere to Northwestern’s stringent conflict-of-interest policy.
“In developing this technology, the most important thing that we have done is directly engage with the NICU nurses,” says study researcher Steve Xu, MD, medical director of the Center of Bio-Integrated Electronics at Northwestern, instructor of dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine and dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine. “They’re the ones who truly understand the problem and appreciate what we’re trying to do.”