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2 November 2001 News Update


Family doctors could soon monitor the health of their patients without having to see them in person, by using information sent by mobile phone.

Basic results such as heart rate, blood pressure and temperature measurements could be relayed to the surgery instantly, cutting the need for some routine check-ups.

The technology would particularly help people living in remote areas and could, in theory, reduce waiting times for treatment. The health data can be gathered using a small device attached to a belt, then sent using a standard mobile phone to a doctor or consultant hundreds, or even thousands, of kilometres away.

''The system is designed for patients who have a condition that needs monitoring, such as a weak heart,'' said Professor Bryan Woodward, who is leading research at Loughborough University, Leicestershire, English Midlands. ``They would normally have to go to a hospital but for people who live a long way away, in a remote part for instance, this could take hours for what would be a 10-minute appointment.''

Using electrodes, for example, on the patients' chest, the information would be fed into an electronic device in a holster on their belt. The device would then convert this data into an infrared signal which would be transferred by mobile phone to the doctor's computer.

The technology, which is at a prototype stage but could easily be developed, is seen as the latest advancement in tele-medicine. It is also possible that such a system could be used by emergency rescue teams and in sports science to take physiological measurements of athletes while they are training.

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