MIT developed ‘Emerald’ could monitor COVID-19 patients from a distance

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A clinical team based off in Boston reported that a device developed at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) can monitor a patient’s breathing, movement and sleep patterns using wireless signals.

The CSAIL team is calling the device “Emerald” and it has been used in multiple hospitals and is currently being used for monitoring a COVID-19 patient at Heritage Assisted Living in the Boston suburb of Framingham.

The CSAIL team is headed by MIT professor Dina Katabi. The Emerald is a Wi-Fi like a box that has the ability to analyze the wireless signals found in an environment and can infer a patient’s vital signs from it using AI.

The one machine at Heritage monitor’s the patient’s vitals non-invasively and sends the data directly to her doctor, Dr. Vahia. The doctor, in turn, can check up on the patient’s vitals and progress without even stepping foot inside the patient’s room.

“When doctors have to interact directly with patients to conduct exams or monitor vital signs, each step along the way represents an increased risk that they will get infected,” says Vahia, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Given how Emerald can generate important health data without any patient contact, it could minimize the risk that doctors and nurses will catch the disease from their patients.”

COVID-19 is, of course, challenging for Katabi and her team because most of the patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus already have other diseases. “It’s clear that, with these high-risk elderly patients, they would greatly benefit from us being able to passively gather medical data overtime when it is not possible to interface with each person directly,” says William McGrory, who oversees mental health services for Heritage Assisted Living.

Heritage is also looking into using Emerald for monitoring other issues as well, such as dementia, insomnia to name a few.

Katabi pointed out that at a crisis like this Emerald could come off as huge help, and it can somewhat solve some of the problems that the hospitals are facing such as overcrowding. With the help of this machine, doctors can monitor the less critical patients from their homes while being able to respond quickly if things worsen. Dr. Vahia said something similar, “Even in just the last few weeks, there’s been a newfound urgency about developing remote-sensing technologies like Emerald that can help doctors do their jobs as safely as possible.”

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