Systems that monitor vital signs are among the most important tools heath care professionals have at their disposal when looking after a patient. Even small changes to certain vitals can be early warning signs of a problem that can be detected long before any discomfort is felt by the patient. And in cases where patients are unconscious, sleeping or otherwise unable to communicate, vital sign monitoring is even more crucial.

Current systems in place do a good job of monitoring patients’ vitals and alerting medical staff of any abnormalities or causes for concern. But these systems all utilize sensors that require constant and secure physical contact with the patient. Earlier this week, Philips showed off a revolutionary new camera that can monitor certain vitals without touching a patient at all.

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When we think of a patient receiving care in a hospital after surgery or trauma, a vision forms. We envision a hospital bed surrounded by machines with blinking lights and screens full of vital readings. He or she lies in the bed, covered with white sheets, with a mess of wires connecting the patient to machines on either side.

In the near future, that tangled mess of uncomfortable wires that run to potentially unreliable electrodes may be absent from the picture.

Following a study published in this month’s issue of the medical journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, Philips showed off a camera system earlier this week that is capable of monitoring a patient’s absolute oxygen saturation of arterial blood (SpO2) from across the room.

With the patient in frame, the camera can monitor a patient’s pulse constantly and accurately by measuring light reflected off of the forehead. Changes in skin tone that are imperceptible to the human eye offer consistently accurate heart rate readings. A patient’s breathing rate can be measured as well by monitoring body movements that are also practically invisible to the human eye.

While the study published by researchers at Philips covers testing conducted on 41 healthy adults, a video provided by Philips shows the system monitoring the pulse and blood oxygenation of an infant.

“Vital signs monitoring is crucial across all types of care settings, but for patient populations with specific conditions, managing their care in a less intrusive way is critical in order to avoid unnecessary distress,” Philips Patient Care & Monitoring Solutions CEO Carla Kriwet said in a press release. “Contactless monitoring solutions will offer clinicians with a way to accurately measure vital signs for patients in a non-obtrusive way, and provide them with the data needed to know when to intervene.”

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