For this auspicious Arduino Day celebration, I dedicate the services of the Arduino to the doctors who are treating Covid-19 patients.

IDEA

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to its knees. The only reason is the highly contagious nature of the virus. Healthcare systems worldwide are not competent enough to deal with this due to several reasons like-

- Lack of equipment

- Lack of doctors

- Lack of protective equipment

Our last line of defence - the doctors, put in every effort to treat their patients. However, more often than not they contract this deadly disease in the bargain. Their exists no method to directly treat patients without coming in contact with them even for the treatment of coronavirus, which is not very complicated except in extreme cases. The key interactions of the medical staff with the patients include -

- Cleaning of wards

- Giving food and medicines

- Body temperature monitoring

- Collecting blood samples

- Giving instructions

- Essential equipment monitoring

While solutions to the first two problems exist already as hospitals at many places have incorporated ground robots for this task. Taking temperature samples can easily be done by medical staff from a safe distance and there is no scope for innovation on that front.

No viable solutions exist for the other three problems, which is why everyday hundreds of doctors are getting affected. In areas where the number of doctors is less, this is a really serious issue. Due to the multitudes of patients turning up at hospitals, doctors are being forced to work overtime which is extremely stressful for them. Cases of suicide by such doctors have been reported.

 

Solution to problems mentioned

I propose a connected hospital consisting of nodes in the form of patient beds that are able to log and control essential equipment data, collect blood samples, monitor patient health and raise alarms when necessary. The beds would form a BLE mesh network and connect to a central station that would send notifications to medical staff across a network of connected wards in various hospitals.

The beds would be equipped with microphones and speakers for the doctor-patient interaction. They would have a panel of buttons for the patients to ask for certain essentials like food or water. The panel would also include a button for  summoning hospital staff in case of an emergency. There would be a provision for the monitoring essential devices like the ventilator, the ECG, the EKG etc. The data from all these devices would be sent to the central station where it would be analysed and if a problem arises the central system publishes the anomaly along with the patient number through a gateway to the cloud. Once online, the data is used by a web service to send important notifications to the doctor incharge. The doctor may then take preventive measures autonomously by changing settings on the life-support devices. If the assigned doctor is not available, the web service automatically sends notifications to doctors connected to the network who can then volunteer and take life-saving decisions, everything autonomously.

This might sound far-fetched but the impact such a system can have is enormous. A web application would enable the doctors full control over life-support devices of the patient. The data can be collected on demand and collected for medical research.

For developed hospitals with a WiFi connection, the patient logs can be directly stored on a central database which can be used later. For hospitals in underdeveloped areas this data may be stored on an SD card and then checked from time to time by hospital staff manually.

The beds would also have a provision for the attachment of a non-intrusive sample collector and drug injector that has to be installed manually but can be operated remotely by means of robotic arms controlled by servo motors. This would definitely  improve the condition of medical staff, keeping them safe, reducing their workload, allowing real-time monitoring, allowing control of life support devices remotely and saving many unnecessarily lost lives by taking quick decisions remotely.

 

THE PLAN

I made nodes based on the Arduino Nano BLE boards. The node have connectors for inputs from various life-support devices. A robotic arm with 6DOF from a previous project serves for control of  sample collector and injector devices. The central station would be made from an ESP32 dev kit and would communicate with the nodes with another BLE board.

Patient logs are stored in an SD card interfaced with the ESP32. A sensor shield serves as a temperature and humidity controller and opens and closes windows automatically.

The data sent to the central station is monitored  and analysed based on predefined parameters on a per patient basis. If an anomaly is found, the concerned medical staff is immediately informed and the doctor takes control of life-support equipment. If any instruction is to be given, the doctor speaks to the patient through a speaker on the bed. The sounds are programmed onto the JQV-500 audio board using over the air(OTA) update feature of the BLE boards. Even recorded information can be played at a time as determined by the doctor allowing interaction without actually going close to the patient.

The patient keypad was made out of an outdated Nokia phone keypad.  Certain instructions to the hospital staff with the help of a panel of buttons with pre-defined functions were modelled. An alert button is also present for the patient to call out for help. These functions are implemented as interrupts in the control station code.

I made an app on the MIT App inventor and made a panel with which the patient condition can be monitored. The panel also serves as a control panel for the life support devices. I connected the app with a webservice written on NodeRed. The application listens for error messages and notifies the concerned doctor with the patient ID and abnormal parameter. The doctor's copy of the app then communicates with the service to perform the desired function on the life-support devices.