A group of faculty and students at BITS Pilani Hyderabad campus has developed a low-cost ECG monitor and a few other portable medical devices that could be connected to cell phones to transmit data and images.

The ability of these devices to interface with cell phones facilitates direct transmission of vital signs of a patient from a remote place to a doctor in the city or town in an emergency. On the latter’s advice, the patient could be shifted to a hospital and treatment within the ‘golden hour’ could be ensured, said B.M. Srinivas, Professor and group leader of the Tele-Healthcare project, which developed the devices at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad Campus.

Besides an ECG monitor, a pulse oxymeter to measure blood pressure and oxygen saturation and a pulse rate monitor has been designed and developed by the group. They also developed an application on a tablet that enables continuous monitoring of pregnant women.

This would come in handy for health workers, especially in villages to keep a tab on the condition of those in the family way.

Dr. Srinivas said that the ECG monitor developed by them would cost one-half to one-third of those available in the market. “This is a very basic type but provides flexibility in terms of hardware and software so that the user can customise it to suit specific needs,” he added.

There would be three models - the basic one could be worn for self-monitoring, while the second model has interface with a cell phone/ tablet for storing data to enable subsequent consultation of doctor.

In the third type, data/images could be transmitted to a doctor’s cell phone from remote places in emergencies.

He said that realising the importance and potential of tele-healthcare in the country, the Department of Biotechnology has recently established a Technology Business Incubator at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad campus to commercialise the products being developed and designed by the group.

“Potential entrepreneurs can use the facility to commercialise the devices with the transfer of technology from us,” he added. The biggest advantage of the products being developed by them was that they have an open architecture unlike the proprietary format of those manufactured by companies.