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2/23/2006
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Wearable Tech Is Alive And Well

Sensors in a body-hugging shirt send biometric data to health care professionals.

Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. Soon, many could wear their heartbeat, blood pressure, and dozens of other vital signs there, too.

VivoMetrics has developed the LifeShirt, which contains tiny sensors that let health-care providers remotely monitor 30 biometric readings of chronically ill, elderly, cardiac, and other patients with potentially life-threatening conditions.

Is your heart racing, your pulse pounding?

Is your heart racing, your pulse pounding?
"The idea is to provide early identification of potential problems," says Luis Taveras, a partner in Accenture's health and life sciences group. In its technology labs, Accenture is working with the shirt to see how it can be improved for more mainstream uses in health care, including remote monitoring services that health insurers might be willing to reimburse doctors for providing to their patients.

LifeShirt, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical use in 2002, has been tested and evaluated in dozens of pilot programs by more than 100 pharmaceutical makers, medical researchers, universities, and health-care providers, says Elizabeth Gravatte, VivoMetrics' VP of sales and marketing.

It's also being used by health maintenance organization Kaiser Permanente to study children with sleep disorders, such as apnea. Instead of having the patients stay overnight in a clinical sleep lab, Kaiser Permanente monitors the children while they sleep in their homes.

Some pharmaceutical companies are using the machine-washable spandex shirt-- which clings snugly to the body--to monitor patients participating in new drug trials, she says. This helps reduce the time and costs of conducting trials, she says.

The data is collected on flash card memory, which can be sent to a VivoMetrics data center or to researchers or clinicians for less urgent analysis. Data also can be sent to a secure Wi-Fi device, Gravatte says, and transmitted via the Web for real-time remote patient monitoring.

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