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Vigil and Plunket team up to promote child health

20 June 2013

Vigil and Plunket team up to promote child health

The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society (Inc.) is collaborating with Sir Ray Avery’s Vigil Wireless Sensor Technology to investigate the opportunity to develop a world first, secure, cloud-based neonatal monitoring system.

“This has the potential to further enhance New Zealand’s child health service outcomes and make us the global leader in ensuring that the best possible level of care and support is available, particularly for our most vulnerable babies, during their early, critical stages of development,” says Sir Ray Avery.

It is hoped that the proposed system will be developed by Vigil, with help from Plunket, over the next 18 months, following the completion of a feasibility study later this year.

Plunket will be working with Vigil over the coming months to consider how this new technology could potentially be utilised in the future, in conjunction with its existing child health service delivery in local communities. It would also be applied to improving health outcomes for children and their families.

The system is likely to include a baby monitor with a high-resolution camera, and an anklet or armband that measures an infant’s heart rate, body temperature and movement. The measurement of this biometric information will be wirelessly streamed to Vigil’s secure cloud platform where trend analysis is performed and, if necessary, actionable alerts can then be sent to parents and caregivers, and clinicians for follow-up.

In conjunction with other current Plunket technology developments, it is hoped that a baby’s biometric trends and alerts will also be able to be accessed remotely in the future, in real time, by parents, caregivers, GPs and other health specialists, potentially from any location, anywhere in the world, via a smartphone or tablet app.

“In simple terms we’re hoping to develop a system where New Zealand mums and dads will effectively have a ‘guardian angel’ monitoring their baby 24-hours-a-day, giving caregivers absolute peace of mind”, explains Avery.

“There’s still a lot of testing and development work to be done, but we anticipate that the future use of this new technology has the potential to contribute positively to improving both safety and healthcare outcomes across a broad range of health and wellness settings. The biometric data captured by Vigil’s monitoring system could be added to electronic health records, providing clinicians, paediatricians and other medical practitioners with valuable tools for preventative healthcare treatments”, says Avery.

Plunket CEO Jenny Prince agrees that the possibilities for integrating the potential capabilities of this new system with Plunket’s traditional child health service delivery could offer significant benefits to parents and caregivers of babies and infants.

“Plunket already provides 24/7 care and support nationwide courtesy of PlunketLine. We’re also currently undertaking a significant upgrade of our customer information systems that will see all of our frontline staff – Plunket Nurses, Community Karitane and Plunket Kaiawhina – equipped with mobile tablets by 2015, providing secure, real-time access to electronic health records for clinicians.”

“Plunket sees more than 92% of all newborn babies in New Zealand and the possible development of this new system has the potential to provide even greater peace of mind for parents and caregivers, helping us all to keep on growing great Kiwi kids”, says Prince.

There is a burgeoning interest in this type of technology in the global international healthcare market and Vigil is investing heavily in its own sensor technology, secure cloud development platform and the acquisition of biosensors to monitor a range of clinical conditions.

This ‘lean, disruptive’ technology was originally developed for the low-cost infant incubators designed by Sir Ray Avery for use in developing countries.

“The technology was developed to give low birth weight infants in developing countries a chance at life. Now, by collaborating with organisations like Plunket to investigate its future potential locally, we hope to be able to develop a system that can be used here at home to help ensure the health and well-being of New Zealand’s most precious commodity, our children”, Avery said.


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