In the not-too-distant future, when congestive heart failure patients are being released from hospital, they may be given a special toilet seat to take home. That device would measure their vital signs every time they sit on it, sending alerts if more heart trouble was detected.

Developed by a team at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the seat is equipped with an electrocardiogram, ballistocardiogram, and a photoplethysmogram. These allow it measure the patient's heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygenation levels, body weight and stroke volume, which is the amount of blood that the heart pumps out with each beat.

Special algorithms analyze all that data, and determine if the patient's condition is deteriorating – a diagnosis can be made even before the patient develops any noticeable symptoms. Once developed further, the seat would then transmit a notification to the user's physician.

In many cases, it's possible that a visit to the doctor's office is all that would be required, or just a change in medication. This would be less disruptive and much less expensive than a readmission to the hospital, which is currently quite common for recuperating congestive heart failure patients.

"Typically, within 30 days of hospital discharge, 25 percent of patients with congestive heart failure are readmitted," says postdoctoral fellow Nicholas Conn. "After 90 days of hospital discharge, 45 percent of patients are readmitted."

The technology is now being developed by spin-off company Heart Health Intelligence, of which Conn is the CEO.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal mHealth.

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