In order to have their vital signs continuously monitored, patients in emergency rooms have to be hooked up to a variety of sensors – this makes it awkward for them to move around, among other things. Soon, however, all those machines could be replaced by one small electronic patch that adheres to their chest.

The device was developed by Swiss startup Smartcardia, a company that was spun off from the EPFL research institute.

Applied to a patient's chest under their clothes, the patch uses integrated sensors to monitor stats such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, cardiac rhythm and cardiac electrical activity – it reportedly does so just as accurately as traditional cable-based sensors.

The data is wirelessly transmitted to a server, which doctors can access in real time via a smartphone, tablet, or any internet-connected device.

Along with its use in hospitals, the patch could also allow patients to be remotely monitored while in their homes, going about their daily activities. This would minimize the number of visits that they would need to pay to the hospital just to get checked, while ensuring that any problems got detected right away.

To that end, Smartcardia is also working on an artificial intelligence system that would allow the patch to spot health problems early. It would do so by detecting slight changes in a patient's vital signs and linking them together, to see if the combination corresponded to existing models of serious conditions.

The Smartcardia patch has already been tested on hundreds of patients at several hospitals, and recently received the European Union's CE marking for medical devices. Large-scale production has begun, and a commercial launch for the Swiss and EU markets should reportedly be taking place quite soon.

Sources: EPFL, Smartcardia