'Smart clothes' let patients leave the hospital sooner

Get ready for yet another acronym in healthcare: PPU, short for portable patient unit. That's the name for a device that captures vital signs and other readings from sensors embedded into lightweight clothing, part of a project underway in Greece. With funding from the European Union, researchers at an Athens hospital have developed "smart clothes" with sensors embedded unobtrusively into the fabric that report readings via PPUs and mobile phones to help clinicians track patients at risk due to chronic illness or serious event like a heart attack.

Called HealthWear, the garments include a six-lead EKG, sensors to measure, breathing, pulse, movement and skin temperature. They work with an external oximeter to measure blood oxygen saturation and an accelerometer inside the PPU for measuring body position. A  test of 24 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease showed a nearly 50 percent reduction in length of stay for those outfitted with HealthWear, ScienceDaily reports.

The researchers envision mobile phones serving a PPUs in the future.

For more on this wearable monitoring system:
- see this ScienceDaily story