Made-in-Singapore device costs $600 but can be rented for $15 a day from some clinics. LEE HUI CHIEH reports
When Ms Choo Hooi Yee’s younger son was running a fever at home about a month ago, she knew exactly what his temperature was at any time – even though she was at work. Ms Choo, 33, a software consultant, was able to check the temperature of her 20-month-old son, Gan Zhen Rong, on a website. All she needed at home was a new, made-in-Singapore temperature-tracking device and a broadband Internet service.
The device has two components: a round sensor, about the size of a 50-cent coin; and a receiver, a palm-sized plastic box. The sensor, which is pasted like a sticker onto the patient’s abdomen, measures the temperature at regular intervals. It transmits this data wirelessly to the receiver, which is linked to the cable modem router. The data is then transmitted via the Internet to a central server that uploads it onto a website.
Family members can log on to the website with their mobile phones or laptops to check the patient’s latest temperature. They can also programme the system to send a text message to their mobile phones if the temperature breaches a certain level, say, 38 deg C. It alerts parents that a child may need medical attention and is especially useful when a child has more serious conditions such as dengue fever or hand, foot and mouth disease, said Dr Lim Soh Min.
An alarm for high temperature
Dr Lim, 39, is one of the four researchers who developed the system and set up the company that makes it, Cadi Scientific. She now serves as its director and chief marketing officer. The company is funded by the National University of Singapore’s entrepreneurial arm NUS Enterprise and Singapore-based medical device distributor Whiterock Medical.
The text message service also alerts parents to get caregivers at home to give a sick child fever medication or to sponge him with a wet towel, Dr Lim said. Parents can also sleep better at night without having to wake up frequently to check on the child. That is because they know that their mobile phones will beep if the temperature becomes too high, she added. The system was adapted from one that the company developed for hospitals.
This is now being used at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The system has also been used or is being used in trials at Singapore General Hospital, National University Hospital, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and six other hospitals in Asia. Studies at these hospitals have found that the accuracy of the sensor is comparable to that of conventional thermometers, said Dr Lim.
The device has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and has received the European Union’s CE mark of quality assurance. The device, available since last month, costs $600. This includes 100 text message alerts to a mobile phone. Subsequent text messages can be bought at a fee of $10 for 50 messages. Alternatively, the device can be rented for $15 a day (which includes all text messages) from participating general practitioners and paediatricians. For a listing of the clinics, visit www.smartsensehome.com.
Dr Wong Chin Khoon, a paediatrician at a Tiong Bahru clinic which is offering the device, said its feature of plotting a temperature graph is useful for doctors who want to chart fever patterns. The charts can help doctors to diagnose and treat patients. The device also eases the anxiety of parents, especially if their children have complications like fits and need close monitoring, added Dr Wong, who has tried the device on his eight-year-old daughter when she had a fever last month.
Ms Choo rented the device from a paediatrician in Woodlands near her home for the three days that Zhen Rong had a fever, as she feared that he might have fits like her older son, Zhen Kang, aged 3 1/2. While she and her husband, project engineer Albert Gan, 34, were at work, Mr Gan’s parents took care of the two boys. She said: “I’m a working mother, so it was convenient that I could check my son’s temperature on my mobile phone, without having to bother my parents-in-law. “I didn’t have to wake up every hour at night to check on my son. It was comforting to know that he was being constantly monitored by the system.”