The importance of remote vital sign monitoring for the education sector amid COVID-19

How contactless tech can provide readings around oxygen saturation, heart rate and respiration to help identify those experiencing coronavirus symptoms

As cases of COVID-19 spike, so do the number of issues that arise. When it comes to education, some academic institutions have previously been left unprepared and even responded in ways that raised concerns among both students and parents alike. In one case, students who were ill were placed into quarantined dorms with no support, including a lack of stocked hygiene products and no contact with any on-site caregivers. Other institutions elected to lockdown campuses in precaution, such as Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), confining 1,700 students to housing for 14 days last year, regardless of whether or not they had symptoms related to the virus.

The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to put pressure on academia, from charging additional COVID-19 fees for the price of testing and contact tracing, to programme cancellations and significant declines in donations. The result has left some colleges questioning whether they will go bankrupt. While the initial response from institutions has left significant room for improvement, they now have the hindsight to better prepare for the future.

Experts tracking COVID-19 on college campuses have noticed three common factors among schools that have had relative success at keeping the virus at bay:

  1.  controlled foot traffic to and from campus
  2. a comprehensive testing regime
  3. a strong sense of community that encourages students to follow guidelines

One tool that can be added to academia’s belt for preventing more students from contracting the virus is remote COVID-19-related vital signs monitoring. Providing a full view of vitals vs temperature check alone is critical in elevating protection throughout the campus, as temperature reading is not enough to indicate the potential of having the virus.

“The goal of adopting remote health monitoring technology is to allow for accurate readings with minimum disruption”

Remote monitoring  

Remote vital sign monitoring can allow for more efficient and credible safety protocols by placing the technology at the fingertips of students and faculty. Leveraging wellness technology that can measure vital signs such as heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, oxygen saturation, mental stress and other basic functions of the body, in real-time via an app or browser, would allow a facility to monitor critical data related to the health of those entering buildings, and furthermore improve the ability to control the spread of transmission. Educational organisations can provide these applications campus-wide for immediate use, with the improved confidence that everyone’s health will be accounted for in real-time to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

The goal of adopting remote health monitoring technology is to allow for accurate readings with minimum disruption. Virtually every student and professor has a smart device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and remote vital sign monitoring apps can be easily and instantly accessed from one’s device. With completely contactless technology, there’s no requirement for wearables or attachments, such as finger clips, watches or cuffs, and vitals are read within minutes, saving time between classes. These types of technology also have the ability to align with the diversity of many academic institutions, working on any skin tone, age or gender.

Moving forward

Looking ahead, it will be important for institutions to take lessons from the sector’s response, making sure to update policies and procedures, and improving upon current quarantine and isolation plans. Campuses that can quickly and seamlessly incorporate available tools and technologies, like remote vital sign monitoring, will not only be among the safest, but are likely to be coveted havens as students head back to class.

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