Leading-Edge Camera Technology Helps Northwestern Medicine Solve Covid-19 Care Challenges

 

Thermal cameras and remote monitoring offered through a partnership with Artisight push boundaries in care during the global pandemic and beyond.

 

When COVID-19 began to spread across the U.S., healthcare providers were challenged to create nimble solutions to problems like bed shortages, workflow issues and limited personal protective equipment (PPE) in the interest of saving lives and protecting staff. For Northwestern Medicine, a deeply rooted partnership with Artisight — a smart sensor network and computer vision provider founded by Northwestern Medicine physician Andrew L. Gostine, MD — allowed the quick adaption of two types of leading-edge camera technologies to improve patient care during a global pandemic.

Thermal Technology Enhances Screening

Protecting patients, visitors and staff from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 remains a No. 1 priority for Northwestern Medicine. While screening for fevers upon entry is a necessary safety measure, doing so manually causes delays and congestion at entrances. In addition, handheld thermometers vary in accuracy. Together with Artisight, Northwestern Medicine looked to thermal cameras to solve this problem.

Within three weeks of realizing the challenges to screening so many individuals, 30 hospital-grade thermal cameras were installed at various entrances to Northwestern Medicine buildings. The cameras are compliant with privacy laws. Capable of monitoring thousands of people per hour, they provide the temperature data of each person via tablets operated by greeters. If a temperature over 100 F is detected, the potentially sick individual is respectfully approached and denied entrance or, in the case of a patient, separated from other visitors and safely moved to the destination. This passive technology has helped Northwestern Medicine operate more efficiently and carefully during a time when all resources must be directed toward saving lives.

Remote Monitoring Cameras Protect Patients and Staff

As COVID-19 hospitalizations surged in April 2020, Northwestern Medicine faced another challenge: safely and effectively caring for patients in rooms not typically used for intensive care but repurposed for it due to the influx of individuals admitted. Because these rooms often lack windows, medical staff must enter them more frequently, putting them at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 and requiring additional use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Northwestern Medicine again looked to Artisight for a solution that would protect both patients and staff while limiting unnecessary exposure. Smart cameras were installed in rooms that lacked viewing access through windows, enabling clinicians to remotely check in on patients and avoid nonessential room entry. The cameras feature a pan-tilt zoom that lets clinicians monitor both patients and ventilators, which require continual observation.
 
While the remote monitoring systems were installed to mitigate COVID-19-specific challenges, Northwestern Medicine is pursuing layering digital algorithms onto computer vision to automate other manual processes. In the future, remote monitoring could be used to observe patient movement, which could help prevent falls and pressure injuries; conduct hand hygiene audits; and keep track of patient food, drink and medicine intake.

Partnering for Innovation

Niche collaborations with tech startups are the driving force behind the healthcare solutions that change the way care is delivered. Northwestern Medicine’s relationship with Artisight provided timely, innovative answers to many challenges that arose during COVID-19 as part of the continuous pursuit of world-class care.