What are the components of a patient monitoring system?

patient monitoring equipment

Advancements in sensor and interconnect technology have helped enable medical device organizations within the patient monitoring market to innovate and grow.

Though these innovations have made it easier than ever for health care providers to monitor their patients, the patient monitoring devices and equipment themselves are becoming more and more complex.

In this post we’ll provide an overview of patient monitoring systems and discuss the various components of a patient monitoring system.

Recommended: Read more about how ATL can help with your patient monitoring device.



What is a patient monitoring system?

In our blog post about remote patient monitoring, we defined a remote patient monitory system as “any system that enables healthcare providers to monitor a patient’s health outside of the hospital or doctor’s office.”

By broadening this definition, we can define a patient monitoring system as any set of systems and/or process that enable healthcare providers to monitor a patient’s health.

A classic example of a patient monitoring system is an electrocardiography (“ECG”) machine that monitors the electrical activity of the heart.

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Example output of an ECG machine output.

What are some applications of patient monitoring systems?

There are a number of applications where patient monitoring systems are used.

With innovations in wireless, portable, and remote patient monitoring, the variety and type of application is increasing.

For example…

Inside hospital and clinical walls—the historical focal point of patient monitoring innovation—patient monitoring systems are crucial to any surgical operation.

During an operation, the surgeon(s) must have continuous access to a patient’s vital signs to mitigate the risk of something negative happening.

Within an operating room, you will typically find some form of thermometer to track a patient’s temperature, a pulse oximeter to measure oxygen levels, a capnography machine for monitoring CO2 levels, and a sphygmomanometer to measure blood pressure.

After an operation, many of these same monitoring devices are used by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers to ensure that post-operative recovery is going smoothly.

Beyond the clinical setting, remote patient monitoring systems are used in a variety of applications, such as diabetes care.

Glucose monitoring devices have been used outside of the hospital by diabetes patients for years, enabling both the patient and their physician to prevent dangerous health events.

Though this section contains only a few examples of applications where patient monitoring systems are helping healthcare providers and patients improve outcomes, one point should be clear: innovations within the patient monitoring market will continue to drive growth into new applications.


What are the components of a patient monitoring system?

Every patient monitoring system is unique—an ECG is not constructed with the same pieces as a glucose monitor.

There is no regulation that states that every patient monitoring system must have a given number of PCBs, sensors, conductors, etc.

That being said, we group the components of a patient monitoring system into three general categories: the patient monitoring device, the capital equipment, and the software.

The Patient Monitoring Device

Though the term “patient monitoring device” is commonly used to refer to the entire patient monitoring system, for the purposes of this blog post, we’ll use it to describe the piece of the patient monitoring system that makes contact with, or is inserted into, the patient.

In general, the patient monitoring device typically contains a sensor for capturing important patient information (e.g., heart rate) and an interconnect solution (e.g., PCBs, connectors, wiring, etc.) that can transmit the information to the capital equipment.

Using a pulse oximeter as an example, the piece that clips to your finger and senses and transmits your pulse to the capital equipment is an example of the patient monitoring device component.

components-of-a-patient-monitoring-system-pulse-oximeter
Example of a pulse oximeter on the thumb of a patient.

The Capital Equipment

Data collected by the patient monitoring device is useless if it can’t be accessed.

This makes the capital equipment an essential component of a patient monitoring system.

As the patient monitoring device itself collects vital patient data, that data is then sent (sometimes wirelessly) to the capital equipment where it is processed, stored, and displayed.

Most of the capital equipment used in patient monitoring utilize a complex interconnect system of connectors, PCBs, and wire harnesses as well as some type of screen/monitor where the data is shared in a useable format.

Some forms of patient monitoring capital equipment contain a computer with a processor and hard drive.

In essence, the capital equipment is the central point where data from the monitoring device is processed, stored, and output as useful information.

The computer screen that shows the readout of a patient’s ECG P-Wave is an example of the capital equipment used in a patient monitoring system.

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Example of an ECG readout on the capital equipment computer screen.

The Software

Once patient data is communicated from the device to the capital equipment, it must be processed.

Though the hardware that gathers the data is important, the software that makes the data useable is often overlooked in discussions regarding patient monitoring innovations.

The software, after all, is responsible for turning the ones-and-zeroes into a format that healthcare providers can actually understand.

The drivers, applications, and programs that process, store, and visually transform the data are integral parts of any patient monitoring system—a failure or delay within the software of a patient monitoring system can cause confusion and danger to the patient.

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Example of a healthcare provider preparing the computer for an operation.

The challenge of developing patient monitoring devices and equipment.

As you can see from the information above, patient monitoring systems truly live at the intersection of information technology and biomedical sciences.

Developing patient monitoring devices and equipment requires intimate knowledge of sensor technology, interconnect systems, device design, software development, and more.

Will your sensors pick up the information they need to?

Can your interconnect solution collect and transmit data at the rate you require?

Does your software accurately turn that data into useable information?

These are just some of the many points of potential failure that you must consider as you work out your device concept.

For this reason, we recommend speaking with a development and manufacturing partner who has experience in the patient monitoring space before journeying down the pathway alone.


Additional resources.

Innovations within the patient monitoring market are continuing to improve patient outcomes around the globe.

Understanding the general components that comprise a patient monitoring system can put you in a better position to adopt a holistic point of view during the development process.

For more information on how to develop an energy-driven patient monitoring device like those mentioned in this post, please download our ebook:

energy-driven-medical-device-development-ebook