A European ICT for Health project aims to improve the quality of life of patients with chronic liver disease, by developing a remote support system to monitor their condition at home.
Some 29 million Europeans suffer from chronic liver disease. It is one of the most common causes of death in the EU and doctors believe that tens of thousands of early deaths could be avoided with the right healthcare once the condition is diagnosed.
The D-LIVER project aims to help patients with advanced liver disease, many on long waiting lists for transplants, by saving them painstaking regular trips to hospital for tests and appointments with consultants. It is developing an ICT-enabled remote support system for the patients to use in their homes. The D-LIVER system will allow them to test for a variety of biochemical and physical parameters fundamental to understanding their well-being and needs in real time.
One of the aims of D-LIVER is to hand back control to the patient. By developing the home monitoring and support system, connected to a central liver patient management system at the hospital, the project focuses on improving quality of life for patients at an advanced stage of the disease. Such patients might be waiting for a transplant; they may have undergone liver resection, where the remaining organ is undergoing regeneration; or they may have unstable advanced disease, prone to episodes of deterioration.
Using the system developed by d-LIVER, the patient inserts a 3cm x 3cm plastic chip into a measurement instrument and then simply has to prick a finger and squeeze a drop of blood which, when presented to the cartridge opening, will be immediately drawn into the system. The test results are carried out automatically and the results of the various parameters (sodium, potassium, creatinine, bilirubin, albumin and blood clotting time) become available within a few minutes.
D-LIVER has also created a wearable device to allow continuous monitoring of physiological parameters such as heart rate, temperature, activity, posture and changes in blood pressure. And it has a cognitive test on a tablet computer to measure concentration and brain function, since high liver toxicity often leads to a state of mental confusion (encephalopathy).
These tests can be performed as often as required, daily or weekly, and the results are available not just to the patient at home, but also the clinician monitoring the patient from the hospital.
As D-LIVER coordinator Prof Calum McNeil, of Newcastle University, explained: ‘The platform is generic. Once we get over the technological hurdles, it could be applied to all sorts of other disease conditions: e.g. management of cardiovascular, renal, neurological and inflammatory diseases.’