Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 24-2 - 6

Health Monitoring Systems for
the Elderly During COVID-19
Pandemic: Measurement
Requirements and Challenges
Abdulsalam Yassine

T

he COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionally impacting senior citizens around the world. Indeed, the
higher percentage of death is among people 60 years
and older. In Canada, 50% of the total fatalities are due to multiple COVID-19 outbreaks in senior care facilities. In the wake
of such heart-breaking reality, healthcare officials, industry,
and academics are seeking to develop innovative methods
and policies to protect the elderly in Canadian long-term senior care homes. Consequently, there is a growing interest in
intelligent health monitoring systems that incorporate multiple connected smart devices (e.g., wearable, actuators, sensors,
etc.) to keep track of elderly residents in senior homes continuously. Many experts suggest that such systems provide
cost-effective solutions and superior health monitoring services that could save lives during pandemics. This article
covers the measurement requirements of these systems, the
strength and weaknesses of existing methods, and the open research challenges.

Elderly Care During COVID-19: Current
Problems
As the number of elderly populations in Canada and elsewhere
is increasing, the need for monitoring services to improve the
healthcare of senior citizens becomes a pressing issue around
the world. According to the United Nations, the over-60 age
population will be around 400 million people in industrialized
countries by 2030. Hence, the demand for long-term care facilities is also increasing. For example, Canada needs nearly 200
thousand long-term care beds by 2030 to cope with its elderly
population at the cost of CA$ 220 billion [1]. While the benefits of investing in nursing and retirement facilities outweigh
the price, the COVID-19 crisis has shown that there are severe
deficiencies in such facilities that turned deadly. Data suggest
that Canada has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in
long-term care homes compared to other countries. The main
problems are as follows:
◗◗ Lack of infection measurement, detection, and alert
systems to deal with ailments that could be very risky
to the elderly. The current pandemic shows that many
6	

senior home facilities in Canada do not implement infection control to prevent the spread of viruses among the
seniors.
◗◗ Lack of connected health measurement devices to detect
signs and symptoms of illness and track the well-being
of seniors continuously. For example, several residents at
a Montreal's West Island senior home were found dead,
and others were semi-comatose for days before somebody noticed.
◗◗ Lack of adequate and consistent communication system
for the quick intervention of caregivers, emergency departments, healthcare laboratories, and family members
when positive cases of COVID-19 are discovered.
Recent advancements in miniaturized, low-cost sensors
and actuators, communication and information technology,
data analytics, and artificial intelligence provide indispensable opportunities to build highly sophisticated monitoring
systems for elder care to overcome the problems mentioned
above. Monitoring systems provide unobtrusive real-time
reporting status on the health condition of seniors without disturbing their daily routines. With data analytics and artificial
intelligence mechanisms, a monitoring system can give healthcare personnel and family members insights into the elderly's
person's health through continuous learning and assessment
of the activities of daily living patterns. The system is able to
detect anomalies, make predictions, recommend actions, and
provides safety measures during emergencies. The underlying communication and information technologies make it
possible to collect measurement data and store it in secure databases for further analysis by caregivers, family doctors, and
health authorities. Such a fully functioning monitoring system
provides flexible, accurate, and high-quality healthcare service at a lower cost with minimum errors. The realization of
this system faces several measurement requirements and implementation challenges, including accuracy measurements
of critical physiological parameters, integration of infection
control measurements, interoperability among protocols and
standards for crucial real-time measurement components, security, and privacy measures of personal health information.

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	
1094-6969/21/$25.00©2021IEEE

April 2021



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