Patient monitoring systems, which check and record various aspects of condition and physiology, are generally bulky, expensive and confined to intensive care units.

All the body sensors are plugged into the equipment, and the patient is immobilised as a result. While this is unimportant in an intensive care unit, any such monitoring can become irksome once that patient is moved to a lower-dependency ward.

But this is precisely where the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has identified that monitoring is lacking.

Two years ago, NICE reported patients — and their families — should feel a hospital was a place of care and comfort, somewhere they would be looked after. Unfortunately, NICE’s evidence pointed to the contrary.

High-frequency observations in ICUs excepted, monitoring tends to be carried out at four or eight-hourly intervals, or in some cases, not at all. Even where readings are taken, the practitioner may not appreciate the significance of the figures.

One of the key areas where monitoring is so important is when a patient is moved from an ICU to a step-down ward.

Without monitoring to identify that the patient has taken a downturn, a return to ICU represents a far higher risk. Not only is that risk one to the patient’s health, it also becomes a healthcare cost.

In the USA, any patient returned to ICU is at the hospital’s expense — the insurers will not accept it. A study there concluded that continuous monitoring of an ICU patient moved to a step-down ward reduced ‘crash-team’ incidents, resulting in a return to ICU, from three per week to zero.

Isansys, based at Milton Park, is just about to launch wireless monitoring systems. These allow not only round the clock surveillance, but recognise the alarm signals and arrange early intervention.

Isansys is pronounced ‘Eye San Sys’. The ‘I’ is from information, ‘San’ is from the Latin word sanitas, health, and ‘sys’ is for system.

Chief executive Keith Errey described the company’s systems as an end-to-end solution, taking readings, transmitting them wirelessly to a database for evaluation and comparison, then onwards to a hospital or GP.

Mr Errey is a physicist who came to Oxford from Australia. Having worked at the Clarendon Laboratory in Oxford, he co-founded Toumaz Technology with Professor Chris Toumazou.

Toumaz specialises in wireless technology. When Toumaz decided to concentrate on the technology rather than applications, Mr Errey effectively spun out Isansys with fellow staff member Rebecca Weir.

Ms Weir trained as a microbiologist, but has particular expertise in trialling medical devices.

The Isansys system is tripartite. It consists of a lightweight sensor worn by the patient that transmits data wirelessly over the Internet to a secure database.

The database not only logs readings, it compares them with both previous readings and normative data. Algorithms in the software recognise warning signals and forward data and alerts to any PC or like device, such as a laptop or iPhone.

The database will recognise the danger of an adverse event hours or even days in advance, leading to immediate action and preservation of life.

Hospitals often have older legacy IT systems, and the Isansys technology has the great advantage that it can be received and read without the need for up-to-the-minute systems and software.

Monitoring a patient involves such vital signs as heartbeat, respiration and blood oxygen levels. Off the shelf technology is available for many of the sensors, but Isansys needed to develop its own heartbeat device.

“What we have is akin to a small ECG device which is mounted on the patient’s chest,” said Ms Weir.

“An ECG gives all kinds of readouts, but there are two really important numbers in an ECG, and our device focuses on those.”

At present, each function needs a separate sensor, but the long-term aim is to combine them all into one.

Hospitals are obvious users of the system, allowing the patient to be anywhere in the building, but there are many other applications.

One is to free bedspace by permitting early release. The patient can then be monitored by either the hospital or GP.

For the US health system, this once again has financial advantages. Any patient recall within 30 days of release is at the hospital’s cost, not the insurers.

Home-based patients, those in care homes, all can go about their normal business but still remain in safe hands.

Trials of the Isansys system are taking place in the north of the Netherlands and more such trials are planned.

The company was formed in 2010 and is privately funded. With the imminent launch and expansion, venture capital will be required, and this has influenced the strategy. UK venture capital organisations usually want technology that is close to market, lowering the risk and giving shorter payback periods.

Isansys has deliberately kept a low profile while it perfects its demonstration system ready for January 2011 and secures patents.

The seven staff are mainly engineers and technicians, including one who previously developed onboard telemetry for Formula 2 single-seaters.

Mr Errey said: “We are really looking forward to introducing the world to a whole new concept in healthcare.”

Name: Isansys Lifecare Established: 2010 Chief executive: Keith Errey Number of staff: Seven Annual turnover: Confidential

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