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A wearable sticker-like sensor that reads vital signs instantly could help save lives in nursing homes and on outdoor work sites as global temperatures rise. The Australian-designed device uses electronic microsensors to measure a patient’s critical signs, including their hydration level, and will be launched on Friday morning. The sensor’s inventor and ANU professor Mark Kendall said hydration is an important and overlooked factor in aged care settings. “Multitudes of studies show that 20 per cent of things that go wrong for people in aged care settings are directly attributable to their hydration levels being poorly managed,” he said. “We might think, ‘What’s the big deal? Have a glass of water.’ But as we get older our ability to know when we’re dehydrated, those receptors get weaker and weaker. That drops off, and becomes another thing people providing care have to respond to.” Professor Kendall said the device would improve systems “from a different century” still used to measure patients’ hydration levels. “We use little colour charts on the walls of toilets – people are asked to inspect the colour of their urine. We use a pinch test. People get weighed before and after [urinating]. These are poorly managed approaches not in step with the technology available today.” MORE CANBERRA NEWS The microsensor was developed by health technology company WearOptimo in partnership with the ANU and distributor Aspen Medical, which intend to market the device in tropical climates and on mining sites, where people are at a higher risk of dehydration and heat stress. An International Labour Organization report last year linked global warming to losses in productivity equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs worldwide due to heat stress. Professor Kendall said the microsensor device represented a strategic step forward in the growing category of personalised health technology, like smartwatches, which was important for workers on mining and construction sites in warm climates. “The microsensor gains access to all manner of signals today that today’s wearables, which are essentially toys, cannot do,” he said. “The way we do that is these microstructure go within a hair’s breadth of the skin to gain access to signals.” ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt said partnerships between universities and innovative companies had never been more vital. “As we look to rebuild Australia after the COVID-19 pandemic, we need sovereign capability to drive innovation in manufacturing, including in med-tech,” he said. “This partnership between WearOptimo and Aspen Medical will do just that. It will see two Australian-based companies playing a leading global role in the future of health, while improving the lives of millions of Australians and people all over the globe.”

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