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Neonatal Vital Signs Monitoring

Team Members:
  • Wes Bernier
  • Allie Sibole
  • Melody Tan
  • Jackie Wanjala
  • Azadeh Farzin, MD
  • Kusum Thapa, MD
  • Neena Khadka, MD
  • Lindsay Litwin
  • Kristy Peterson


In overcrowded neonatal care units where each caregiver is responsible for many babies, there is a serious risk of neonatal distress going unnoticed. Traditional newborn vital sign monitors can alert providers to subtle indications of illness but are too expensive for hospitals in low-resource settings and ineffective in understaffed facilities. We observed this problem firsthand in Nepal and Indonesia and identified a need for caregivers in neonatal units to be able to tell when babies are experiencing vital sign abnormalities in order to know when they are in need of immediate intervention.

As a team of master’s students at the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design, we are in the process of developing a newborn vital signs monitor for low-resource settings. Our system has three components:

  1. Wearable vital signs sensors to measure heart and respiratory rate, with potential to add temperature and oxygen saturation monitoring in the future. These sensors are designed to have minimal contact with the baby in order to protect their fragile skin.
  2. A centralized interface tablet that receives wireless signal from the sensors and displays the vital signs of all the babies in the unit. The centralized interface design would be more affordable than individual patient monitors.
  3. A paging system to alert caregivers when a baby is in need of immediate attention. From our field observations, we observed that nurses are not always present in the unit. This alert system will enable providers to know if a baby is experiencing distress even if they are not within audible range of the alarm.

We believe that this system will enable earlier detection of neonatal distress, leading to earlier, more effective interventions and alleviating the burden on overworked caregivers.

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