John Gannon is president and CEO of Blue Spark Technologies, as well as the co-inventor of their flagship medical device TempTraq ®. He is an aerospace engineer by training with additional experience in banking and venture capital. Gannon obtained a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University and a master of business administration from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.
The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly changed many facets of society, including the health care industry. The use of technology increased dramatically and further solidified its place in patient care and clinical trials. While there is still a lot to reconcile regarding the integration of remote health care, the advantages are plenty. One technology that continues to gain momentum as the pandemic approaches endemicity is continuous temperature monitoring via a wireless, Bluetooth-enabled, wearable device.
Fevers got all the attention
A popular screening method for limiting the spread of COVID-19 was identifying people with fevers. Temperature checks were the gatekeeper of many public places as the pandemic forged on, including airports, restaurants, workplaces, hospitals, and schools. Despite the widespread use of this tactic, it was not necessarily effective. In reality, numerous individual factors influence body temperature and not everyone infected with SARS-CoV-2 experiences a temperature spike. This makes one-off temperature readings prone to inaccuracies for COVID-19—and more generally.
Continuous temperature measurements also emerged as a tool to monitor COVID-19-positive individuals recovering at home and to surveil health care workers for signs of infection. This strategy was feasible with advantages over snapshot temperatures but demonstrates that temperature monitoring is most useful when a fever is a universal and sentinel symptom of illness.
The impact of early fever detection
Time is critical when it comes to treating serious side effects related to cancer therapy, including cytokine release syndrome (cytokine storm) or neutropenic fever. In these situations, fever is often an early warning sign that serves as a trigger for further evaluation or intervention. Thus, detecting fevers as early as possible could provide advanced lead time to perform tests and administer appropriate treatments. The benefits of this are obvious––improved patient care and outcomes. Currently, standard routine temperature measurements in the hospital occur at least every four hours. Post-therapy observation using a continuous temperature monitoring device has been shown to surpass the standard of care in both adult and pediatric cancer patients. A majority of fevers are detected significantly earlier––not just by minutes but by hours. This also makes outpatient care more feasible, unlocking additional cost-saving benefits.
Continuous temperature monitoring offers personalized insights
Another promising area of continuous temperature monitoring is the ability to offer more personalized insight into a patient's condition through circadian modeling. There is already some work demonstrating that this technology can detect subtle temperature deviations in a patient's baseline circadian pattern in the hours leading up to a temperature spike. This would enable clinicians to predict a problem well before a temperature rise and provide them with even more advance notice.
With these key advantages, continuous temperature monitoring has the potential to improve the quality of inpatient care and support earlier outpatient care. This value was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, but its applications are far broader. As research into these types of devices continues, we expect to see more widespread adoption and greater sophistication around their use, particularly as a tool for early fever prediction.