[Worcester, US/ Medicine] - A team of biomedical engineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the US has developed a smart phone application that can measure not only heart rate, but also heart rhythm, respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation using the phone′s built-in video camera.
The application analyses video clips recorded while the patient′s fingertip is pressed against the lens of the phone′s camera. As the camera′s light penetrates the skin, it reflects off of pulsing blood in the finger. The application is able to correlate subtle shifts in the colour of the reflected light with changes in the patient′s vital signs. To test for accuracy, the system was compared with standard monitoring devices now in clinical use, such as respiration belts, ECGs, and pulse-oximeters. The new smart phone monitor was found to be as accurate as the traditional devices. The application is now in the final development and clinical testing phase and is not yet available for the public. Details have been published online in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.
"This gives a patient the ability to carry an accurate physiological monitor anywhere, without additional hardware beyond what′s already included in many consumer mobile phones," the authors write. "One of the advantages of mobile phone monitoring is that it allows patients to make baseline measurements at any time, building a database that could allow for improved detection of disease states."
Team leader Professor Ki Chon, head of biomedical engineering at WPI, believes the smart-phone app could also be used to detect atrial fibrillation (AF), which is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia. "We are building that application now, and we have started a preliminary clinical study with colleagues at UMass Medical School to use the smart phone to detect AF," Chon said.
Chon and colleagues are also developing a version of the monitoring app for use on video-equipped tablets like the iPad. A patent application for the technology has been filed. "Imagine a technician in a nursing home who is able to go into a patient′s room, place the patient′s finger on the camera of a tablet, and in that one step capture all their vital signs," Chon said. "We believe there are many applications for this technology, to help patients monitor themselves, and to help clinicians care for their patients." [hw]