App turns smartphone into medical monitor

Oct. 6, 2011 at 6:51 PM
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WORCESTER, Mass., Oct. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they're working on turning smartphones into sophisticated medical monitors able to capture and transmit vital physiological data.

A team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts has developed a smartphone 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, a WPI release Wednesday.

Researchers said the app could provide vital signs as accurate as standard medical monitors now in clinical use.

The application analyzes 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 -- and the application is able to correlate subtle shifts in the color of the reflected light with changes in the patient's vital signs.

Research leader Ki Chon and his colleagues say they're working on developing a version of the mobile monitoring technology for use on video-equipped tablets like the iPad.

"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.

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