A team led by Ki Chon, professor and head of biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), 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 new app yields 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; the application is able to correlate subtle shifts in the color of the reflected light with changes in the patient's vital signs.
To test for accuracy, volunteers at WPI donned the standard monitoring devices now in clinical use for measuring respiration, pulse rate, heart rhythm, and blood oxygen content. Simultaneously, the volunteers pressed a finger onto the camera of a Motorola Droid phone. While all devices were recording, the volunteers went through a series of breathing exercises while their vital signs were captured.
Chon and colleagues are also at work developing a version of the mobile monitoring technology for use on video-equipped tablets like the iPad.
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