Researchers from Penn State https://www.engr.psu.edu and Johns Hopkins University https://www.jhu.edu are developing ways to capture vital signs in patients in resource-constrained environments using a cell phone camera.
Funded by an initial $100,000 pilot grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation https://www.gatesfoundation.org, a cell phone camera along with computer vision techniques are being used to capture patients’ vital signs at a distance of up to four feet away which is the critical distance needed for highly contagious diseases.
The study led by Dr. Conrad Tucker, Associate Professor of Engineering Design and Industrial Engineering at Penn State reports, “The mobile app will register natural head and body movements, distinguish between different skin tones and lighting conditions, plus capture vital signs such as the pulse rate.”
“Our mobile-based application seeks to expand beyond a wellness app classification by the FDA to an FDA-approved tool that can be used by patients and healthcare officials for measuring vitals at a distance and working in varying environments and populations across the globe,” according to Dr. Tucker.
The pilot grant will enable the research team to evaluate the technology in real-world settings using the hardware to manage environmental and societal constraints. The plan for now is to initially test the app for only pulse rates in a real-world situation.
Researchers recently started traveling to India and Sierra Leone to obtain hands-on-experience. The team has tested the app’s functionality on the Xiaomi Redmi 6 and the Samsung Galaxy 17 Prime. These cell phones are typically used in these countries due to their relative affordability and availability in these areas.
Initial findings will be presented to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation early 2019. A return trip to India and Sierra Leone will take place in summer 2019 to collect additional data from the pilots which are expected to be released after the researchers return home.