Future smartphones could aid diagnostics, detect infection

Future smartphones could aid diagnostics, detect infection

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

Most people around the world own a smartphone, including in emerging markets where smartphones already have more added value as they are also used for other needs due to a lack of infrastructure. One example here is banking, which has evolved from physical branches to mobile app based banking, credit cards and store cards. In some emerging markets mobile money has also taken off with mPOS (mobile Point of Sale) and mobile wallets (for example in India, China and Brazil).

As with the advances in banking, mobile phones are ready for the next steps in innovating health care, taking the business case beyond fitness and medical apps. Diagnostics and health monitoring are two future areas that would offer huge benefits to a health care constrained world as populations age and pandemics such as the yearly flu virus and recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) threaten to overwhelm hospitals and care facilities. Further, the economics cost of a pandemic such as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) could be enormous.

To this end LMD, the developer of regulated consumer healthcare products that is backed by major players within the mobile device industry, announces that its e-Checkup™ and V-Sensor technology is at an advanced stage of development and being trialled by phone companies in parallel with preparations for regulatory approval. The first medical device integrated into a smartphone that can measure five vital signs to medical accuracy, the company’s V-Sensor and e-Checkup app measures body temperature in around 10  seconds. 

Health and Pandemics

Following the cancellation of various international events, including Mobile World Congress, amid concerns over the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), how appropriate that one of the latest technologies in the fight against infectious diseases will soon be available on a smartphone.  

Global travel has led to rapid country-to-country spread of this latest virus and the need for accurate and rapid detection to minimize and contain the threat is on the top of every government’s agenda.  Mass screening is in place at many major airports inside and outside China to detect individuals who have a high temperature, a primary symptom. Today, thermal cameras enable observers to identify visually which people are hotter than others and need to be individually tested. This method demands the installation of devices and operators, backed up by medical personnel with thermometers. It’s a huge logistical and budgetary headache, causes queues and is time-consuming. How much easier would it be if each person’s temperature could be read with medical accuracy using only a smartphone?

Using only an e-Checkup-enabled smartphone, which has a thermopile built into its V-Sensor, a body temperature reading can be obtained in seconds with quick scan over the forehead.  The accurate temperature result shows on the phone screen, no body contact is necessary; it’s a quick, one-stage process. Individuals can easily check their own temperature as well as that of others and self-quarantine if it is too high, keeping them away from the hospital or doctor’s surgery. With an e-Checkup-enabled phone, and a medically accurate temperature measurement no matter where the person may be at the time, he or she can simply call a physician or helpline for advice, a vital means of infection control. In addition to body temperature, the V-Sensor and e-Checkup app can also measure blood pressure (cuffless and calibration-free), blood oxygen level, pulse rate and respiration rate. 

Easing the burden on healthcare

Healthcare worldwide is expensive, and hospitalisation is a key issue due to cost, lack of beds, and the spread of infection due to viruses such as Nora virus and flu, as well as bacteria such as MRSA. Such infections are often life threatening to patients that are already vulnerable due to a weakened immune system. Keeping hospitals clean and free of disease is also a challenge, even in countries with advanced healthcare facilities. In countries with minimal infrastructure, this is even more difficult. The burden on doctors due to sheer numbers of patients is also a major issue for surgeries, with the doctor’s work load becoming more and more critical.

Personal health monitoring can reduce consultations and care time required as patients will be able to self monitor their health. For example, blood pressure is a huge problem that with the V-Sensor and e-Checkup app enables patients, to firstly realise they have a problem, and then to monitor the situation regularly without having to go to the doctor each time. This would free up nursing staff and doctors to focus on other tasks. Similarly, blood oxygen level could be critical for asthmatics and patients with respiratory problems, another large problem afflicting many people.

The key to personal health monitoring is a sensor built into a smartphone that can provide medical grade measurements (such as the V-Sensor and e-Checkup app). By building the sensors into the smartphone, users do not need to have accessories or wearables to monitor their condition, as most of us always have a smartphone at hand. The data from the sensors could enable a variety of health apps that could present the data and send it if needed to a medical professional. Such apps could also offer advice and explain the parameters of the data, for example, whether the results are normal, elevated or critical.

With the rollout of 5G, the concept of virtual consultations by nurses, doctors and specialist has been touted as a future path to reducing the costs of healthcare. Such consultations would also be critical in dealing with viral outbreaks such as SARs, MERS and the latest Coronavirus, COVID-19. The smartphone would enable doctors to look at measurements taken on a patients smartphone from their phone or at an airport remotely. Not only would this minimise contact but patients would be able to carry out medical screening before leaving for the airport. Consultations could also be done remotely in normal times by doctors, thereby cutting down on patients coming to a doctor with flu or Norovirus, which are highly contagious and problematic for health services.

Mark-Eric Jones, CEO, comments: “e-Checkup is designed to meet all of the stringent requirements of NMPA as well as FDA and CE for safety, accuracy and reliability – no one is helped by an unreliable solution that has not been certified by regulators. The answer to better daily personal health monitoring, as well as during periods of widespread health concern such as the current Coronavirus outbreak, is about to be put into our hands, built into the smartphones we already carry every day.”

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