Patients in hospitals all over the world frequently require blood to be drawn to check for the need for transfusions or medications to combat the effects of anaemia. The aim of these blood tests is to measure the levels of haemoglobin in the patient’s blood.
The usual way of gaining this haemoglobin measurement is by inserting a needle or intravenous line to draw a sample of the patient’s blood, which is then sent off to the laboratory for analysis. Whilst the procedure is relatively safe, there is always a risk of infection. With this new smartphone app health professionals and researchers will be able to carry out the same procedure in a non-invasive manner.
Scientists and engineers from the University of Washington have successfully developed the smartphone app, named HemaApp, in order to improve and simplify current anaemia screening procedures. The app, which uses the smartphone’s camera, is described in a recent paper that has received the “Best Paper” award from the Association for Computing Machinery.
The paper describes the initial clinical trial, which included 31 patients who were tested with the smartphone HemaApp and a significantly more expensive, non-invasive medical device named the Masimo Pronto, which is currently approved to measure haemoglobin levels through a sensor clipped to the patient’s finger. In research, the simple, non-expensive app has a number of benefits, including freeing up vital researchers and analysts to carry out other duties. Whilst clinical staffing issues are easily solved by using clinical solutions providers such as http://www.gandlscientific.com/, the speed, ease and accuracy of the app will allow for higher numbers of patients to be analysed, thereby improving the validity and reliability of the research.
The app works by shining the smartphone’s camera light through the patient’s finger. The colour of the patient’s blood is then analysed to allow for the haemoglobin concentration to be estimated. Initial results showed that the app had a 69% correlation to a patient’s Complete Blood Count (CBC) when using just the smartphone’s camera. This improved to 74% when coupled with an incandescent light bulb, and 82% when using a small modification of the smartphone with a small LED light attachment. This latter result is comparable to Masimo Pronto’s 81% correlation to the blood test.