A team of electrical engineers and computer scientists from the University of Washington have developed a new application that can estimate haemoglobin levels and screen for anaemia using a smartphone camera.
The new HemaApp analyses the colour of a patient’s blood to estimate haemoglobin levels by using algorithms and passing illumination sources from a smartphone's flash, along with other light sources, through the patient's finger.
Using the patient’s pulse, the algorithms can distinguish between the properties of the patient’s blood and the physical characteristics of his or her finger.
The app can be used in place of current haemoglobin measuring procedures such as drawing blood with a needle or intravenous line, or using a specialised machine that measures haemoglobin non-invasively.
However, the researchers noted that it is not intended to replace blood tests, which remain the most accurate way to measure haemoglobin.
Washington Research Foundation Entrepreneurship Endowed professor in computer science and engineering and electrical engineering Shwetak Patel said: “New phones are beginning to have more advanced infrared and multi-colour LED capabilities.
“But what we found is that even if your phone doesn’t have all that, you can put your finger near an external light source like a common lightbulb and boost the accuracy rates.”
HemaApp underwent testing in three different scenarios, including use of the smartphone camera’s flash alone, in combination with a common incandescent lightbulb, and with a low-cost LED lighting attachment.
Image: HemaApp measures haemoglobin levels and screens for anaemia non-invasively by illuminating the patient’s finger with a smartphone’s camera flash. Photo: courtesy of Dennis Wise/University of Washington.