23 September 2019

A new smartphone app can screen for anaemia non-invasively


It may sound like something from a science fiction film but there is a new app which can scan patients for anaemia. Scientists have come up with a way to check for signs of the condition without taking blood.

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No needles and fewer infections

A team of researchers at the University of Washington have developed what they’re calling HemaApp. This remarkable software uses a smartphone to check on a patient’s condition. It works by simply placing your finger on the flash of a camera phone. From there the app can analyse the colour of blood and use that information to estimate levels of hemoglobin.

An initial trial of patients, ranging from children to pensioners, has shown encouraging results. 69% of participants saw results on the app which were close to those of a blood test. Using an external light along with the camera flash seemed to return better responses. This measure took comparable rates to at least 74%.

It’s thought this breakthrough in pharmaceutical consulting could be particularly beneficial for doctors working in developing countries. Malnutrition and parasites are problems which can commonly contribute to anaemia in the third world. Taking blood to establish hemoglobin concentration in that kind of setting can increase the risk of infection for patients. However, a scanning app could significantly reduce the risk.

Helping patients closer to home

The demand for the HemaApp will also be felt closer to home, with patients and doctors here likely to sign up. It could provide the potential for anaemia sufferers to monitor their own progress. It could also help with diagnosis, and perhaps provide answers more quickly for patients and for professionals such as those providing Patient Recruitment Services  for medical trials such as richmondpharmacology.com/specialist-services/patient-recruitment 

The app is not intended to replace blood tests, but the idea has already caught the attention of organisations who represent people with conditions like Sickle Cell Anaemia –http://sicklecellanemianews.com/2016/09/13/hema-app-designed-to-screen-blood-for-anemia-without-needles/.

This new technology has the potential to cut down on the time it takes to get answers, although it will be subject to more testing of its own first. HemaApp is going to be tested on different skin tones to make sure it is accurate for everyone.

It may sound like science fiction but a smartphone app really could cut costs, and waiting times, on the way to helping deal with one of the world’s most common medical conditions.