U of Washington, Microsoft developing platform to capture patient vitals via smartphone camera

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Telehealth capabilities are limited since they do not have in-office features such as tools to measure vital signs. A team of researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle and Microsoft have developed a tool to change that.

The team of researchers invented a method that uses a smartphone or computer camera to take pulse and respiration signals from real-time videos of patients' faces, according to an April 1 news release.

Six things to know about the system:

  1. The method had previously been presented at a conference in December, but has since been updated to work better with a variety of cameras, lighting conditions and skin colors.

  2. The system runs on the device instead of a cloud network to preserve patients' privacy.

  3. It uses machine learning to capture subtle changes in how light reflects on a person's face, which correlates with changing blood flow.

  4. It uses blood flow data to compute a pulse rate and respiration rate.

  5. Even with updates, the team said the system is less accurate on darker skin tones because light reflects differently on these tones, which results in a weaker signal for the camera to pick up. However, they noted that they are working to develop new methods to solve this issue.

  6. The researchers are working on collaborations with doctors to see how it performs in the clinic.

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