- The MyHealthLab app claims to be able to detect your vital signs just by looking into a camera.
- The app could be useful in diagnosing coronavirus symptoms, its developers say.
- It’s one of a growing number of apps that allow people to monitor their health at home.
Worried about your health, but reluctant to go into a doctor’s office during the pandemic? A new app can detect your vital signs by having you look into a camera, and its makers claim it could monitor the symptoms of COVID-19.
“Binah.ai’s real-time vital signs monitoring app allows medical staff to easily measure oxygen saturation (SpO2), respiration rate, [and] heart rate,” according to the company’s website. “These important measurements, in combination with other symptoms—such as fever, coughing or a sore-throat—can greatly aid health professionals in deciding whether a patient should seek further medical attention or, conversely, reduce risking exposure by remaining safely at home.”
Let AI Be Your Guide
The app’s developers say it uses a mix of patent-pending technology, including rPPG (remote photoplethysmography), signal processing, and machine and deep learning combined with a proprietary mathematical back-end. The system analyzes images from a computer or smartphone and generates personalized health information.
But experts urge caution before trusting your health to new technologies.
“Many devices and algorithms work great in the lab, but in real-life scenarios they fail,” Chanh Ho, a research physician at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit whose work involves using wearable devices to monitor vital signs, said in an email interview. “It takes lots of time in medicine to move forward when we need to be careful with human life.”
Growing Wave of Diagnostic Apps
Other new apps also offer non-traditional ways to monitor vital signs. Sonde Health, for example, sells a smartphone-based system called Sonde One that claims to use voice analysis to monitor for various health conditions.
“We don’t claim to diagnose, however, Sonde One can detect concerning respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19, COPD, and even the flu,” David Liu, Sonde Health’s CEO, said in an email interview.
To use the Sonde app, people say “ah” for six seconds, complete a brief questionnaire, and add their temperature. The resulting assessment provides immediate results, showing whether or not the individual has concerning symptoms associated with COVID-19 and should therefore seek further testing and self-isolate, Liu explained.
Wearable manufacturer Fitbit’s new Health Metrics dashboard in its app also helps users keep a closer eye on their health and wellbeing by tracking metrics like heart rate variability, breathing rate, oxygen saturation (SpO2), and skin temperature variation. The company says these measurements could serve as an early warning system for diseases like COVID-19.
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Apple’s Series 6 Watch also monitors blood oxygen levels as well as some other vital signs. Although the company doesn’t say the watch will diagnose COVID, low blood oxygen levels have been linked to the severity of coronavirus symptoms.
Another new product that’s marketed to health professionals, Cloud DX’s Connected Health Kit, is aimed at helping patients monitor their coronavirus symptoms at home. The FDA-cleared system uses an app connected to instruments to monitor blood pressure, pulse rate, spO2, temperature, weight, and glucose levels. It also automatically notifies care teams of symptom and condition changes.
Though the kit is unable to diagnose coronavirus, it can “play an instrumental role in helping people manage key vitals that are the demonstrated symptoms of COVID-19,” CloudDX founder and CEO Robert Kaul said in an email interview.
“It takes lots of time in medicine to move forward when we need to be careful with human life.”
Matt Heelan, COO of software firm Illumisoft, predicts the array of tools to monitor health at home will expand rapidly in the coming years. “I spoke to an executive at a large Fortune 500 technology company, and he envisions that when you or your company decide to get the insurance you will receive a package in the mail that will include certain devices and apps that you can wear,” he added in an email interview.
None of these products are intended to replace a doctor, but they could be useful during the pandemic when many people are avoiding medical offices. Expect a lot more telemedicine devices to hit the market in the months ahead.
Updated on December 4 to clarify MyHealthLab can monitor COVID-19 symptoms rather than diagnose coronavirus.