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Digital health tool uses facial recognition and gaming technology to collect vital signs


A hospital in Scotland is testing a new digital health platform which uses facial recognition and gaming technology to collect vital signs from several patients at once, according to a report in mHealth Intelligence.

Researchers at the University of St. Andrews developed the technology, which measures an individual’s blood rate and pulse oxygen levels using a special camera and software platform.

The platform is currently being tested in the respiratory ward at Victoria Hospital in Fife, with the potential to eventually help emergency departments, senior living facilities and remote clinics around the world to immediately collect vital signs from patients.

“When you go into hospital, your vital signs are measured to show clinicians how well you are,” said David Harris-Birtill, MD, a lecturer in computer sciences at St. Andrews and the lead researcher on the project. “A clip at the end of your finger can let them know if you are getting better or worse.

“The clips are great, but one problem is you need a nurse to clip them on, which means a wait of 45 minutes, or however long, before they can start measuring how well you are. Wouldn’t it be great if as soon as a patient walks through the door, a doctor can see how well they are doing?”

St. Andrews researchers experimented with Microsoft Kinect gaming system to develop a motion control-based pulse oximeter, which uses facial recognition to collect vital signs from as many as six people at once.

By integrating the gaming technology into a camera, researchers say they hope to develop a passive surveillance system that can accurately capture and display vital signs to clinicians within a few seconds so they can identify and treat those patients most in need of urgent care.

“It has the potential to make patients’ lives more comfortable,” Davis-Birtill said. “We will be able to detect those in trouble sooner and help patients sooner. It can also help save time for patients, nurses and clinicians.”

If the test phase at Fife Hospital is successful, officials say hope to expand it across Scotland, as well as other countries.

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