Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed an innovative solution that could significantly improve access to blood pressure monitoring. A team of engineers has created a simple, low-cost clip that utilizes a smartphone’s camera and flash to measure blood pressure at the user’s fingertip. This groundbreaking technology, coupled with a custom smartphone app, has the potential to revolutionize remote healthcare and empower individuals to monitor their blood pressure anytime, anywhere.
The clip, which currently costs around 80 cents to manufacture, can be distributed widely and has the potential to reach populations who may face barriers to regular clinic visits, such as older adults and pregnant women. The researchers estimate that with mass production, the cost of the clip could be as low as 10 cents each, making it an incredibly affordable and accessible tool.
One of the key advantages of this blood pressure monitoring clip is its calibration-free nature. Unlike other cuffless systems being developed for smartwatches and smartphones, this clip does not require prior calibration using a separate cuff. Users simply press their fingertip onto the clip, and the smartphone app provides guidance on the required pressure and duration for an accurate measurement.
The 3D-printed plastic clip attaches to the smartphone’s camera and flash, employing an optical design similar to a pinhole camera. When pressure is applied to the clip, the smartphone’s flash illuminates the fingertip, and the resulting light is projected through a pinhole-sized channel to the camera. The app then extracts valuable information from the captured image, including the applied pressure and the volume of blood flow. An algorithm converts this data into systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings.
In a clinical study involving 24 volunteers from the UC San Diego Medical Center, the results obtained from the clip were comparable to those obtained from a traditional blood pressure cuff. This validation highlights the potential of this cost-effective solution in accurate blood pressure monitoring.
Moving forward, the researchers aim to enhance the user-friendliness of the clip, particularly for older adults, and further validate its accuracy across different skin tones. Additionally, efforts are underway to develop a more universal design that can be compatible with various smartphone models.
The promising results have led to the establishment of Billion Labs Inc., a company co-founded by the project’s lead researchers, to refine and commercialize this breakthrough technology.
With its ability to transform a smartphone into a reliable blood pressure monitor, this low-cost clip opens up new possibilities for remote healthcare. It has the potential to empower individuals to take proactive control of their cardiovascular health and enable healthcare professionals to remotely monitor patients’ blood pressure, ultimately leading to better management of conditions such as hypertension. As this technology evolves and becomes more accessible, it has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by providing affordable, convenient, and accurate blood pressure monitoring for all.