Affordable mHealth vital signs monitoring app targeted at developing countries

Thanks to a proprietary interface, mobile devices will be able to provide non-invasive measurements of blood-oxygen levels, blood pressure and body temperature by connecting a standard medical sensor to a device's universal audio port. Vancouver-based mHealth provider LionsGate Technologies (LGTmedical) announced last week at its Vital Signs Digital Signal Processor (DSP) is a low-cost technology with particular appeal for developing countries that need accurate, accessible and affordable medical diagnostics.

According to LGTmedical, the World Health Organization has recognized the importance of making pulse oximetry available and affordable to the developing world, where 64 percent of mobile phone users are found. The company believes the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases like pneumonia, which every year claims the lives of 2 million children under the age of 5, can be greatly enhanced by affordable pulse oximetry.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report from earlier this year concluded that patients and doctors in emerging markets are much more likely to use mHealth than those in developed countries. The report found that eight out of 10 emerging market doctors recommend mHealth services, and that 59 percent of patients already use it. The reason: existing healthcare is scarce in those parts of the world and, in many cases, mobile technology is the only, rather than alternative, affordable tool to reach people.

Developed by a research team at the University of British Columbia, the Child & Family Research Institute and British Columbia Children's Hospital, the Vital Signs DSP is able to transform smartphones, tablets and laptops into mobile medical diagnostic tools capable of displaying real-time vital signs on a mobile device's monitor. All users have to do is download LGTmedical's proprietary app that allows their mobile device to drive a standard medical sensor.

"Pairing medical diagnostics with mobile phones will greatly advance the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of critical diseases in developing countries," said Mark Ansermino, an associate professor with UBC's department of anesthesiology, pharmacology and therapeutics; Ansermino's team developed the technology. "The availability of portable, easy-to-use and affordable mobile health monitoring technology will move medical diagnostics from the hospital to non-hospital settings, helping reduce global health inequities and improving health outcomes worldwide," he added.

Next year, LGTmedical plans to launch the Phone Oximeter, which will enable mobile devices to provide non-invasive measurements of blood oxygen levels, with blood pressure and temperature applications to follow. The company's mHealth devices will cost between $10 and $40. Field testing of the Phone Oximeter has been conducted in North America and emerging markets, such as Uganda, through the support of UBC, BC Children's Hospital, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, and other sponsoring foundations and government agencies.

To learn more:
- read the LionsGate announcement