Health app holds promise for improving respiratory rate measurement

A new health application may soon play a role in providing a better respiratory rate measurement approach that its developers say could help save lives, especially in assessing the health status of young children.

Researchers say the app measures the respiratory rate (RR) in children nearly six times faster than the traditional approach of using a stopwatch and counting a patient's breaths for 60 seconds. Findings published this month in PLOS One report the RR app measures respiratory rate in an average of 9.9 seconds. A research team at the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) at BC Children's Hospital and the University of British Columbia developed the app.

"Mobile phones are changing how we administer healthcare, especially in rural settings and developing countries where access to medical devices is limited," Walter Karlen, a post-doctoral fellow with UBC's department of electrical and computer engineering who co-led the study said in an announcement. "With this app, we can give healthcare workers with few resources faster and more accurate measurements, help them make better decisions, and give them more time with their patients."

Similar efforts include a biometric watch for pulse tracking being developed by the Optics Research Group at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and a wireless body monitor developed in 2012 by Mayo Clinic and Preventice to keep track of the irregular heart rhythms of users.

The RR app allows clinicians to measure the respiratory rate by tapping the screen of a mobile device. The research effort included 32 health workers testing the app in a lab setting. Researchers say a larger study, with more health workers and patients, is needed to test robustness in the clinical setting to demonstrate impact on diagnosis of respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia.

For more information:
- read the announcement
- read the research article at PLOS One

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