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Blood Red: A simple smartphone camera flash can help diagnose anemia using color

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Randall Vincent
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Sure, the built-in flash on your smartphone is good for lighting up dark scenes, but it can also help diagnose anemia.

A team of engineers and computer scientists from the University of Washington have developed a new app that uses a light source — like the built-in camera flash — to estimate hemoglobin levels.

In a small trial with 31 participants, HemaApp has proven to be about as successful at measuring hemoglobin levels as the finger sensor approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to the study, shining a light source through a patient s finger allows the smartphone camera, paired with the app, to analyze the color and give a pretty good estimate on hemoglobin.

The app takes a series of videos while exposing the patient s finger to different wavelengths of light, then compares the results from the different light levels to detect hemoglobin levels.

Study authors say it won t replace a finger prick and an actual blood test, but the program could be used to easily and non-invasively screen patients to determine whether or not additional testing is needed.

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Randall Vincent
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