Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have developed mHealth technology that can triage numerous patients at once using facial recognition and gaming software.

The motion control-based pulse oximeter technology, which was developed using technology from Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller for games consoles, is combined with a camera to create a passive surveillance system that can capture vital signs and instantly present them to clinicians to ensure patients needing urgent care are treated as soon as possible.

The technology, which is currently being tested in the respiratory ward at Victoria Hospital in Fife, can detect blood oxygen levels and heart rate in up to six patients simultaneously.

According to the lead researcher of the project and lecturer in computer sciences at St. Andrews, Dr David Harris-Birtill, the first of its kind remote pulse oximeter could be used in emergency departments, senior living facilities and remote clinics around the world to collect vital signs as soon as a patient enters the facility.

“When you go into hospital, your vital signs are measured to show clinicians how well you are,” said Dr Harris-Birtill in an interview with The Scotsman.

“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?” continued Dr Harris-Birtill.

The new technology could improve and shorten patient screening processes in crowded waiting and emergency rooms, and other healthcare facilities that experience a high patient turnover with a small staff ratio.

“It has the potential to make patients’ lives more comfortable. 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,” said Dr Davis-Birtill.

Pending the success of the pilot at Fife Hospital, the researchers hope for a nationwide trial and then a rollout internationally.

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