Advertisement

Blog

New Med App Tackles Maternal Health Improvements

In developing nations, lack of equipment and resources translates into potentially thousands of deaths and lack of care for those who need it most: expectant mothers, newborns, and children. Soon, a smartphone may help change that.

LionsGate Technologies has received $2 million in funding from a combination of Canadian public and private investors to develop the Phone Oximeter. The combination app/medical sensor turns a smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer into a medical-grade diagnostic tool that will let health workers monitor blood oxygen levels, a critical measurement in determining maternal and fetal health.

The Phone Oximeter combines an app with a medical sensor.(Source: LionsGate Technologies)

The Phone Oximeter combines an app with a medical sensor.
(Source: LionsGate Technologies)

The Phone Oximeter measures blood oxygen levels through a light sensor attached to a person's fingertip. The device then uses a predictive score to accurately identify when oxygen levels in the blood are too low, a condition caused by a variety of problems in women and children, including pneumonia, which kills more than 1 million children each year. With a target price of $40, the device brings pulse oximetry to a level of affordability that is 80% less expensive than comparable high-level medical device.

“Through innovative engineering, we have been able to tap into the computing power of smartphones to produce medical-grade, low-cost monitoring systems amenable to widespread usage in low- and medium-resource countries,” Dr. Guy Dumont of the University of British Columbia said in a press release. He, along with Dr. Mark Ansermino and Dr. Peter von Dadelszen, developed the technology.

The monitor also identifies an estimated 80% of cases of pregnant women at risk of life-threatening complications due to high blood pressure, the company said. The condition, preeclampsia, is one of three leading causes of maternal mortality, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. Each year, preeclampsia and its related complications kill 76,000 of an estimated 10 million pregnant women worldwide, according to the group. The number of fetus and infant deaths due to these disorders is estimated at more than 500,000.

“That equates to over 1,600 deaths of pregnant young women and babies every day — an unacceptable burden — and more than 99 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries — an issue of social justice,” said von Dadelszen.

The funding comes from a combination of a $1 million angel investment from Irfhan Rajani, CEO of Coleco Investments, and $1 million from Grand Challenges Canada. The investment marks the first grant under a strategic partnership between Grand Challenges Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) that will result in $10 million in such investments.

This funding provides a first step toward real-world use. Next, the device will be fine tuned by measuring the blood oxygen of athletes in training. Then, the company intends to perform long-term medical trials around the device's usefulness in identifying preeclampsia. The trails will involve 80,000 women in four countries: India, Pakistan, Mozambique, and Nigeria.

— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page Friend me on Facebook , Editor in Chief, UBM’s EBN

This article was originally published on EBN's sister publication EE Times.

22 comments on “New Med App Tackles Maternal Health Improvements

  1. Susan Fourtané
    March 13, 2014

    Hailey, 

    This is fantastic news. I believe it's very useful that this combination of app/medical sensor can turn any device into a medical diagnostic tool, not just one type of device.

    It is clear that health workers will be able to monitor blood oxygen levels, but what about patients?

    For example, if I would want to get this device to use it at home, would this be possible? Will it be available on the market, or just sold to healthcare institutions? Keeping a healthy level of oxygen in the blood is good for everyone. 🙂 

    -Susan  

     

  2. Wale Bakare
    March 13, 2014

    The LionsGate Technologies  released this at its website ” Longer term medical trials of the mobile application and its pre-eclampsia predictive capability will involve 80,000 women in four countries: India, Pakistan, Mozambique and Nigeria”

    The people that are being affected most by maternal health problem are low income earners. It needs to work on price at an affordable level of the targets for the listed countries. Besides, LionsGate company needs more than selling apps in those places by investing in research to understand the real challenge mobile app providers are facing there.

  3. Susan Fourtané
    March 13, 2014

    Wale, 

    Despite my comment asking if the device would be available for individuals, I do believe this initial target price is for healthcare institutions where their medical staff will be the ones checking the blood oxygen levels in patients, not the patients themselves having their own device.

    Because, as it says here below, the price of the device is being compared to a high-level medical device that works in a similar way. 

    “With a target price of $40, the device brings pulse oximetry to a level of affordability that is 80% less expensive than comparable high-level medical device.”

    -Susan 

  4. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 13, 2014

    @Susan, this is a combination of software and the sensor that connects with the phone. The cost is  much lower than the medical grade devices (about 20 percent of the total) but with the same capablities. For someone who waas willing to spend the money, this would be a totally do-able solution.

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 13, 2014

    @Wale, currently this is amed at medical workers and is quite affordable and portable for these countries.

  6. Eldredge
    March 13, 2014

    @Susan – That's a good point. Perhaps the individual in poor communities won't be able to affoard the combination of a smart phone and associated add-on device/app, but a community medical office in a poor area may be able to do so.

  7. Susan Fourtané
    March 14, 2014

    Eldredge, 

    Most likely. At this affordable price for medical centers and as the point of the app and device is to improve maternal health I suppose they could offer checking their blood oxygen level for free, just as it is done with the blood pressure. Then this becomes really helpful. 

    -Susan

  8. Susan Fourtané
    March 14, 2014

    Hailey, 

    Yes, yes. This seems to be a nice little medical device/app with great potential of improving health conditions.

    I suppose in the future there will be studies conducted by analyzing the data collected from the first mothers. This could help to create prevention plans and give guidance to expectant mothers.

    -Susan 

  9. Wale Bakare
    March 14, 2014

    No doubt the innovation is a good one. Yes, i agree with you the price looks good being a mobile app offering medical service especially for the middle working class people in there.

  10. Wale Bakare
    March 14, 2014

    >>I do believe this initial target price is for healthcare institutions where their medical staff will be the ones checking the blood oxygen levels in patients<<

    Partnership with the medical centres would help but it also needs to bring social activists, like NGOs too.

  11. Susan Fourtané
    March 14, 2014

    Wale, 

    I am not sure what you mean. :/ Partnerships of who with the medical centers? What social activists? 

    -Susan

  12. Eldredge
    March 15, 2014

    @Susan -Exactly – I'm sure there are several not-for-profit organizations that would be able to use this technology in their services.

  13. Susan Fourtané
    March 15, 2014

    Eldredge, 

    No doubt this will be useful in many places. 

    -Susan 

  14. _hm
    March 16, 2014

    Does this probe (sensor) will need approval from FDA? Or does mobile device and probe needs to get FDA approval?

    It looks very good device.

    However, I suggest, why not adept current blood sugar measurement device for blood sugar measurement. Main advantage being, they are so prevalent and very low in cost, many time are free. This will also offer one device doing two or more functions and FDA approval will be more stremalined.

     

  15. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 25, 2014

    _HM, i could imagine the benefit would be that a single cell phone could become an entire medical tool box. The crux here is that this is medical grade and state of the art–and some of the readily available tools are probably less accurate or perhaps less feature rich.

  16. Anand
    March 25, 2014

    Combination/integration of this technology with IOT means that the data relieved gets uploaded to a cloud system, which can be monitored by a hospital having a cloud component in their online architecture, thus make doctor-patient relationships better, because this will enable patients to get real time advices from doctors.

  17. Anand
    March 25, 2014

    @hailey: We must not forget that it is still a smartphone enabled app that generates signals of multiple frequencies. Although this may seem very good, given that its cost is low, most of such devices are used in intensive care units in hospitals, where smartphones are not allowed. Also, does the low cost mean that hospital management can get their hands on this even when they cannot use it? 

  18. Anand
    March 25, 2014

    @Susan: that is a nice idea, and also, there will be such analysis of data collected from first mothers. I just hope this data is not misused because this is still a lot of biometrics to keep track of.

  19. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 25, 2014

    @Anandvy, here in the US, hospitals are having to rethink their no electronics policies. Doctors are carrying tablets and cell phones to do their work. I think that Pandora's box is open and the medical field is going to have to adapt.

  20. Eldredge
    March 25, 2014

    @Hailey – Perhaps hospitals will be challenged in much the same way as electronic devices and phones on airplanes. 

  21. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 26, 2014

    @Eldredge, i think that's a great example of hte same kind of thing. The reality is that there wasn't a big technology reason behind it. In hospitals, in many areas, the same is true. There are areas, like intensive care, where the machines might be affected but it doesn't have to be a blanket banning.

  22. Eldredge
    March 26, 2014

    Very true. At one point in time, the easy way out was to say 'no devices allowed' without really having to justify the rule. Now, with the proliferation of personal electronics devices (and the obvious hypocracy from watching medical profesionals carrying same), it is necessary to be more realisitic.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.