New mobile app that can detect newborn jaundice in minutes


University of Washington engineers and physicians have developed a smartphone application that checks for jaundice in newborns and can deliver results to parents and pediatricians within minutes. According to the researchers behind this project, the solution could serve as a screening tool to determine whether a baby needs a blood test, which is the gold standard for detecting high levels of bilirubin.

“Virtually every baby gets jaundiced, and we’re sending them home from the hospital even before bilirubin levels reach their peak,” said James Taylor, a UW professor of pediatrics and medical director of the newborn nursery at UW Medical Center. “This smartphone test is really for babies in the first few days after they go home. A parent or health care provider can get an accurate picture of bilirubin to bridge the gap after leaving the hospital.”

Within a year, the technology could be used by doctors as an alternative to the current screening procedures for bilirubin.The app, called BiliCam, relies on a smartphone’s camera and flash, and a color calibration card the size of a business card. User would download the app, place the card on her baby’s belly, and then take a picture with the card in view. The card calibrates and accounts for different lighting conditions and skin tones; data from the photo is sent to the cloud and are analyzed by machine-learning algorithms, and a report on the newborn’s bilirubin levels is sent almost instantly to the parent’s phone.

The UW team ran a clinical study with 100 newborns and their families at UW Medical Center. They found that BiliCam performed as well as or better than the current screening tool. Though it wouldn’t replace a blood test, BiliCam could let parents know if they should take that next step.

Next step is to test BiliCam on up to 1,000 additional newborns, especially those with darker skin pigments. The algorithms will then be robust enough to account for all ethnicities and skin colors. Within a year, the technology could be used by doctors as an alternative to the current screening procedures for bilirubin.

The researchers have filed patents on the technology, and within a couple of years hope to have FDA approval for the BiliCam app that parents can use at home on their smartphones.

[Via: University of Washington]