Preliminary research has revealed that it may be possible to create a smartphone case that can measure blood pressure through what the study's authors call the oscillometric finger-pressing method. That's according to a new research article published in Science Translational Medicine on March 7, co-authored by six researchers from three universities. The researchers, led by Ramakrishna Mukkamala of Michigan State University, say that by modifying a smartphone to include a force transducer, overlaid by an optical sensor, accurate measurements of blood pressure can be taken from a fingerprint. A user simply needs to follow instructions included onscreen via an associated smartphone application in order to apply the appropriate amount of pressure and receive a reading. The researchers effectively claim that the discovery could lead to blood pressure measurements becoming as easy to do as sending a text message, which would be hugely beneficial to millions of medical patients. However, it goes without saying that the news should be taken with a grain of salt pending further research to validate its claims.
Ordinarily, blood pressure is most accurately measured via an upper-arm cuff while even wrist-borne cuffs are often considered to be largely inaccurate. Being able to quickly take regular measurements without the need to carry a portable arm-cuff or another device would be a boon to the medical industry. Blood pressure and its fluctuations are a key health metric used by doctors in managing heart conditions but aren't generally well tracked. In technical terms, the error rates measured in the initial research bore out to around 3.3 and 8.8 mmHg for systolic BP and −5.6 and 7.7 mmHg for diastolic BP over a 40 to 50 mmHg range of BP. That means that a significant amount of research and development is needed before the methods are accurate enough to be classified for use in a medical device. However, the technology does show promise.
Coincidentally, this may be one area where A.I. or related software can be implemented to offset errors or more accurately take measurements, to begin with. That's something that doesn't seem to have been explored or considered yet in conjunction with this research but could eventually be, as the technology continues growing a larger footprint in fields of medicine. In any case, a smartphone case that measures blood pressure could also be augmented to include measurements for other key metrics such as oxygen saturation. The resulting discoveries could also translate to better methods for measurement outside of smartphone accessories. So this will certainly be interesting research to follow over the coming years.