Jewish General to use “Tricorder” to monitor COVID-19
April 15, 2020
MONTREAL – The Jewish General Hospital is about to start using an Israeli-devised smartphone app that allows one to measure vital signs without touching the body. The Binah.ai app, which runs on Apple iPhones and Samsung phones, can accurately measure heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), respiration and oxygen saturation levels, and mental stress levels – all without any contact or leads.
Triage nurses will use it to measure three vital signs – heart rate, respiration and oxygen saturation – when patients arrive at the emergency department. Those with elevated heart rates and respiration, and with low oxygen saturation levels, will be isolated for further testing, the Montreal Gazette reported.
As well, the hospital will start using the app in COVID-19 wards, enabling patients in negative-pressure rooms to self-monitor their vital signs, so that nurses need to enter the rooms less frequently.
And some patients at home in the city’s West End – which has experienced a high number of persons testing positive for COVID-19 – will be given the app for self-monitoring.
The app works by gauging light absorption on one’s cheeks and detecting the rate of blood flow under the skin. From these signals, it can provide highly accurate readings of vital signs, using analytics and AI.
“This is like the Tricorder we saw on Star Trek as kids,” said Dr. Sheldon Elman, a Montreal physician who also leads a venture capital fund called Esplanade Ventures. Its operational arm, TriVue Services, has the rights to the Binah.ai app in Canada.
The company is currently working on adding blood pressure detection, alcohol level and temperature functions into the app. The current vital signs already provide medical grade accuracy.
Importantly, Binah.ai can read vital signs without the patient having to acquire extra medical devices and learning how to use them. All that’s required to use the app is to aim the phone at one’s face; it focuses only on the upper cheeks and can be used by persons of any colour or ethnicity.
If part of an integrated system, the results can be immediately reported to doctors or nurses. It can also be used as a discrete device, separate from any integrated systems.
In this way, Binah.ai can be used by physicians and pharmacists to check on the efficacy of treatment and medications, for a wide range of conditions.
Binah.ai was officially launched in January of this year, after three and a half years of research and development in Israel. The software won awards at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and it’s already being used by 13 companies around the world.
CEO and founder, David Maman, forecasted that 40 organizations will be using it by June. Because the system looks only at the upper cheeks to gather the information it needs, privacy isn’t an issue, and no images are collected.
Maman said the company currently employs 40 people in Tel Aviv, including a dozen with PhDs. “They’re mostly physicists, as they need to analyze light and motion.”
He explained that because the solution is a software app, customers can embed it into their own solutions. It can be integrated with other systems, such as telehealth solutions or electronic records.
The software also works quickly – it takes only 10 seconds to gauge heart rate and oxygen saturation levels, 30 seconds to assess respiration, and 50 seconds to determine one’s stress level. The system uses a five-tiered system for assessing stress, from low to high.
Maman said Binah.ai would be a good method for doctors to follow-up on their patients. “After seeing your doctor, you can go home to continuously and proactively monitor yourself with the app.” This goes beyond simply how one feels, said Maman, as the system gives you actual measurements. What’s more, the app can be tied into the system of a doctor’s office, pharmacy or hospital, alerting healthcare professionals when there is a worrisome result.