Health in your pocket

A new-generation mobile phone that gives you a health check-up – and delivers the results to your doctor straightaway – is under development at Leeds University.


From the comfort of home, patients can check their vital signs, receive nutritional advice, and keep an eye on their glucose and blood oxygen levels.


The phone ‘talks’ to wireless devices small enough to be slipped into a handbag when you go out, such as a blood pressure monitor strapped to the wrist. It then sends the results securely over the network to a remote computer where a nurse or doctor would analyse them within hours, and contact the patient if anything was wrong.


In a critical situation, the phone would automatically alert health professionals with a text message or phone call.


Research project leader Dr Alison Marshall from the Keyworth Institute said the software application built into the phone has the potential to revolutionalise the way we think about healthcare for the UK’s ageing population.


“By 2014, the number of people over 65 living in the UK will exceed those under 16. We need to find technology solutions that provide a greater level of care for patients in new ways.”


Dr Marshall adds: “A mobile phone certainly shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for doctors, but it will help patients take control of their own health in conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer and obesity. Research also shows that clinical health outcomes are significantly enhanced through self-management.”


For patients, it would avoid the need to make frequent trips to the doctor for routine checks, and let them track their health progress on a personalised website. For example, they could meet a friend for lunch and enter details of their meal into the phone, then instantly be told how many calories, sugar and fats they’d just eaten. The phone would recommend what dietary or exercise changes were needed to offset the damage.


A prototype phone will be tested on research volunteers this May to improve its design and functionality, before holding a bigger trial next year.


The Leeds team includes the Keyworth Institute, the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, the Nutritional and Epidemiology Group and the School of Healthcare. It has received funding from the UK’s joint research councils’ ‘New dynamics of ageing’ programme.


To find out more visit www.keyworth.leeds.ac.uk/ehealth