Medical equipment is not generally known for being inexpensive, with various imaging systems usually weighing in at over a million dollars, and even relatively simpler pieces of technology like digital thermometers, stethoscopes, and pulse oximeters coming in somewhere around $50. As the general pace of technological improvement continues on we expect marginal decreases in costs, but every now and then a revolutionary piece of technology will drop the cost of something like a blood pressure monitor by over an order of magnitude.
Typically a blood pressure monitor involves a cuff that pressurizes against a patient’s arm, and measures the physical pressure of the blood as the heart forces blood through the area restricted by the cuff. But there are some ways to measure blood pressure by proxy, instead of directly. This device, a small piece of plastic with a cost of less than a dollar, attaches to a smartphone near the camera sensor and flashlight. By pressing a finger onto the device, the smartphone uses the flashlight and the camera in tandem to measure subtle changes in the skin, which can be processed in an app to approximate blood pressure.
The developers of this technology note that it’s not a one-to-one substitute for a traditional blood pressure monitor, but it is extremely helpful for those who might not be able to afford a normal monitor and who might otherwise go undiagnosed for high blood pressure. Almost half of adults in the US alone have issues relating to blood pressure, so just getting information at all is the hurdle this device is attempting to overcome. And, we’ll count it as a win any time medical technology becomes more accessible, more inexpensive, or more open-source.