Your Smartphone Can Now Check Your Health

No needles needed

Key Takeaways

  • AnemoCheck Mobile is a new app that allows users to check for anemia by taking a picture of their nails. 
  • Anemia is a condition caused by lacking enough red blood cells and could be a general indicator of poor health. 
  • It’s one of a growing number of apps that monitor and treat medical conditions using only a smartphone.
Someone sitting outside examining their names.
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

A new app lets you check your blood for anemia in the latest in a series of breakthrough health applications for smartphones. 

AnemoCheck Mobile claims to be the only equipment-free smartphone app for hemoglobin level measurement that requires nothing except the phone itself. The app, made by Sanguina, lets those who suffer from anemia, a condition when you lack enough red blood cells, reduce the need to get their blood taken in a doctor’s office. 

"For someone like myself, who suffers from chronic anemia and is always at risk for it to suddenly worsen, the app offers me a way to check myself in between interactions with my doctor," Sanguina CEO and co-founder Erika Tyburski said in an email interview. "This way, when I'm feeling the onset of symptoms, I can manage my anemia on my own and track my hemoglobin levels over time." 

Snap, You've Got Your Hemoglobin Level

Tests for anemia usually require specialized equipment and blood draws in laboratories. But the AnemoCheck app works by having the user take an image of their fingernail beds. Its algorithm can measure hemoglobin level based on color. Once the user captures the photo, the app assesses it for quality, and if it passes, a hemoglobin level result appears on the screen.

The algorithm powering AnemoChek was developed by correlating the color of fingernails with blood hemoglobin level across thousands of clinical data points and fingernail images from patients, Tyburski said. She even claims that the app could be used as a vital sign indicator, similar to pulse oximeters or blood pressure monitors.

Someone taking a picture of a hand displaying fingernails, using a smartphone.
Iurii Maksymiv / Getty Images

"Anemia is associated with many different diseases, and therefore this app can let users know when they might be ill and need to see their health care provider for more formal testing," Tyburski said. "In addition, people who experience anemia often have a lower quality of life, and our tool helps them take control of an important aspect of their healthcare."

Many Apps Emerge to Monitor Health

AnemoCheck is one of a growing number of apps that monitor and treat medical conditions using only a smartphone. MyHealthLab, for example, uses artificial intelligence and photos to monitor health. The app could be useful for monitoring symptoms of COVID-19, its developer says.

Another app, NightWare, helps treat nightmares stemming from disorders like PTSD. It works by monitoring smartwatch motion and heart rate data to detect bad dreams and interrupts them without waking the user up with vibrations.

Some apps are even using speech and artificial intelligence to detect COVID-19 in patients. Sonde Health is selling an app-based solution to check for the coronavirus that uses six seconds of voice analysis along with a questionnaire and temperature reading.

Person using a smartphone outside.
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"Based on more than one million vocal samples from years of collection, we can say with certainty that Sonde’s model is proven and accurate," Sonde’s CEO David Liu said in an email interview. "In addition to self-reported data, we also have clinically-labeled health data, which is considered much more accurate."

The use of wearable smart devices for healthcare is growing. "Smart-device technologies can enhance awareness of our individual health status," Tiffani Bailey Lash, director of the program in point of care technologies at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the National Institutes of Health, said in a news release announcing AnemoCheck.

"Putting effective and easy-to-use tools in the hands of people with chronic anemias has the potential to improve regular monitoring of hemoglobin levels that, in turn, leads to daily wellbeing and maintenance of better health in the long term."

Checking your blood by taking a picture sounds like something straight out of science fiction. But Anemocheck is a real app that’s one of many revolutionizing how we get health information.

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