ROCHESTER, NY – Engineers and clinicians at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester Medical Center are developing a health app to assess atrial fibrillation.
The researchers received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a non-contact, video recording technology to detect the presence of atrial fibrillation—a heart rhythm disorder that affects more than 2 million Americans yearly.
“We have shown that the technology developed at RIT is reliable enough to be used as a clinical tool in controlled hospital environments,” said Gill Tsouri, co-project lead, in a statement.
The URMC received $2 million in funding for the project, and RIT will be granted nearly $800,000 from that funding for its portion of the collaborative project to develop the video algorithm.
The application will be installed on a tablet and run seamlessly in the background while an individual is using the tablet. The software will record the individual’s heart rhythm for a longer monitoring period to capture data related to heart activity—compared to the shorter interval in a medical setting for EEG/ECG monitoring tests.
Tablets will be provided to more than 260 patients who are expected to be enrolled in the study over the next four years.
“The end goal of all of this is to show that it is a clinically viable approach, which means that seamlessly capturing videos without user participation provides significant data that could be used to deduce their cardiac condition,” said Tsouri.
Participants will also wear an electrocardiogram patch, another means to monitor for atrial fibrillation. Researchers will compare data from the patch and the tablet to determine how accurate the tablet technology is in detecting the irregular heartbeats.
“Our technology is unique because it requires no action on the part of the user aside from what they normally do—go on a tablet to shop, look at pictures, read articles or whatever they like,” said Jean Philippe Couderc, co-leader of the project, in a statement. “If you are at risk for AFib, you install it on your tablet or phone and don’t think about it anymore.”
Couderc has conducted a series of smaller studies that confirm AFib can be detected from video of an individual’s face. The new clinical study will move the technology closer to commercialization.
Couderc received additional funding from NIH’s Concept to Clinic: Commercializing Innovation Program, which will provide training and tools to help bring the concept to market.
The researchers said the app would not replace ECG monitoring tests that measure the electrical activity of the heart using contact-based sensing, but would replace PPG, a pulse plethysmograph that illuminates the skin and measures the volume changes in blood during a heartbeat. The app, with its unobtrusive technique and ability to capture more of this type of data, could determine, with a high percent of accuracy, an individual’s risk for atrial fibrillation.
“We are moving from monitoring a person for 30 seconds once-a-year to a few hours a day,” said Tsouri.