Deciding whether a symptom is serious enough to go see a doctor could soon become much easier, thanks to a hand-held technology being developed by a Johns Hopkins University startup. “It’s like a check-engine light for people,” says the inventor.
Paul Zwolak, Marlena Agency
In 2011, Gene Fridman, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and otolaryngology–head and neck surgery, started building a device to quickly capture vital signs from one central place—the mouth. “The mouth has a lot of target information that is easily accessible,” he says. “There’s saliva, breath, blood vessels and mucous membrane.”
Called MouthLab, the technology uses connectable, disposable mouthpieces. Pressure sensors measure breath, and electrodes track heart impulses for an electrocardiogram. A separate sensor takes temperature, while red- and infrared-emitting diodes and an optic detector record measurements for pulse oximetry, blood oxygen saturation and blood pressure.
Once gathered, the data are wirelessly transmitted to a computer or smart device, where software extracts vital signs using a set of algorithms. The technology is designed as an off-the-shelf product for people to use in their homes to determine whether or not they should see a doctor, but it is also intended to increase efficiency in doctors’ offices and emergency departments, where multiple attachments are used to check vital signs.
With funding from the Maryland Innovation Initiative, Fridman recently compared MouthLab’s performance to standard patient monitoring equipment used in doctors’ offices and hospitals. Early results were comparable. Now, under company name Multisensor Diagnostics, Fridman hopes to gain additional funding to further test, refine and commercialize the technology.
In the product’s next generations, he is aiming for a built-in display to show results, the capability to send information to electronic medical records and the detection of much broader medical information, such as biomarkers in the breath, to identify everything from asthma to renal diseases.
“It could detect problems early that a doctor should examine, but it could also reduce visits to the emergency room,” says Fridman. “The possibilities are endless.”
For more information, email Fridman at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit multisensordiagnostics.com. Access to Multisensor Diagnostics’ website may not be available from the Johns Hopkins network.