How an iPhone app could diagnose jaundice in babies

One day apps like this could be routinely used in hospitals as a way of eliminating certain diseases.

One day apps like this could be routinely used in hospitals as a way of eliminating certain diseases.

The drive toward mobile health has seen more and more research into the possible medical applications of smartphones. The latest comes from a team of researchers at the University of Washington, who have developed an app capable of diagnosing jaundice in infants simply by taking their picture.

If untreated, severe jaundice can cause brain damage along with a potentially fatal condition called kernicterus. Since it is typically diagnosed by a yellowing of the skin, the iPhone app — called Bilicam — asks users to place a color calibration card on the baby’s stomach, which helps the software to work out lighting and flash conditions, then snap a photo, which is uploaded to the cloud for analysis.

Analysis is carried out by an algorithm, which provides results almost instantly — and could well be used in hospitals as a screening tool to determine whether infants need to take any further blood tests.


Currently the app is still in development, with the team planning to test it on 1,000 infants of different ethnicities, before pursuing the all-important FDA approval.

Apple believes its current push into mobile health, with devices like the eagerly-anticipated iWatch, is a “moral obligation.”

  • Aannddyy

    That’s great, then the hospital will send you the bill for taking the picture. Most likely it will cost about $1200.00. You won’t know the cost until it’s too late.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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