Can’t Tell If Your Baby Has Jaundice? There’s an App for That
No new mom worth her salt is without a smartphone in the days after baby is born. After all, those cute newborn pictures aren’t going to take themselves! But a new app designed by physicians and engineers at the University of Washington may just give parents another reason to keep their cells close by.
Bilicam is designed to detect jaundice in infants using a smartphone’s camera and flash and a special card that calibrates for various lighting conditions and skin tones. After downloading the app, parents place the card on baby’s belly and then snap a picture of the skin and card together. Data from the photo goes to the cloud, where it’s then analyzed by algorithms. Results are sent to your smartphone. (Start to finish the whole thing takes just a few minutes.) Using that information, your doctor can figure out whether your baby needs a blood test or can skip the needle prick altogether.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of high-tech advances for baby (hello, smart diaper), but what I think is pretty incredible about this app is that it targets a very common condition in newborns. Jaundice happens when the body can’t efficiently rid itself of the chemical bilirubin, and the skin and eyes turn yellow. Sometimes you can spot it, but other times you can’t. (My son had it for a couple of days right after being born, and I never saw a hint of discoloration.) And although it’s a fairly normal condition, if left untreated, jaundice can cause serious complications, like brain damage.
As James Taylor, a UW professor of pediatrics and medical director of the newborn nursery at UW Medical Center, pointed out, babies are discharged from the hospital “before bilirubin levels reach their peak. This smartphone test is really for babies in the first few days after they go home. A parent or health care provider can get an accurate picture of bilirubin to bridge the gap after leaving the hospital.”
But don’t go searching for Bilicam in the app store just yet — it’s still in development. According to UW, the app could be available to doctors within a year and be suitable for at-home use by parents within two years, pending FDA approval.
Tell us: Did your baby have jaundice? How early was it diagnosed and how long was the treatment?
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