Newborn jaundice is a common condition in babies. While yellowing of the skin is a primary indicator, that discoloration may be hard to see and, if left untreated, can harm a baby. University of Washington, Seattle, engineers and physicians have developed a smartphone app that can check for jaundice and can deliver results to parents and pediatricians within minutes.

Parents or physicians can monitor a newborn baby’s jaundice with their smartphones through BiliCam. (Credit: University of Washington)
Since bilirubin levels build up, usually after the baby leaves the hospital, the smartphone test could serve as a screening tool to determine whether a baby needs a blood test to detect high levels of bilirubin in the first few days at home.

The app, called BiliCam, uses a smartphone’s camera and flash and a color calibration card. A parent or health care professional would download the app, place the card on the baby’s belly, and take a picture with the card in view. The card calibrates and accounts for different lighting conditions and skin tones. Data from the photo are analyzed by machine-learning algorithms, and a report on the newborn’s bilirubin levels is sent almost instantly to the parent’s phone.

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