Physicians use complete blood count (CBC) tests to address and diagnose anemia by measuring the number, size, volume, and hemoglobin content of red blood cells. In 2015, we wrote about STAT Innovations’ early work with Eyenemia, a mobile app that estimates hemoglobin quantity by comparing photos of lower inner eyelids with a special color chart. In early 2019 we reported a study Emory University University biomedical engineers that found 97% sensitivity in hemoglobin level estimates using a smartphone app and patient-sourced photos of fingernail bed color.

Purdue University researchers have made further progress in detecting anemia with a smartphone app. They have developed a system that gives clinical staff a near-accurate hemoglobin count from a photograph of a patient’s inner eyelid. The Purdue engineers published a paper in Optica that describes the software. According to Purdue associate professor of biomedical engineering, “This technology won’t replace a conventional blood test, but it gives a comparable hemoglobin count right away and is noninvasive and real-time.”

The first uses of the Purdue software will likely be for preliminary screening, which can augment diagnostic resources in remote areas. As software development continues, this could become a valuable tool for telehealth physical exams and possibly reduce reliance on more invasive and time-consuming blood tests.