This month, Google published a patent application that shows how optical sensors placed in personal devices or everyday objects could monitor and measure cardiovascular function. This would help patients to prevent heart disease and motivate them to adopt a heathier lifestyle.
According to the patent, optical sensors could be used from the patient's smartphone, computer or Google Glass, and could even be placed in their bathroom mirror, where the programme would be able to gather data without any effort from the user. The sensors could measure hemodynamics (the patient's blood flow dynamics) by assessing physical appearance, such as skin colour.
Over time, Google's invention will be able to determine a cardiovascular trend for the patient and share the data with them or a medical professional. It will also be able to make more direct health assessments. For example, a sudden colour difference between the patient's two cheeks could mean they are having a stroke.
Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally (World Health Organisation, 2017), but most heart-related diseases can be prevented by making behavioural changes, such as adopting a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. One of the most important potential uses of Google's invention is its ability to motivate at-risk patients to change their behaviours by giving them positive feedback, as existing methods are not only inconvenient, but also expensive.