App to monitor chronic lung and heart diseases

New York: Suffering from chronic lung and heart diseases? If scientists have their way, you may soon turn your cell phone into a sophisticated medical device to monitor your condition with an app.

The GaitTrack app can keep track of a patient's heart and lungs by analysing the way he/she walks.

GaitTrack uses eight motion parameters to perform a detailed analysis of a person's walking pattern, which can tell physicians much about a patient's cardiopulmonary, muscular and neurological health.

After temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood oxygen level, gait, or the pattern of walking, is considered the "sixth vital sign".

Gait speed involves several systems of the body working together in coordination, so changes in gait can be a sign of trouble in one or more systems.

The researchers used GaitTrack to administer six-minute walk tests to 30 patients with chronic lung disease and found that it monitored more accurately - and more cheaply - than the medical accelerometers.

In addition, they discovered that analysis of the gait data could predict lung function with 90 percent accuracy, within an age group.

The researchers are now testing GaitTrack in larger trials within health systems and it could be available for download within months.

"Population health measurement is the key to making health care viable. If you could just measure what people were doing all the time, then you could get enough information to make rational decisions," said Bruce Schatz, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois in the US.

The findings appeared in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health.