MSU Professor Brings Blood Pressure Readings to the Palm of Your Hand

Ramakrishna Mukkamala INNOVATION OF THE YEAR

Taking measures to improve your quality of life might become as routine as pulling up an updated weather report on your smartphone thanks to Ramakrishna Mukkamala, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.

For his idea to measure blood pressure with a smartphone, Mukkamala is the recipient of the 2019 Innovation of the Year Award.

Here’s how it works: The smartphone measures blood pressure as the user presses their fingertip to a sensor unit, with results comparable in accuracy to existing finger cuff devices. Mukkamala and his research team developed both a smartphone encased with a custom sensor unit and an iPhone app that leverages sensors including the front-facing camera.

Instead of scheduling an appointment with a doctor, Mukkamala’s smartphone blood pressure measurement devices could significantly reduce the 45% of people in developed countries who have hypertension but aren’t aware of it. The same goes for the 55% of hypertensives not aware of it in developing countries, in which smartphone use is growing.

The devices are user-friendly, with 90% of participants in a study able to correctly perform the finger pressing after just one or two practice trials.

More frequent blood pressure readings can lead to hypertension prevention. High blood pressure can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes, making a life-saving decision mere seconds and a fingertip away.

Mukkamala’s ambitious start to smartphone blood pressure measurement is just the beginning. Along with improved accuracy that could rival the standard blood pressure arm cuff, the goal is to develop a complete hypertension management system by including an alert to warn users of high blood pressure. The system would securely relay the measurements to medical professionals and send text message reminders to patients with high blood pressure measurements to take medication.

MSU’s Innovation Center was instrumental in providing Mukkamala and his team with research funding, patents, licensing and finally commercialization. He said the personal investment the IC had in his work was its most significant contribution, praising Richard Chylla, executive director of MSU Technologies; Brian Copple, technology manager; and Anne Di Sante, associate director at MSU Technologies.

“We were able to work productively together,” he said. “While doing so, we also got to know each other. The MSU Innovation Center truly cares about me. Taken together, it has been a joy to work with them.”

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