Zoom on Binah.ai: Is your phone your new doctor?

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The future of healthcare may just have arrived in the form of Binah.ai’s revolutionary approach to collecting an impressive range of physiological markers that could allow all of us to gain important insights into our health in seconds at home. Their tagline is “Health. Care. Anywhere” and, if their software can achieve what they hope it will, this promise might well be achievable.

Who are Binah.ai?

Binah.ai are a healthcare startup whose goal is to make healthcare as accessible as a touch of a button using the video-taking capabilities that are already present on many of our devices. Their goal is to make collecting health data entirely software-based. At present, Binah.ai don’t sell their software directly to consumers and instead are marketing it towards companies and insurers.

How does Binah.ai work?

Binah.ai uses artificial intelligence to collect real-time health data using video-based software. This isn’t an entirely new idea. Transdermal optical imaging has been around for a little while and is even already in use with some digital healthcare software. It works similarly to photoplethysmography (PGP). This is the method that your wearable devices use to measure your heart rate and it involves shining light through the skin and measuring the scatter pattern. The difference in scatter patterns depending on the amount of blood underneath the skin is predictable and models based on these predictions can tell the device whether there is more or less blood in each reading. This method can accurately measure exactly when a pulse happens and the heart rate can be calculated based on that.

Transdermal optical imaging takes this idea a step further. Rather than a wearable placed on your wrist that uses a light beam to measure your pulse, transdermal imaging uses a video of your face to collect minute changes in the blood underneath the skin that can then be used to model a wide range of health markers.

Binah.ai’s software is designed to measure:

  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Heart rate variability
  • Parasympathetic activity
  • Sympathetic stress
  • Oxygen saturation
  • Pulse respiratory quotient (PRQ)
  • Respiration rate

What makes Binah.ai unique?

We know that transdermal optical imaging isn’t a new idea and there are lots of companies that are using this technology in innovative and unique ways, including full-body scans and more. Binah.ai’s aim is less focused on wellness measurements for individuals to track their health for their own peace of mind. Instead, they are aiming to make their software an integral part of standard healthcare.

They have created a software development kit (SDK) that can be used on a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Crucially, it can also be used on a variety of operating systems and web applications. This high availability of the technology means that it could easily be implemented by healthcare providers and disseminated to their patients. And this is exactly what Binah.ai is aiming for.

At present, healthcare data that has been collected by wearable devices, such as fitness trackers, can already be shared with healthcare providers. Binah.ai want to eliminate the need for the wearable device entirely and make gathering this type of health information entirely accessible using devices that the majority of people already own or can gain easy access to.

It is easy to see how this changes the landscape when it comes to healthcare providers and insurers getting on board with the technology. Fitness tracker users are still in the minority (approximately one in five American adults) so healthcare providers are not in a position to prioritize using this type of technology as it won’t benefit the majority of their patients.

With Binah.ai’s SDKs, however, healthcare providers can tell their patients to download the app or even just click on a link to reach a webpage and they will instantly be able to access the technology. With more and more health appointments being conducted over the phone or using video-calling technology, this type of remote health screening is an important next step.

Is it accurate enough?

Using transdermal optical imaging for wellness purposes only means that the accuracy, while important, isn’t as vital as it is when the data is being used for medical reasons. For Binah.ai to reach the medical world with their software it will need to meet a much higher standard of accuracy and reliability than at-home wellness applications.

Let’s take a look at their blood pressure monitoring as an example. We can be relatively sure with measures such as heart rate and blood oxygen levels that the PGP or transdermal optical imaging is accurate but measuring blood pressure is more challenging. Wearable devices don’t attempt to measure blood pressure even though they are in direct contact with the body, which has left some people wondering how accurate video-based blood pressure monitoring can be.

One of the main hurdles to overcome with blood pressure monitoring is calibration. A blood pressure cuff will measure a baseline before calculating blood pressure but it isn’t possible to have this type of calibration using transdermal optical imaging. Binah.ai argue that this doesn’t matter as much as it may first appear and that calibration isn’t actually necessary for blood pressure monitoring. They are still in the experimental stage of conducting scientific studies to demonstrate their blood pressure accuracy but, at present, the data looks as though the accuracy is in line with at-home blood pressure monitors, not medical devices used in health office settings.

Is this a problem? Possibly not. Many patients with high or low blood pressure will be instructed to take their own readings at home using a blood pressure cuff and to report these data back to their healthcare provider so if Binah.ai’s blood pressure accuracy is in line with these, there does seem to be a definite use for them in a medical setting.

To wrap up

In the future, will we all be using Binah.ai to access and share our vital health information as easily as we take selfies? It is entirely possible. The world of digital health has exploded in recent years and there has been a sizeable shift to remote options when it comes to healthcare so the software does fill a niche that could well be needed. There are lots of hurdles to overcome before we start seeing this type of technology in use as a standard part of our medical care but if it truly can make it more accessible to all, it could improve many people’s lives.

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