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GaitTrack app makes cellphone a medical monitor for heart and lung patients
Date:5/8/2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. By simply carrying around their cellphones, patients who suffer from chronic disease could soon have an accurate health monitor that warns their doctors when their symptoms worsen.

GaitTrack, an app developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the U. of I. at Chicago, turns a smartphone into a sophisticated medical device. Unlike other apps that merely count steps, GaitTrack uses eight motion parameters to perform a detailed analysis of a person's gait, or walking pattern, which can tell physicians much about a patient's cardiopulmonary, muscular and neurological health.

Led by Bruce Schatz, the head of medical information science and a professor of computer science at the U. of I., the team published its findings in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health.

"Fitness apps and devices are tuned for healthy people," said Schatz, who also is affiliated with the Institute for Genomic Biology at the U. of I. "They cannot accurately measure patients with chronic disease, who are the biggest medical market. A pedometer is not a medical device. But a cheap phone with GaitTrack software is."

According to Schatz, gait is sometimes called the "sixth vital sign" after temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood oxygen level. 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.

Doctors often use an assessment called the six-minute walk test for patients with heart and lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Patients with chronic disease often cannot be measured with typical pedometers since they tend to walk with shorter, more careful strides, or to shuffle, so specialized medical accelerometers are used.

The Illinois team used GaitTrack to administer six-minute walk tests to 30 pati
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Contact: Liz Ahlberg
eahlberg@illinois.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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