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Apps, gadgets, and other innovations that are advancing health and health science.

1/ All-in-one


Dubbed a "check engine light" for humans, MouthLab captures vital signs from the lips and thumb to display health status. Designed by Johns Hopkins engineers and physicians, the battery-powered, hand-held device can measure pulse, breathing rate, temperature, blood pressure, blood-oxygen saturation, and even heart impulses in seconds. Users breathe normally through the nose and mouth via the disposable mouthpiece, and then place a thumb on the device’s pad. Built-in sensors do the rest. 

illustration of a mouth
Hanna Barczyk


2/ Breathe Easy


SpiroSense, designed by biomedical engineering students, offers an inexpensive way to detect respiratory illnesses. The user exhales into the device—connected via audio jack to a smartphone or computer—and software processes the audio signal to check exhalation volume and velocity. The device, which costs less than $25 to produce compared to thousands for traditional spirometers, could help patients in remote or poor areas get timely treatment for ailments like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (pulmonology)

Illustration of the pulmonary track


3/ Bedside App

Patient Care

A new iPad app aims to make your ICU stay more comfortable. Designed and piloted at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Patient and Family Portal includes an interactive display of your room's equipment, a profile page to upload pictures and share personal information, and a "Family Involvement" menu that lists activities (eating, physical therapy, pillow positioning) that loved ones can assist with. The information entered can be viewed by the health care team.

Illustration of a family at a child's bedside in a hospital room
Laurent Cilluffo


4/ Neck simulator

Injury Prevention

To protect real necks, use a faux one. Injury researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory are using a patented human neck model that comprises the upper spine and cervical vertebrae. Elastic tension bands and silicone material in the model can be adjusted for variable test conditions to closely simulate the static and dynamic characteristics of a human neck in various scenarios, such as car crashes, falls,and quick blows to the body.

illustration of a neck and vertebrae


5/ Text alerts

Patient Communication

As parents already know, if you want a teen’s attention, talk to their phone. Now doctors are doing it. Sending periodic text message reminders to follow through on clinic appointments for birth control injections can significantly improve timing and adherence to contraception for today’s superbusy teen, according to a Johns Hopkins study. The results highlight the untapped potential of texting as a means of routine communication between clinicians and young patients. No emojis needed.

illustration of a teen texting
Elliott Stokes


6/ Pill lockdown


Standard pill bottles don't thwart anyone. If you want in, just push down and turn. To help curtail widespread prescription drug addiction and deaths, Johns Hopkins mechanical engineering students have designed a prototype anti-theft, tamper-resistant pill dispenser. The cylindrical device's locking mechanism allows only a pharmacist to load the pills, and a fingerprint sensor ensures that drugs are dispensed only to the patient at prescribed intervals and dosage. It's made from the steel alloy used in aircraft landing gear; good luck breaking it open.

illustration of a pill bottle

7/ Therapeutic headgear


A promising therapy for Parkinson’s patients is trans-cranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS, a safe and noninvasive way to deliver a targeted, low-level current to the brain to suppress the disease’s motor symptoms, such as tremors and rigidity, without side effects. Confined to research studies, tDCS might someday soon be a clinical therapy alternative with STIMband, a student-designed headband-shaped device fitted with external electrodes to give patients a user-friendly way to undergo 20 to 30 minutes of daily tDCS at home.

illustration of a brain

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