BACKGROUND: There is worldwide demand for an affordable hemoglobin measurement solution, which is a particularly urgent need in developing countries. The smartphone, which is the most penetrated device in both rich and resource-constrained areas, would be a suitable choice to build this solution. Consideration of a smartphone-based hemoglobin measurement tool is compelling because of the possibilities for an affordable, portable, and reliable point-of-care tool by leveraging the camera capacity, computing power, and lighting sources of the smartphone. However, several smartphone-based hemoglobin measurement techniques have encountered significant challenges with respect to data collection methods, sensor selection, signal analysis processes, and machine-learning algorithms. Therefore, a comprehensive analysis of invasive, minimally invasive, and noninvasive methods is required to recommend a hemoglobin measurement process using a smartphone device.

OBJECTIVE: In this study, we analyzed existing invasive, minimally invasive, and noninvasive approaches for blood hemoglobin level measurement with the goal of recommending data collection techniques, signal extraction processes, feature calculation strategies, theoretical foundation, and machine-learning algorithms for developing a noninvasive hemoglobin level estimation point-of-care tool using a smartphone.

METHODS: We explored research papers related to invasive, minimally invasive, and noninvasive hemoglobin level measurement processes. We investigated the challenges and opportunities of each technique. We compared the variation in data collection sites, biosignal processing techniques, theoretical foundations, photoplethysmogram (PPG) signal and features extraction process, machine-learning algorithms, and prediction models to calculate hemoglobin levels. This analysis was then used to recommend realistic approaches to build a smartphone-based point-of-care tool for hemoglobin measurement in a noninvasive manner.

RESULTS: The fingertip area is one of the best data collection sites from the body, followed by the lower eye conjunctival area. Near-infrared (NIR) light-emitting diode (LED) light with wavelengths of 850 nm, 940 nm, and 1070 nm were identified as potential light sources to receive a hemoglobin response from living tissue. PPG signals from fingertip videos, captured under various light sources, can provide critical physiological clues. The features of PPG signals captured under 1070 nm and 850 nm NIR LED are considered to be the best signal combinations following a dual-wavelength theoretical foundation. For error metrics presentation, we recommend the mean absolute percentage error, mean squared error, correlation coefficient, and Bland-Altman plot.

CONCLUSIONS: We addressed the challenges of developing an affordable, portable, and reliable point-of-care tool for hemoglobin measurement using a smartphone. Leveraging the smartphone's camera capacity, computing power, and lighting sources, we define specific recommendations for practical point-of-care solution development. We further provide recommendations to resolve several long-standing research questions, including how to capture a signal using a smartphone camera, select the best body site for signal collection, and overcome noise issues in the smartphone-captured signal. We also describe the process of extracting a signal's features after capturing the signal based on fundamental theory. The list of machine-learning algorithms provided will be useful for processing PPG features. These recommendations should be valuable for future investigators seeking to build a reliable and affordable hemoglobin prediction model using a smartphone.

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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth

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