UH Moment

UH Moment: “Blue Scale”

Home medical care is becoming more common.  A new device developed by researchers at the University of Houston allows a person to monitor and make health-care judgments about their chronic cardiac care in time to prevent an emergency.  Here’s this week’s UH Moment.


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There is beeping coming from a hand-held device held by University of Houston’s Dr. Cliff Dacso.  The device is small and square, like a child’s Game Boy.  Dacso is holding it gently, his thumbs on top of biosensors and his forefingers covering sensors on the edges.

“You’re listening to my heartbeat, which is keyed off this electrocardiogram,” he said.  “I’m holding this device with my thumbs on two electrodes and it’s doing a perfectly recognizable electrocardiogram.”

This is a handheld version of a device he and his research team developed called the Blue Scale.  The Blue Scale (which gets its name from the color they painted it), is designed to gather important information about a person’s chronic cardiac condition, at home.  With that information the person can elect to make decisions about his healthcare before an emergency event.

“The scale itself collects four separate biological parameters that all roll up together to give an index, which parallels cardiac output, the amount of blood that the heart ejects per stroke,” Dacso said.  “Our goal is to predict decompensation events in persons with congestive heart failure prior to the person knowing it or developing symptoms.”

University of Houston's Dr. Cliff DacsoThe full-size version of the Blue Scale is no larger than a scale at your doctor’s office.  A person steps on a platform and grips biosensors on the device.  These detect and predict changes in the patient’s condition in time to prevent an emergency

“We know that there are events that occur hours or days prior to the clinical development of this syndrome, things that happen that we can measure,” he said.  “The loop is between the device and the person using it, and our goal is to give that information to the person using it to allow them to make actions in their own self interest. “

Dacso says the device could have application for many chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes or depression.

The Blue Scale is a collaboration between the Abramson Center, Methodist Hospital Research Institute and the UH College of Technology.  It is supported in part by an Emerging Technology Grant from the state of Texas.

“I think that this is just one more way to provide more information to people to allow them to exercise their autonomy,” he said.   

The Abramson Center for the Future of Health is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez.

Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.