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Intermountain Tests a Smartphone App to Identify Jaundice in Newborns

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   March 20, 2024

The health system is working with a Norwegian digital health company to develop an app that would allow parents to test their babies at home

Intermountain Health is developing a digital health app for smartphones that will help parents identify jaundice in their babies at home.

The Salt Lake City-based health system is partnering with Norwegian digital health company Picterus AS to create the app, which would use a smartphone camera and a laminated card to measure bilirubin levels in newborns without the need for a return trip to the hospital or clinic and a blood draw.

“Bilirubin and jaundice management has long been based in the hospital and the clinic,” Tim Bahr, MD, an neonatologist who is leading the study, said in a press release. “Taking a newborn to the clinic or laboratory for frequent blood tests in the first days of life can be a huge inconvenience and burden on families. We hope to simplify this care and move more of it into the home. This is a win for families and for our healthcare system.”

The app addresses a care management pain point for hospitals. According to the March of Dimes, three of every five babies born in the US develop jaundice within days after birth. Many recover quickly with little medical intervention, but jaundice can lead to serious health concerns, including Hyperbilirubinemia, brain damage, or hearing loss, if untreated.

Intermountain, which greets and tests 33,000 newborns a year, aims to turn the smartphone into a diagnostic tool that would enable parents to quickly check their baby’s health at home after discharge from the hospital, and to contact their care providers if jaundice is evident. Parents would use their phone to snap roughly six photos of the laminated calibration card placed on the chest of their baby, and the app would translate those photos into a diagnosis.

“We do know that parents are pretty good at taking pictures of their babies,” Bahr noted in the press release. 

“This technology is exciting to us because it makes it possible to measure the bilirubin in a baby without taking blood,” he added. “Right now, the only way to measure bilirubin levels in babies is to take them to a laboratory and draw blood.  By having this technology available on a smartphone, we will eventually empower parents to make these measurements without having to leave their homes with an easily accessible and affordable tool.”

The health system is testing the digital health tool on about 300 term babies born at Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, and Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, as well as on about 100 pre-term babies. They’ll test the app against the traditional method of drawing blood.

If proven reliable and introduced to clinical care, the app could not only save new parents the hassle of return trips and treatment, but help providers identify and treat jaundice earlier and more effectively, improving clinical outcomes and reducing costs.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


Roughly three of every five babies born in the US develop jaundice within days of birth, which could lead to serious health concerns if not treated.

While babies are tested for jaundice at the hospital, it’s up to the parents to bring them back to the hospital or a clinic after discharge for follow-up tests, which involve a blood draw.

Intermountain Health is working on an app that would allow parents to test their babies at home and alert care teams if jaundice is detected.

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