Nurses and other healthcare workers could soon be able to check patients’ vital signs with smartphones and tablet PCs.

Researchers have developed a smartphone app that measures heart rate, heart rhythm, respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation all via the phone’s video camera feature, according to a new report. The app assesses vital signs as accurately as standard medical devices, say developers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

In their paper, “Physiological Parameter Monitoring from Optical Recordings with a Mobile Phone,” researchers said this technology allows patients to carry an accurate physiological monitor with them anywhere, without the need for hardware beyond what comes loaded on current mobile phones.

“Imagine a technician in a nursing home who is able to go into a patient’s room, place the patient’s finger on the camera of a tablet, and in that one step capture all their vital signs,” said Ki Chon, Ph.D., one of the application’s developers. “We believe there are many applications for this technology, to help patients monitor themselves, and to help clinicians care for their patients.”

The paper was published online in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.