Can Thermal Cameras Spot Fever and Help Prevent the Spread?
The demand for the latest technologies to detect symptomatic people has never been so high due to the wake of COVID-19 and its harmful effects. But you should also keep in mind that all solutions may not work as claimed.
These days, you can always find a thermal camera anywhere you go to detect people who have symptoms like a fever in public places like shopping centers, hospital entrances, office buildings, and sports events. People who are detected with elevated skin temperature can be moved for further tests and quarantine to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
But, according to some studies, a thermal camera scanner should be set up properly and used accurately to get more accurate results. It often raises privacy concerns.
What about the accuracy?
Accuracy is something that cannot be overlooked even in the critical situation of COVID-19. Healthcare services are going to have a huge burden from unnecessary assessments if temperature screening keeps detecting many people with false positives. On the other side, if this technology detects false negatives (people who have symptoms but it detects them as safe), it may be even worse because it forms a false feeling of security. It is very vital if you are operating in high-risk zones and areas like hospitals or aged-care facilities.
The tools which are used to diagnose patients for fever like ear, mouth, or rectal thermometers, are considered to be most accurate to measure temperatures. But you need well-trained staff to operate these tools properly and patients should be in close contact with the device which should be cleaned off before reusing it. The cleaning and training requirements are major issues in the recent pandemic. This is the reason such tools cannot be used on such a huge scale.
The Need for Thermal Cameras
Both industries and governments are using automated technologies like thermal cameras to conduct temperature screening from the skin and facial areas. A lot of these systems have been deployed in risky areas across the nation. These systems are often considered as a magic spell when it comes to detecting elevated temperatures of the masses. They are very quick to measure temperature and they are also contactless. You can view data far away. It has the least disruption in public places and there is a very small risk of harm or cross-contamination to staff. It also doesn’t need much training.
But there is still a lack of evidence
The problem is that there is a lack of proper evidence that is in favor of the use of thermal cameras for fever screening. There has been a lack of large-scale and multi-site clinical trials so far to determine the accuracy of systems. There is a lack of approval of thermal imaging systems for using them as medical devices. These systems are still being trusted to secure high-risk zones and it is very concerning. There are also chances that limitations have been overlooked with the rush to look for solutions to ensure public safety.
There are certain limits, though
These technologies are known to have biological limitations. The skin on the face of a person doesn’t reflect the core temperature of the body and it is not the only temperature to diagnose someone with a fever. For example, the forehead temperature usually remains low for several minutes when you enter premises on a winter day. As a result, even a person with a fever will go undetected.
According to research, the inner corner of your eye is the area of your face which gives the most accurate measurement of core body temperature. The person has to be very close and face the camera directly because the target is very small. Even a small angular change can affect the readings. Even though the right part of your face is measured, there are different factors altering the results like airflow, room temperature, glasses, skin dampness, and image background. So, it is recommended to measure only one person at a time, keep the camera and subject close and make sure everyone stops while facing the camera.