This technology would stem from the existing mechanism used to detect a conductive touch. Research assistant professor Hyun Gyu Park said that different pathogens or bacteria cause different biomarkers that could be detected as different capacitances by the touch screen. For example, a drop of saliva, blood or urine could be used to diagnose if you have strep throat, the flu, or food poisoning.
Park says touch screen technology is already extremely sensitive, so much so that software is applied in every phone to make the touch screen less sensitive. This software prevents accidental interactions from sweat or water.
Obviously, no one wants to smear any bodily fluid on the screen of their phone, so Park and his team will develop a special film to cover the screen when it is used to diagnose. (Why use a phone at all? Perhaps they should be looking into developing a whole new line of devices for medical applications.)
They have already done tests on touch screens to measure their sensitivity. A touch screen phone successfully identified different DNA concentrations of a Chlamydia causing bacteria. Now they must see if the screen can identify bacteria.
This technology is still years from being released to the public. As beneficial this would be to families everywhere, one of the issues that may halt this progress is businessmen’s lust for money. Social benefits are obvious but changes to the current phone manufacturing process would need to be made so monetary benefits must be proven as well.
The more analysis in medicine the better. Lab on a chip devices are already making huge strides in medical research. This is a great complement to other devices. Although this capacitive sensor may help with detection of something, it isn't the end all.