Mobile family healthcare?

By Anne Collier

Well, if not full-on healthcare via cellphone, at least preliminary diagnoses. A doctor in emergency medicine at George Washington University who had gotten comfortable making informal diagnoses for family and friends with snapshots of injuries taken and sent mobile phones thought he’d conduct a study to see if this would for other patients and doctors, the Washington Post reports. The not-yet-completed, six-month study is looking at “how accurately emergency doctors and physician assistants at GWU Hospital could diagnose wounds from patient-generated cellphone images.” The docs have patients remotely fill out a questionnaire about medical history and symptoms and send images to a secure email account, then they’ll see the patient in person to see how accurate their diagnoses were. “So far, about 90% of the diagnoses are accurate,” according to the Post. Half of the images in the remaining 10% were too grainy, Dr. Neal Sikka, who’s leading the study, told the Post. He said that using phones with at least three megapixels, autoflash and autofocus would help a lot. I can see this as a very useful additional “input,” for example in situations where patient and doctor are on the fence about whether a hospital visit is necessary, but – like so many tech applications – I can’t see it replacing in-person doctor-patient communication.

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