Dr. Neal Sikka, an Emergency Medicine physician at George Washington University, has a six month study underway examining how accurately Emergency Medicine practitioners at George Washington University Hospital can diagnose wounds from patient generated cell phone images.
Sikka told the Washington Post that it’s currently the largest mHealth (mobile health) study to look at acute wound care.
The study’s methods:
In the new study, researchers recruit people who have arrived at the hospital with cuts, skin infections, rashes and other flesh wounds. Patients use their own camera phones to document their injuries. After filling out a questionnaire about their medical history and symptoms, they send the images to a secure e-mail account. All images are downloaded and stored on a secure hard drive.
“We’ll look at their picture along with the questionnaire and make a diagnosis,” Sikka said. Researchers use a PC to zoom in and focus on specific parts of the photo. Then the doctor will see the patient to see if the cellphone diagnosis was accurate.
Sikka says that so far the results have been encouraging, with approximately 90% of the diagnoses being accurate. Camera phones that perform particularly well are those with at least three megapixels, autoflash, and autofocus. With advancements in smart phone technology camera phones meeting these requirements should be the standard.
Sikka went on to say the data so far shows a majority are not worried about privacy and security, rather, they believe this type of service saves time, improves access to care, and enhances doctor patient communication.
This type of mHealth, or telemedicine, is a fantastic example of how existing mobile technology – such as better camera phones and data plans – can be utilized in patient care. We actually gave an example of wound care telemedicine with the iPhone’s Face Time feature previously.
What makes this utilization of mHealth so noteworthy is it’s being incorporated into a legitimate research study. There are a great number of examples of how mHealth could potentially work – but few good studies that have been performed to see if it actually will work.
The continued interest in the academic world to perform research studies into the utilization and efficacy of mHealth will be the true markers of mHealth’s success in medicine.