Most of us spend a significant number of hours on our Smartphones daily. We use our phones for exciting things like texting, calling, social media, or simple tasks like calculation, design, or even research. But have you ever wondered if your android or iOS could improve your healthcare?
I’m here to show you that this imagination is now a reality with the advances in technology and innovation and the rising penetration of smartphones globally.
Since the first cellular phone call in 1973, mobile technology has transcended beyond communication. Today, some phones are ‘smart’ – they have a touchscreen interface, internet access, and operating systems that perform computer functions and run software Apps.
Today, there is what we call MHealth. It refers to the medical and public health services supported by mobile devices such as Smartphones, personal computers (PCs), personal digital assistants (PDAs), smartwatches, etc.
These devices can be used for various clinical services ranging from diagnosis and data collection to treatment. They do not only provide easier access but affordable and effective clinical services.
Also, the role of Smart technology in medicine is growing, from medical education to patient care and ailment diagnosis in performing high-grade clinical services.
So, let’s get right to the gist of how Smartphones can be turned into high-grade clinical service tools.
Smartphone-based medical services are broadly categorized into two. One is the application, and the other is attachment or extension. There are Smartphone attachments and extensions that are used to render clinical services. And several mobile application service providers are leveraging Smartphones to provide high-grade clinical services.
But here are the high-grade clinical services that can be performed just by using Smartphones.
Medical consulting: Smartphone provides medical doctors with remote access to patients in the form of telehealth or telemedicine through video conferencing and live virtual meetings. With this, doctors can interact with their patients in real-time through high video and sound quality.
For instance, Kangpe connects Africans to healthcare services through its mobile application, where users can remotely contact doctors.
Medical diagnosis: Also, there are various adaptations of health devices found in the hospital in mobile applications that patients can use to diagnose their health problems. There are mobile applications that perform health diagnosis by measuring various symptoms uploaded by the patient. Apps like ResApp can determine the probability that a patient has respiratory conditions like asthma and pneumonia through a Smartphone microphone.
There are lens attachments that increase the resolution of images taken by these phones to produce high-resolution microscopic images. Ozcan research group has introduced various mobile microscopy and sensing innovations for field-portable medical diagnostics. They are also using AI deep learning to enhance microscopic details of Smartphone images into laboratory-grade level devices.
Health information: Smartphones can also be used to disseminate health-related information and render quality health information services. Apps like iTriage provide the location of nearby emergency rooms, emergency room wait times, and specialized doctors in the US. This app is similar to Find-A-Med, which is a location-based mobile application in Nigeria that helps users find the nearest health centers around them.
Also, ZocDoc is a software application through which patients make appointments with registered doctors on the platform. Outbreaks Near Me is a US-based App that provides information on disease outbreaks by geography. The MyPaddi App offers young people access to sexual and reproductive health information and products in Nigeria.
Health monitoring: mobile Apps can be used to monitor the health conditions of patients remotely. For instance, Medtronic’s MyCareLink Heart App is used for remote monitoring by communicating with smartphone-connected pacemaker patients.
Also, Livongo leverages smart connected devices to monitor blood pressure and provide health coach services to make better health decisions. Other mobile applications like D-Minder-Pro monitor and estimate your vitamin D exposure.
Clinical photography: Clinical photography is an essential part of contemporary clinical practice and helps clinicians evaluate and document and analyze medical conditions. With Smartphone technology, this job is made even more comfortable and faster.
Auscultation: Today, mobile technology has enabled mobile stethoscope. Doctors and medical experts use the stethoscope to amplify heartbeats and breath sounds in determining heart functioning. Now, patients also can turn their Smartphones into a stethoscope and hear their breath sounds and heartbeats in real-time.
Electroencephalography (EEG): Smartphone technology can enable epilepsy patients self-monitor at home and transmit their brain electrical activity data to their neurologist(s). This technology will cater to ECG clinical services.
Electrocardiography (ECG): Also, Smartphone technology can be used for ECG through smartwatches that are connected to mobile Applications. Smartphones can be connected to an ECG device via Bluetooth, and patients can be monitored in real-time through their phones. People also can see their ECG reading through wireless connection by placing their fingers on small cards wirelessly connected to their Smartphones.
Ophthalmology and otolaryngology services: Today, Smartphone cameras and microphones can be used as audio and visual diagnostic tools for patients in their homes.
Clinical services using the ophthalmoscope or otoscope can be performed with Smartphone technology. With its fast-growing ability to capture high-quality sound and images. With its attachments and adaptations, patients and doctors can get high-resolution images of the eardrum and perform visual acuity tests.
Ultrasound scan: Though some may argue mobile technology advances in this space are still premature, various innovations have broken grounds. For instance, the Butterfly Network medical imaging company has developed a portable ultrasound device connected to an iPhone. Their mini-scanner, which is connected to the iQ App connected to the Butterfly Cloud, can perform an entire body scan.
While these health advances are a welcome development, you should know that Smartphones do not entirely replace physicians and doctors. Smartphone-based clinical services may be subject to expert supervision or interpretation and can mostly monitor and diagnose but do not offer clinical treatment.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive disruption, the potential to leverage Smartphones for high-grade clinical services remains immense.