A new study suggests ophthamologists may be able to examine images sent by smartphone, which could not only help in emergency rooms, but also those who don't have immediate access to eye specialists.
According to an Emery University study, doctors found they could diagnose and plan treatment based on pictures taken with an iPhone, giving those smartphone images of an inner eye, for example, even higher quality ratings than those viewed from a desktop computer.
This may revolutionize eye care treatment in parts of the country where emergency rooms don't have easy access to an eye doctor. Since the smartphone images were better, this means doctors may use phones to take and send images of injured eyes or eyelids. More complicated photos would need to be taken with more advanced cameras, but the smartphone photo quality means ophthamologists can examine even those photos to make a diagnosis from a distance.
For its study, Emory University's Dr. Valerie Biousse and other researchers collected information from 350 people who came to emergency rooms for treatment of headaches or other vision problems. Doctors took photos of the insides of the patients' eyes using an ocular camera, and then ophthalmologists looked at those photos, rating them on a desktop computer and then again on an iPhone before determining the smart phone photos were better.
Biousse said researchers next will work to determine if consultations can be done more quickly and accurately when photos are sent from a smartphone.
The smartphones may not be enough to allow a complete diagnosis, Dr. Charles Wycoff of Houston told Reuters. He said there is no substitute for one-on-one patient care, and the phones won't replace a complete eye exam.
The Emory study's findings are just one example of how modern technology has the potential to radically change health care, particularly in diagnosing highly specialized problems.
Since doctors are increasingly using mobile technology to diagnose and treat patients, the finding that iPhone photos work well for eye diagnosis means they could work as well in other specialties. A study late last year found one-third of nearly 4,000 surveyed physicians use tablet devices to research drug and treatment information, besides using them to educate patients. And one quarter of those are "Super Mobile" doctors, meaning they use both smartphones and tablets in their medical practices.
Mobile devices, used in conjunction with the ever-sophisticated apps under development, may also save lives. For example, doctors using Resolution MD Mobile can scan stroke victims' brains with their tablets and smartphones, saving precious time on hospital runs in life-threatening situations. As well, Japan's Ohashi Clinic smartphone and tablet app lets physicians read EKGs on the spot instead of waiting for paper records.
As smartphones become even more sophisticated, though, and part of a doctor's regular routine, the photos they take may also grow to be even more of a useful diagnostic tool that may allow specialty care in even the most remote places.