The technology in portable devices has long been monitoring people´s health. One very common example is the small apparatus that helps to identify the glucose level in the blood, with just a finger prick. But what if we could add a drop of blood or saliva on our smartphone screen to analyze and diagnose if we have an illness, something more complex than just determining the glucose level in the blood?
This analysis process involves a great deal of technology combined with years of research, part of what makes it possible are touch-sensitive screens, long present in our smartphones but for purposes that we already know (drawing, typing, navigating).
In the case of medicine, and in very simple terms, this capacity allows the smartphone to detect DNA or proteins of people through their blood or saliva and reacts to them in some way. The latest investigations indicates that they can even detect biomolecules although they still can´t identify them. When this is achieved, experts say, then the detection of diseases will become a reality.
Two ways to use a smartphone for medical purposes
The first way to use the phone so far is as a communication method to access a doctor who will see you through your camera, observe you (to a certain extent), receive photos and diagnose you. The app HealthTap is one of the most famous that does this. The service is obviously not free and also offers appointments in person. As of being published, in their network there are more than 62 thousand doctors.
Imagen | NEC Corp. and HealthTap
The other route is the direct diagnostic with the same smartphone or supported by an external accessory. The first case is when the smartphone, with certain software, can make a specific diagnostic; an example in Africa, where an NGO has installed in their smartphones an app which photographs the patients´ eyes to detect visual problems, like stigmatism.
Another possibility is to add a special device to the smartphone to run a diagnostic test. One example of this is Netra, which also helps to diagnose various eye problems. It is only one of the various options you already have available that we will see operating in the near future in a massive way.
Imagen | EyeNetra
Doctor Smartphone and its impact
When a smartphone fully helps to detect diseases, medical science will change in a big way. The implications are not limited to the patient, but also serve the doctors and their market, as they will have another way to complete their job, even in a more direct way, although they must share their profits with the app or service that they are subscribed to. In fact, this has already begun to happen with apps like HealthTap.
Insurers will have their benefits too, with what they will save in payments to doctors for physical consultations, which are usually more expensive. Governments can take advantage as well, for their national health systems, which usually have financial strain and are crowded with patients, who sometimes have to wait weeks for treatment.
However far the advances of the smartphone are today, for now it´s safest to visit a doctor and see him face to face, especially if you suffer from a serious illness. Even the promoters of this new technology don´t claim that their inventions substitute visits to the doctor, even when doing so implies a long waiting list or not receiving adequate treatment. However, in countries with few doctors that have to cover large distances, for certain people with reduced mobility, or in cases of isolated areas due to extreme weather (eg. snowstorm), these services could be tremendously useful and save lives.
The mHealth competence centre forms part of Mobile World Capital Barcelona’s Programme of International Competence Centers (PCCI). mHealth works with a three-fold objective: to identify mobile technology opportunities in the provision of health services, to transform current healthcare models and processes, and promote the interoperability of health services in the field of mobile technologies and connectivity, building foundations that make it possible to integrate mobile health solutions.
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