Mobile device images streamline, improve clinical care

As populations of insured patients continue to grow, providers must find ways to treat more people at lower costs. Doctors at the American Telemedicine Association's annual meeting in Baltimore this week discussed how telehealth tools and smartphones to share patient images are streamlining clinical care processes.

Two providers--Bellal Joseph (pictured right), an assistant professor in the department of surgery at the University of Arizona and Mark Granick, chief of plastic surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School--presented evidence of the effectiveness of using mobile devices to assess and care for burn-unit and emergency patients.

Smartphones, Joseph said, have changed entirely how he and his colleagues approach patient care for burn victims. For his research, he and his colleagues performed a six-month prospective study of all burn patients at his level 1 trauma center.

A total of 68 patients with 194 patient photographs were included, with care for 44 of those patients managed based on the recommendations of a burn surgeon after review of the photographs, but without an in-person visit. All photos were taken using a smartphone.

Of those patients, 89 percent had no changes made to their plan of management.

"This is the way the future is headed," Joseph said. "Telephotography for medicine is effective and safe. This simplifies the process [of treating patients] at a very low cost."

Granick (pictured left) touted similar results for emergency plastic surgery patients. His study evaluated telehealth feedback performed using an iPad app for plastic surgery-related emergency consultations. Agreement on care management plans between plastic surgery emergency clinicians and consultants was 100 percent for mobile consultations.

"Telehealth consultations are more accurate," Granick said. "They also serve as a reasonable way to do quality assessment and quality assurance studies, and they give us an opportunity to drive evidence-based medicine using referential resources."

To learn more:
- here's Joseph's abstract
- check out Granick's abstract