Physician studying diagnoses from phone-generated photos

Thank you, Washington Post for saying something we've been trying to emphasize at FierceMobileHealthcare since we started publishing nearly a year and a half ago: "'Mobile health' does not mean a clinic on wheels. It is an emerging field within telemedicine that comprises all aspects of care generated from or available on a portable mobile device such as a cell phone." (Take that, Google News.)

In Tuesday's edition, the Post features George Washington University emergency physician Dr. Neal Sikka, who, according to the story, has been using camera phones to help diagnose minor wounds for friends and family pretty much since he became a physician in 1999. (Did we really have camera phones back then?)

Now, Sikka is in the midst of a six-month study at GWU Hospital of the accuracy of diagnoses from phone-generated photos sent by patients. He calls this the largest mobile health study of acute wound care to date.

For the study, patients snap photos of their own injuries and send them to a secure email account at the hospital. They also fill out a medical history form. "We'll look at their picture along with the questionnaire and make a diagnosis," Sikka tells the Post. Study researchers--ED physicians and  physician assistants--then look at the photos on a computer and make a diagnosis. Another physician then will physically examine the patient to test the accuracy of the diagnosis by cell phone.

So far, Sikka says the phone diagnoses have been 90 percent accurate, and that's mostly dependent on the quality of the image. About half the wrong diagnoses to date have been because the photo was too grainy, he reports.

To learn more:
- take a look at this Washington Post story