Never enough hours in the day? Then you’ll be looking for any ideas that can save you time. And if you can improve care too, that’s got to be good. Enter the iPhone.
No longer just for fun, iPhones and other smartphone cameras are now good enough to take diagnostic quality images. The implications for medical practice are huge. Yes, there are process and confidentiality issues – but these can all be overcome. If we’re going to make healthcare delivery systems work into the future, surely we should be looking at new ways to do things, rather than finding reasons not to incorporate new technology?
Already, there are some excellent software platforms that help doctors incorporate smartphone photography into practice in a practical, secure and legally-compliant way. If we as doctors seize the opportunity and start to use these tools, the more investment will go into them and the more powerful they will become.
So, what are the opportunities?
Here are just a few ideas:
- Follow-up – If you’re treating a patient with, say, a skin condition, smartphone photos can replace regular follow up visits. You can monitor the progress of the condition remotely, calling the patient in only if you feel you need to make changes to the therapy.
- Sharing information with wider medical teams – When you want to share information with nurses, carers and other professionals, photos are incredibly valuable. With an image or video, you can tell the whole story quickly and accurately. You spend less time trying to explain, your colleagues spend less time reading, and the information is clear so everyone can make the best decisions for the patient.
- Accessing specialist support – You can immediately share images with specialists wherever they might be, speeding up diagnosis and getting the right treatment in place sooner. Not sure which specialist has the most appropriate expertise? Send images to several at once, saving the patient from the lengthy process of going the rounds in person. Spot a problem on a photo a patient has shared with you? Refer the person concerned directly to the specialist clinic rather than wasting your time and theirs with a face-to-face appointment in your own surgery.
- Second opinions – Sometimes, you simply want a second opinion from a colleague. Sharing photos is quick and simple, and can help you make the decision the patient needs and get treatment started.
- Education and training – With the patient’s consent, you can share images and video with colleagues and students for educational and training purposes. You can also use images and video to educate patients – showing them how to care for a wound, for example.
- Recording investigative information using custom devices – iPhone-adapted devices already include otoscopes, ophthalmoscopes, and dermatoscopes. You can take photos of what you see, and share them both with people who can give useful input or and with those who are involved in caring for the patient.
Healthcare systems across the world are struggling to deliver high quality care within the budgets available. The only way we’re going to succeed is to apply to healthcare delivery the innovative thinking that has brought us so many amazing breakthroughs in treatment. Smartphone photography is a simple step that is already saving time and money for doctors who have embraced it. How could you use it in your own practice?