Medical research has brought us treatments and cures for a whole host of diseases and conditions that were once fatal or chronically disabling. Yet there’s a huge gap between what’s possible and what’s actually delivered on the ground – which means far too many people are suffering and dying needlessly.
A global access problem
The problem is global. In regions without a good healthcare infrastructure, any medical care at all can be hard to come by or mean a lengthy journey. Even in areas where there is a good healthcare infrastructure, rising costs mean more and more patients are struggling to get access to decent medical care and treatments. On top of this, there’s a worldwide shortage of specialists.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that we have to use technology more effectively in healthcare delivery. It’s key to making available resources go further and helping doctors reach more people. The iPhone camera is one piece of technology that can make a big difference very easily – and has already started to do so.
Image quality good enough for diagnosis
Apple has improved the quality of the iPhone camera to the point where it can produce photos good enough for diagnosing illnesses. This means that where symptoms are largely external, patients can send their own images through directly to doctors for diagnosis. For other conditions, a photo or video from an iPhone or similar smartphone plus a telephone call can give a doctor all the information needed.
With modern connectivity, it should no longer matter where in the world the expert might be. Patients can access expertise regardless of whether there is an appropriate doctor nearby. They can also get help faster, as they don’t have to worry about making a journey. Where patients have access to a decent broadband connection as well as to a mobile phone signal, then the iPhone also of course offers the potential for Facetime and Skype conversations with doctors.
If the doctor first receiving the images needs a further opinion, he or she can immediately send the pictures on to the relevant specialist – or to several specialists at once. This saves the patient from lengthy waits to see different people. It also means specialists spend less time seeing people they end up only referring elsewhere. As a result, they can see more people.
Once a diagnosis is reached, the patient can get advice and support over the phone directly from the doctor best able to help them. Photos can also be sent to monitor progress.
If the diagnosis does indicate that surgery or other face-to-face treatment is needed, then arrangements can be made for the patient to go directly to the right place.
iPhone photos and videos can also be central to collaboration for teams caring for an individual. Primary care doctor, clinic nurse or rural health care worker, medical specialist, local care-giver or physical therapist – all can see the same images, agree care, and track progress.
The traditional model of doctors seeing patients face-to-face for every consultation has proved unachievable – but now it’s no longer necessary. There are newer ways for patients to get access to medical care, and the iPhone camera has a big role to play.