Cell phones have come a long way. They are no longer unwieldy devices used by select rich people. As they’ve become more mainstream than ever, new technology gets incorporated to them. Smartphones, as they are now called, are sophisticated equipment, and they have simplified detection of diseases.
The easy availability of smartphones has, according to Futurism, democratized health technologies that used to be too expensive or too physically far for most people to access. With the help of smartphones, physicians can now conduct tests without using a lab and patients can better understand their health.
Here are some ways in which cellphones made changes to the health industry.
Screening for pancreatic cancer
It turns out that the most commonly used feature of a smartphone could help in diagnosing pancreatic cancer. All you have to do is take a selfie. Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a smartphone app that can screen for pancreatic cancer. Using machine learning and computer vision algorithms, the app scans the whites of patients’ eyes. High levels of bilirubin, a yellow compound indicates early stages of pancreatic cancer. A study showed success rates of about 90 percent which is similar to the standard blood test detections.
Detecting pathogens in blood
Blood tests are essential for detecting numerous diseases. Most of them require laboratories and sophisticated equipment are not always available. Sending blood samples for analysis from remote clinics can take a long time. To speed things up, Columbia University researchers created ‘Labs-on-a-chip’ - a credit card sized device compatible with smartphones. It can be used to detect Zika, dengue and other infectious diseases. The samples are passed through light from the phone’s LEDs and an array of sensors analyse how the light passes through the blood. The process takes ten minutes.
Doximity, a social network for doctors, allows professionals from all over the planet to connect and share insights which could prove helpful for the many patients around the world. It also helps streamline the workload of doctors - allowing them access patient data from the app while keeping the patient's identifiable details confidential.
A program designed for use in sub-Saharan Africa, uses text messages to help deliver malaria medicines to remote communities. It also helps in checking medicine stock levels. Another innovative use of text messages is in HIV prevention, helping young people access information about the disease. The messages are tracked by overlapping maps of the prevalence of malaria over call or text data. It has helped in deploying mosquito nets and task forces.