The website Patient.co.uk (http://www.patient.co.uk/mobile.asp) has already started developing apps to helps patients find their nearest hospital, doctor or chemist – or to help recognise symptoms and manage conditions like depression and diabetes.
The next step in using apps might actually be diagnosing more serious illnesses using an iPhone app at home.
The implications of this are far-reaching, placing more responsibility in the hands of an individual for their own healthcare.
However, home screening kits have been available on the market for years and although critics say that the stress diagnosing an illness in the privacy of your own bathroom can be immense, many people have seized the opportunity to screen themselves for everything from high blood pressure to bowel cancer.
Scientists in South Korea have developed software which would enable an iPhone to diagnose illness by analysing a drop of saliva or spot of blood placed on the device’s touchscreen. The technology is said to compare with current success rates of diagnostic equipment and is almost 100% accurate.
The software was developed based on the fingertip control used to operate an iPhone, known as capacitative sensitivity. The touchscreen can recognise signals in biomolecules which diseases like cancer and diabetes produce, say the scientists – whom it is thought are the first researchers to uncover the touchscreen’s ability to detect biomolecules using a special coating which the team is working on.
The development and application of the discovery could revolutionise the way diseases are diagnosed and save billions in healthcare budgets round the world.
The portability of an iPhone health screening tool also means quicker and more accessible diagnosis of potentially life threatening diseases, with no need to wait for a GP appointment or an agonising delay while biopsies are sent to laboratories for testing, which can sometimes take weeks.
An iPhone diagnosis app could also be used in the workplace, meaning improved healthcare for employees and a more accurate assessment of an employee’s fitness to work in cases of unexpected ill health.
The app could also be used in mobile health clinics and care homes, reducing the need for intrusive and often distressing tests for serious illness among the elderly and more vulnerable patients.
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