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Diagnosis apps

Using Medical Apps for Diagnosing Patients

Using Medical Apps for Virtual DiagnosisIn May of this year Isabel Healthcare announced their new mobile application (app). The app is based on Isabel’s checklist system for diagnosis. The App allows doctors and nurses and other health care providers access to the app via iPhone, iPad or iPod touch mobiles.  Diagnosis can be established with the resulting possibility of treatment for patients being delivered faster.  And this innovative tool in the physician’s armoury has claimed a coveted top app rating in Apple’s Medical App category.  Where Isabel has gone many will follow and medical apps are beginning to make their presence felt in the medical community. Taking the Isabel App as an example it has been offered for download from Apple’s App Store with three subscription choices.  Customers can sign up for weekly, monthly or annual options, with the first level, the weekly option, pitched at just under £2.00 to attract the infrequent user.

Medical apps of the type offered by Isabel typically contain many thousand disease diagnostic markers both paediatric and adult and allow doctors instant access to the technologies that will help them make vital diagnoses.  Using a mobile diagnostic app a doctor does not even need to be in his hospital or clinic to diagnose a stroke in a patient and begin lifesaving treatment.  Using brain scan images that can be accessed via a smartphone and with an accuracy proven to be almost as reliable as the results of an ‘actual’ scan viewing, diagnosis can be made instantly.  This time saving ability is vital in the treatment of stroke victims.

Medical Apps – ‘Virtual’ Diagnosis?

Not everyone has welcomed this latest innovation in virtual diagnostics. There have been reservations concerning viewing detailed and complex anatomical images on a small 3.5-inch screen, from where critical emergency diagnoses will be made. However advances in image compression, microprocessors and wireless-data bandwidth, are likely to make this 21st century advance an essential diagnostic tool for doctors. For example, a CT scan image could be sent to a ‘cloud’ of the type that is commonly used as a storage device by PC users.  Downloaded to a mobile app or tablet, doctors could then zoom in to view images in more detail.  The use of this compression method to support any medical app is critical, in particular with the sending of high-resolution brain imagery.  Digital images are very large files to download and in a time sensitive situation such image files would take an hour to download using 3G or Wi-Fi.  Compression of the file overcomes this potential problem.

In countries where patients live in remote locations, this instant access diagnostic tool could prove invaluable.  In local or rural hospitals where medical staffing is limited, the instant access to patient’s results offered via this diagnostic tool, could also prove a lifesaver.

There is no doubt that this new application of technology will make a significant impact on the way in which doctors practice medicine both in and out of a hospital setting.   Gone will be the iconic picture of the consultant, clipboard in hand, with his entourage, visiting the wards.  In its place will be armies of medics with iPads and Android tablets that they can take home with them so that they always have a ‘virtual’ presence in their hospitals.

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Mobile health apps need new regulatory framework

Last month, a mobile phone app became the first of its kind to be registered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a medical device.

The app was developed by the team at the Mersey Regional Burns and Plastic Surgery Unit and is designed to help medical staff assess burn damages. This neat bit of kit is listed by the MHRA as a class 1 medical device and is available for free in the Apple app store.

According to research, 81% of healthcare professionals own a smartphone and as a result the Mersey Burns app will no doubt be useful by sharing the specialist knowledge from the burns unit with their medical colleagues. However, the licensing of the app has raised all kinds of questions on the future registration of mobile phone apps for use in the healthcare professions.

On the face of it, registration is eminently desirable; in healthcare accuracy is everything, so it is important that diagnostic, treatment and monitoring apps are rigorously tested to ensure their suitability for public release. Unregulated mobile health apps have the potential to put the public at risk.

However there is concern, particularly in the US, that excessive regulation of mobile apps will vastly increase the costs of app development and slow market availability down to such an extent that the technology could be out of date by the time it hits the market.

As a result, on both sides of the Atlantic, web and app developers and healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are calling for a new regulatory framework which will allow the testing and processing of relevant mobile apps at speeds equal to the pace of rapid technological change.

Drug companies increase spend on mobile and online media by nearly 80%

Pharmaceutical companies across the world increased their investments in mobile phone apps and educational websites by nearly 80% last year.

According to a study by Ernst & Young, drug companies including Merck & Co and Novartis AG are leading the way in what seems to be a new wave of enthusiasm towards social media and the online landscape on the part of drug companies.

In total, global pharmaceutical companies started 97 new projects aimed at using IT to improve the quality of patient health. By comparison, 124 project had been started in the four previous years altogether, representing a massive leap forwards for development this year.

Just over 41% of this year’s projects were apps for smartphones – an increase from 11% since 2006.

Experts say that the move is partially due to the increased pressure that pharmaceutical companies are under from governments to prove that their products are worth their prices. Plans exist in the UK to match the prices of products to their benefits starting in 2014. This therefore calls for more involvement from patients throughout the lifecycle of a drug, from initial testing to post market surveillance – all of which can be easily and effectively facilitated via the use of social media.

Carolyn Buck Luce, global pharmaceutical leader at Ernst & Young, told one US website: “Pharma can’t exist the way they have existed; what is surprising is the pace of change.”

“The next big change in health outcomes is behavioural change, where medicines play an important part but not the only part.”