Is a professional-level camera required for on-the-go telemedicine consults? The rise of healthcare using mobile devices—known as mhealth—is leading to questions about whether the images taken with smartphones can be trusted for accurate clinical diagnoses.
A recent study, published in Telemedicine and e-Health, indicates that mobile images taken with native smartphone apps can indeed be used for telemedicine consultations. Non-medical participants consistently rated smartphone photos of non-clinical subjects as being of comparable quality to images taken with a professional digital camera.
Three current model smartphones—but not top-of-the-line—were selected because they are more likely to be available in resource-poor settings where a medical consultation may be required. To avoid mixing the concepts of image quality and value in diagnosis, a lay audience was asked to compare the mobile images against photos from the Canon Mark II, which represents the “gold standard” of professional photography. None of the photos were retouched or enhanced. Participants rated the photos on five criteria (focus, composition, resolution, color, and contrast) and chose what they considered to be the best images.
The Apple iPhone 4 earned the highest individual ratings, producing images that were sometimes preferred over the Canon’s photos. The Samsung Galaxy S2 and BlackBerry 9800 were judged as being on par with the Canon.
Considering that the quality of mobile images was not significantly different from that of professional photos, the researchers concluded that mobile devices can be an adequate substitute for digital cameras in a telemedicine setting.
Unfortunately, one area that the study did not investigate was the impact of software upon image quality. In this case, the researchers relied on the smartphones’ native photography applications rather than specific telemedicine platforms. It would be interesting to test the image/video quality of various telemedicine apps on these same smartphones, perhaps by asking questions such as:
* Can the app dynamically adjust the bandwidth usage to create the best quality image and user experience?
* Does the app permit the user to manually adjust the bandwidth setting and image resolution to obtain the highest quality image?
* How does the app adjust to poor data connections? And if an mhealth call is dropped, how does the app reconnect the callers?
* Is the app HIPAA-compliant?
* Is the app user-friendly and easy to use?
* Can the app run on a wide range of mobile devices, or does it require the “latest and greatest” technology?
Call me biased, but I believe that in a direct comparison of questions like these, swyMed will win every time. With its intuitive interface, flexibility, security, and dynamic connectivity, swyMed offers a refreshing blend of usability and quality.
To learn more about how swyMed is being used in mobile health, request a free demo today at swyMed.com. To watch a video that demonstrates how swyMed is already revolutionizing emergency medical services, click here.