A new Imperial-led review has outlined how health workers could use existing phones to predict and curb the spread of infectious diseases.
The review, published in Nature, outlines how healthcare workers in low-income countries, like those in sub-Saharan Africa, could use existing smartphones to diagnose, track and control infectious diseases in low-income countries.
There are already initiatives focused on using established mobile technologies like text messages and calls to connect healthcare workers and patients to each other, and to test results.
Now, this new Imperial College London-led review suggests that smartphones could also help people to test themselves and receive results and support in their own homes.
This would make it easier for people to look after their own health – particularly in rural regions, where clinics can be too far away to travel.
This is an exciting opportunity for researchers and policy makers to develop new tools and systems that could drastically improve human health and wellbeing in the future.Professor Molly Stevens Departments of Bioengineering & Materials
In addition, patients worried about a potential HIV infection might be more inclined to get tested if they could do it at home and avoid the stigma of attending a clinic.
Many smartphones have sensors built in that could aid diagnosis, such as a heart rate monitor and an oximeter, as well as a camera and microphone that can be used to analyse images and sounds like a person’s breathing.
In addition, simple testing technologies are being developed that can be linked into a phone, via a USB stick or wirelessly. In theory, a person could test themselves using an easy to collect sample, such as a pinprick of blood, and the results would be scanned onto mobile apps.
The apps would send the results to local clinics before being uploaded to a central online database – instead of patients having to attend in person.
Lead author Professor Molly Stevens, from Imperial’s Departments of Bioengineering and Materials, said: “People increasingly use smartphones to manage their money and connect with the world. It makes sense that phones can also play an even larger role in healthcare than they already do.”
The bigger picture
Smartphones are increasingly used in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2020, one in two mobile phone connections in the region will be via smartphone – a similar figure to worldwide smartphone adoption.
The researchers say this presents a prime opportunity to harness the existing technology where clinics in rural areas can be scarce.
Approaches outlined in the review include apps that use the phone’s camera to interpret test results, send findings to local clinics or healthcare workers, and host virtual follow-up appointments with healthcare workers. The authors say these approaches might help increase rates of disease testing in regions with limited facilities.
Combined, the test results would build a picture of symptoms across a region to help predict and fight current and future outbreaks.
Health on the move
Co-author Dr Chris Wood, who conducted the work at Imperial’s Department of Materials and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, said: “By developing mobile health interventions, we address a number of challenges in healthcare and public education. Connected diagnostic tests for diseases have the ability to improve and build on these in new and exciting ways.”
The authors added that these ideas are not without challenges. Although rapid technological advances have improved access to testing, more than 35 per cent of the world has no access to mobile phones. It is also easier to accurately collect and analyse samples in a healthcare setting, where there are trained staff and the environment is designed to be sterile, than in a person’s home.
Safeguarding measures must be put in place to protect privacy and confidentiality of patient data, the authors say. These measures must also be fully explained to users to build trust in and encourage adoption of these new healthcare services.
Still, the report’s authors remain optimistic. In 2016, global smartphone adoption reached 51 per cent and is predicted to keep growing – particularly in resource limited settings such as sub-Saharan Africa.
This means more and more of the world’s population will equipped with a powerful pocket computer that can connect patients and share healthcare data.
Professor Stevens said: “This is an exciting opportunity for researchers and policy makers to develop new tools and systems that could drastically improve human health and well being in the future.”
The Latest on: Predicting infectious diseases
via Google News
The Latest on: Predicting infectious diseases
- Predicting premature birth in low-resource settingson January 12, 2021 at 3:08 pm
A blood test that predicts if a baby will be born prematurely works well for pregnant women in developing countries, a Stanford-led study found.
- Infectious disease early warning system compensates for existing gaps in surveillanceon January 11, 2021 at 4:58 pm
Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health developed an infectious disease early warning system that includes areas lacking health clinics participating in infectious disease ...
- Early warning system fills in gaps in infectious disease surveillanceon January 11, 2021 at 11:09 am
Researchers have developed an infectious disease early warning system that includes areas lacking health clinics participating in infectious disease surveillance. The approach compensates for existing ...
- Dr. Anthony Fauci Makes Bleak Prediction About New COVID-19 Strain That's Been Discovered in 5 Stateson January 8, 2021 at 7:48 pm
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the new COVID-19 strain has likely spread to more areas of the United States. Get details, here.
- U.S. Coronavirus Deaths: 15 Medical Experts Predict What 2021 Will Bringon January 6, 2021 at 11:05 am
To date, the United States has witnessed more than 356,000 deaths over the past eleven months of the pandemic—by far the highest total for any country worldwide. Here is what 15 medical experts told ...
- Can digital biomarkers predict COVID-19?on January 5, 2021 at 8:00 pm
A new study indicates that consumer wearable devices (such as a Fitbit), when configured to continuously measure vital signs, has a reasonable predictive ability for assessing the signs and symptoms ...
- Rundown: Fauci’s Theater Prediction; Elon Musk, Film Producer; Seeing WandaVisionon January 5, 2021 at 8:05 am
The Tanya Roberts situation; Dr. Fauci tells us when we can maybe go see a movie; that time Elon Musk produced a very funny movie; and are you beginning to feel like you’ve already seen WandaVision?
- The Health 202: When will 2021 feel normal again? Here's what eight experts predict.on January 4, 2021 at 9:35 am
Public health experts differ on how quickly that might happen — and when things might start to feel “normal” again around the country. To inaugurate our first Health 202 of the new year, we asked ...
- Certain aquatic insects can forewarn against possible outbreaks of diarrheal disease, shows studyon January 3, 2021 at 9:07 pm
Chironomids, a group of aquatic insects closely related to mosquitoes, act as natural reservoirs of disease-causing cholera bacteria and can forewarn against possible outbreaks of the diarrhoeal ...
- Masks will become a new norm after coronavirus pandemic ends, public officials predicton January 2, 2021 at 4:00 pm
The mask remains politically polarizing, but they aren’t a weird sight anymore. Health experts predict they will be a post-pandemic norm in fighting the flu and even the common cold.
via Bing News