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Mobile health (mHealth) applications are rapidly evolving to take advantage of new image support capabilities in mobile networks and devices, according to a new report from Strategy Analytics (www.strategyanalytics.com).
mHealth image-based applications range from remote interpretation of blood samples taken in a remote jungle clinic to sending fetal sonograms to the smartphones of friends and relatives. Remote diagnostics has seen significant growth in recent years, as it is a way to get around shortages or poor distribution of specialists, according to Strategy Analytics. In Egypt, for example, a partnership of Qualcomm, Mobinil, Click Diagnostics and the Ministry of Health allowed remote health clinics to send smartphone-captured images of skin conditions for diagnosis, by some of the country's few dermatologists.
"Smartphones and tablets have improved so much as image capture and display devices that they permit remote diagnosis with accuracy rates that approach in-person examination," says Tom Elliott , director of Emerging Markets at Strategy Analytics. "In late 2011, for example, MIM Software received FDA 510(k) clearance for the use of its iOS viewing application for diagnostic x-ray and ultrasound viewing."
A richer clinical interaction between patients and practitioners is now supported by videoconferencing, taking advantage of a combination of more capable mobile devices, more pervasive high bandwidth networks, and improved image handling software. Management of the vastly increased volume of clinical imaging data is inviting the attention of mobile operators like AT&T, whose cloud-based image access and management service supports service delivery over multiple platforms and wide geographic areas.
Andrew Brown, executive director of Enterprise Research at Strategy Analytics, notes that the broader use of imagery in mHealth and its access by a wider range of mobile devices places an extra burden of data security on provider organizations.
"In an environment where BYOD (bring your own device) is more and more common, health care organizations need to be especially vigilant to safeguard patient confidentiality while reaping the benefits of remote image access on multiple platforms," he says. "Ensuring regulatory compliance in healthcare remains critical."