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Patient Apps

patient appsThe smartphone camera is a "turning point in medical technology" on par with the stethoscope and X-ray machine, suggests Valerie Gribben in The Wall Street Journal (8/13/13). Valerie is a pediatrics resident at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Valerie says "the simple camera phone is epochal in that it puts the power – literally – into the hands of patients." She relays a story of how a young mother helped diagnose her child’s rash by whipping out her phone and showing pictures of it.

This potential is even more compelling with other ailments, such as gastrointestinal issues, where parents can "bring in photos of their kids’ dirty diapers, which all parties agree is vastly preferable to bringing in the real thing. Some neurologists recommend that parents make videos of children who have a known history of seizures to help the team fine-tune medication doses. In developmental and behavioral clinics, parents can show videos of their children at home demonstrating milestones like a mature pincer grasp … even if the kids get shy about showing off their skills to a roomful of doctors."

Having the parents take photos or videos also helps doctors because it is in compliance with "the privacy rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act." Doctors aren’t free to take such pictures but parents can. In no way does Valerie suggest that photos can "replace a thorough history and physical examination" but she says we should welcome "this new tool into the ever-growing digital inventory available in the fight against diseases." She sees a need to "foster more and better ways for patients to upload pertinent photos and videos as part of their medical history."