That new iPhone, Android or Blackberry may be good for more than just emails, phone calls and surfing the Web. Mayo Clinic researchers have found smartphones can effectively be used to send medical images and information to help doctors evaluate stroke patients in remote locations through telemedicine.
The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, is believed to be the first to confirm the effectiveness of smartphone “teleradiology” applications in improving treatment of stroke patients.
"Essentially what this means is that telemedicine can fit in our pockets," said Dr. Bart Demaerschalk, medical director of the Mayo Clinic “Telestroke” program. "For patients this means access to expertise in a timely fashion when they need it most, no matter what emergency room they may find themselves."
Mayo Clinic researchers in Arizona have been studying the use of telemedicine to serve stroke patients in non-urban settings. In telestroke care, telemedicine technologies in rural hospitals let a stroke patient be seen in real time by a neurology specialist who typically is working from a desktop or laptop computer in Phoenix. The Mayo Clinic stroke neurologist, whose face appears on a computer screen, consults with ER physicians at the rural sites and evaluates the patient.
Patients can be examined by the neurologist who can also view scans of the patient's brain to detect a hemorrhage or blocked artery.
For the new study, researchers compared the quality of medical images using a smartphone application to those typically viewed via desktop computers. Mayo Clinic neurologists worked with the Yuma Regional Medical Center to compare brain scan images from 53 patients. The results showed the phones were as effective as computers in providing information specialists need to make treatment decisions..
"Smartphones are ubiquitous, they are everywhere," Demaerschalk said. "If we can transmit health information securely and simultaneously use the video conferencing capabilities for clinical assessments, we can have telemedicine anywhere, which is essential in a state like Arizona where more than 40 percent of the population doesn't have access to immediate neurologic care."