When patients can’t get to the office for an exam, telemedicine can step in as assistants armed with digital cameras and access to servers can send images to practitioners for diagnosis. With today’s powerful smartphones, though, a lot of that equipment might not be necessary.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia and the Australian e-Health Research Center developed a store-and-forward telemedicine platform called Remote-I to assist in oral disease screening, using an image acquisition Android application.
To test the system, the researchers had 17 teledental assistants directly transmit 5 images per case for a total of 485 images taken via phone from the app to a server. A panel of 5 dental practitioners then assessed the images and reported their diagnoses.
Next, the researchers surveyed the practitioners and the smartphone users, who generally were optimistic about the system and positively assessed items on content and service quality. Most of the practitioners too less than 15 minutes to correctly read the images, while the smartphone users took about 5 to 10 minutes to take the photos using the app.
The researchers did note that the smartphone camera features and the server format could be optimized. They also cited image orientation and the use of oral retractors during photography as key elements. More effective training, coordination between sites, and upgrading the current system, though, could address these concerns.