Dammit Jim, I’m a Phone, Not a Teleradiologic Machine!: New Developments in Medical Technology

tricorder bonesWhile I’ve been spending time on my iPhone playing Fruit Ninja, scientists at the University of Calgary have been developing an app that will help doctors make accurate diagnosis on stroke victims.

According to a research paper on the new technology, the app is meant to be a tool in diagnosing a particular form of stroke that is usually treatable. The treatment of these strokes is highly time dependent as millions of neurons are destroyed with each minute that the stroke goes untreated. For every 15 minute delay in treatment, there is a measureable reduction in the probability of a good outcome from treatment. Any method that can reduce the time from acquiring data to expert review could significantly improve treatment.

This is where ResolutionMD comes in.

Researchers have developed a system where radiological images such as x-rays, CTs, and MRIs can be transmitted from one location to another for the purpose of interpretation and/or consultation. The app operates through a wireless network to transmit the images throughout a hospital or to other locations around the world.

A researcher at the University of Calgary says that ResolutionMD is between 94% and 100% accurate compared to a medical workstation in diagnosing an acute stroke. The application is different form other medical applications in that the server does all of the computing work and streams images to display on a smart-phone in real time.

Doctors can see and manipulate medical images in seconds unlike other apps that can take 10-20 minutes to download raw medical images to an iPhone before they can be displayed.

The idea is that radiologists can provide services without actually having to be at the location of the patient. This is important where these specialists are often only located in large metropolitan areas and working only during the day. This technology, referred to as teleradiology would be huge in providing care 24/7 and to more remote rural areas. Also, these types of imaging procedures are growing about 15% annually, while the number of radiologists is only increasing by 2%, so there is definitely a demand for technologies to increase efficiency.

In April 2010, Health Canada approved the application so that doctors can legally use the device for primary diagnosis. Calgary Scientific has also licensed the application so that over 50,000 hospitals around the world will have access to the app in the next 24 months.

The app can be used on an iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone or web-browser.