Majority of the people in this planet already have a smartphone. We’ve been using it for different purposes such as our daily alarms we always seem to snooze, cameras we use for our selfies, and social media application we can’t seem to get enough of. But with the upgrades and uses, how far can these smartphones actually go?
Interestingly, scientists today are re-purposing our existing technology within phones (i.e. accelerometers, camera flashes and microphones) to use as possible medical tools. Yes, you heard that right- your smartphones can become your pocket doctors. Professor Shwetak Patel of the University of Washington, in particular, advocates this.
“If you think about the capabilities on a mobile device, if you look at the camera, the flash, the microphone, those are all getting better and better,” he said during the AAAS annual meeting in Boston. “Those sensors on the mobile phone can actually be re-purposed in interesting new ways where you can use those for diagnosing certain kinds of diseases.”
Prof. Patel is currently developing an app that aims to detect red blood cell levels through simply placing a finger over the camera and flash. The bright beam of light will shine through the skin, screening one’s blood. This tool is expected to quickly spot anemia. He also believes that smartphone users will eventually be able to bang their phones against their bones to check osteoporosis. Lastly, he suggested that pulmonary assessment and lung function monitoring could be done through the microphone of a mobile device.
“[Imagine] you can start to do remote disease management outside of the clinic. This could really change how we diagnose and screen diseases. Now the patient is empowered to be able to collect this data,” he adds.
While these ideas are still plans, I must say that it’s quite fascinating where Prof. Patel is going. This might not be able to replace our brilliant doctors, but it could help save a trip to one when not deemed necessary.