[an error occurred while processing this directive] A new instrument may soon be pulled out of medical bags during house calls: the mobile-phone camera. According to researchers at University Hospital in Geneva, physicians can now diagnose common ailments such as leg ulcers just as accurately by studying high-resolution cell-phone images as by examining the patient in person. For many elderly patients, the new technique could mean that they will no longer have to leave home for diagnosis and treatment. Nurses could visit patients' homes, and using e-mail or multimedia messaging, send pictures of ulcers back to hospital specialists.
"It has the potential to replace the visit to the doctor's office," says Dr. Ralph Braun, who directed the Geneva study. And since the research was conducted, mobile-phone technology has improved even more. "Newer models provide much better image quality," says Braun, who hopes to carry out a larger telemedicine trial with real nurse visits by the end of the year.
"This is ideal for every type of visual diagnosis in medicine," he explains. A British hospital is already trialing picture phones for the instant diagnosis of broken bones, and German tech firm Siemens is developing a "sniffing" handset that can measure bad breath and read alcohol levels. Who said mobile phones were harmful to your health?