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US-based professor claims smartphones are revolutionizing medicine

A professor based at a University in the United States has claimed that smartphones are revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses due to features and applications that make their ubiquitous small screens into medical devices.

Engineering professor at the University of Washington, Shwetak Patel believes smartphones can become a tool for medical diagnosis. He said, "If you look at the camera, the flash, the microphone - they all are getting better and better. In fact the capabilities on those phones are as great as some of the specialized devices."

Smartphones can already act as pedometers, count calories and measure heartbeats. But mobile devices and tablets can also become tools for diagnosing illness. Patel added, "You can use the microphone to diagnose asthma, COPD. (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) With these enabling technologies you can manage chronic diseases outside of the clinic and with a non-invasive clinical tool."

The professor further claimed that the camera on a smartphone can be used to diagnose blood disorders, including iron and hemoglobin deficiency, he pointed to the success of an app called Hema-App - which was shown to perform comparably well as a non-smartphone device for measuring hemoglobin without a needle.

Researchers have expressed their desire for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in order to implement it for wider use on a national scale. Professor Patel added that smartphones can also be used to detect bone disorders among the elderly. He said, "Your phone's motion picture sensor picks up the resonances that are generated. If there is a reduction in density of the bone, the frequency changes, which is the same as you will have in an osteoporosis bone."

The professor of engineering at the University of Washington believes an added benefit of these advancements is the fact they can empower individuals to manage their health on an independent basis.  He added, "You can imagine the broader impact of this in developing countries where screening tools like this in the primary care offices are non-existent. So it really changes the way we diagnose, treat and manage chronic diseases."