Doctors are now taking their phones into theatre
New technology will allow urologists and ear, nose and throats specialists to perform procedures with their smartphones
The smartphone has now been upgraded to a proper medical device, thanks to researchers in California and Korea respectively.
With the new technology, the phone will go far beyond its common use. Instead it will allow urologists and ear, nose and throats specialists to perform procedures anywhere they go. Good news for patients is that it also cuts down on cost.
And it has received the nod from Dr Marius Conradie, urologist and president of the SA Endourology Society.
Conradie works at both private and public hospitals and travels across the country for his work.“We can provide exceptionally good surgery if we can drive the cost down with the product we are using,” he said.
“Innovative research like this is a great step forward.”The University of California, Irivine has developed a Endockscope (ES), an affordable mobile video cystoscopy system that uses a mobile phone for image display and a rechargeable LED self contained cordless light source. It was built using commercially available and 3D-printed custom parts and costs a measly R500.
Worldwide there are over a billion smartphones in use and this number is expected to double.Cystoscopy, a endoscopy of the urinary bladder, is the standard procedure in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of lower urinary tract problems.
This is opposed to the usual machine set up which can easily cost over R1-million.
According to the research, in developing countries, the burden of assessing and treating lower urinary tract abnormalities is heavy, “as they extend the demands on an already overburdened health infrastructure”.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Conradie.Conradie said urology was very surgically oriented. “We don’t treat something with medication. If something is wrong, nine out of 10 times it will require surgery.”
For him this type of technology would make a significant difference. Sometimes he has to get a company to drag along the huge equipment needed to complete procedures, if the local hospital does not have it.
This pilot study gave out the novel system to 24 urologists from developing countries, including South Africa. After eight months, 10 of the participants who returned the questionnaire said they had used the device.
Eighty percent of them said the device was comfortable to use and was similar to a standard endoscopic setup. And 70% said they were able to perform more endoscopic procedures because of it.“As smartphone technology continues to advance we can incorporate features for medical use such as an app for pathology recognition during or after the procedure as well as sharing of videos with experts at a remote centre,” according to the study.
Meanwhile in South Korea, a similar device has been created for ear, nose and throat specialists consisting of six pieces and a head-mounted display.
The research was collaborative effort between Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Pohang University of Science and Technology and Ajou University Hospital.
“The quality of images is good compared to a conventional system and, because it allows doctors to see the image in front of them, there is improved hand-eye co-ordination,” the researchers noted.It’s easy to use, is easily transferrable to remote locations and is much cheaper than the conventional system at under $1,000 (R12,000). Generally a conventional device would cost millions.
A routine examination would take less than a minute.
Conradie has himself been working on developing a more mobile and smaller device for urologists.
He said currently the majority of the equipment comes from overseas companies in the US, Japan and Germany.
“There is a huge market to downsize for developing world and countries. We can downscale it to point where its affordable and works just as well.”