Mobinil tests remote teledermatology in Egypt

By Brian Dolan
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Logical Images VisualDX

Example dermatology app for iPad: Logical Images' VisualDX

Patients outnumber doctors close to 2000 to 1 in Egypt, according to Khaled Bichara Group CEO of Orascom Telecom.

With that figure in mind, doctors in Egypt are using mHealth technology to provide 'teledermatology' to patients in low income areas who have not had access to specialists in the past. The pilot program launched as a partnership between Qualcomm's Wireless Reach initiative, Egyptian mobile operator Mobinil, Click Diagnostics and the Egyptian Ministry of Health.

Using Mobinil's 3G HSPA mobile broadband network, physicians on location photograph patients' skin conditions, write up symptoms in text and transmit the information to remote specialists to obtain or confirm diagnosis. Medical staff at the clinics have been given handsets with high-resolution cameras and an application that enables them to send photographs and contextual information about skin conditions an appropriate specialist. The pilot phase of the program is being used to determine the potential success of a large-scale deployment of such a service across Egypt which would provide access to remote experts for a wide range of medical conditions to regions in need.

So far, the pilot results have shown more than 82 percent agreement between remote diagnoses and an in-person confirmation.

Advances in phone camera technology have made it possible in clinics throughout the world to use teledermatology where hi-res photos are required for accurate diagnosis. Prior to the advancement in mobile phones, the special field of dermatology relied on digital cameras, laptops, desktops and wired internet that made the process difficult to deploy and expensive to expand and scale. Small, but powerful smartphone devices combined with 3G broadband make services like these much easier to provide.

“From the beginning, Qualcomm has been committed to the success of this important pilot that demonstrates the use of 3G to support mhealth initiatives,” Moheb Ramsis, senior director of business development for Qualcomm North Africa stated in the release. “By using Mobinil’s state-of-the-art 3G HSPA network and smartphones enabled by Qualcomm’s advanced chipsets, clinics are able to connect to specialists and provide more efficient care to those in need around the world. We are proud to be a part of this program and its esteemed participants in supporting mhealth.”

Not long ago, Mobinil teamed up with Orascom Telecom in partnership with Great Connection to pilot the startup’s Mobile Baby service, which enables medical practitioners to send ultrasound images, video clips and 3D scans to and from referring physicians for remote medical diagnostics. The application works directly from ultrasound machines, with images delivered to any mobile phone via SMS, MMS and email. The service can be used both to get outside expertise on diagnosis as well as to allow patients to share pictures of their ultrasounds with friends and family.

In the US last year an emergency room physician conducted a wound care pilot using mobile phone cameras: Dr. Neal Sikka, an emergency physician at George Washington University, launched a six-month study in May 2010 that aimed to determine how accurately ER doctors and physician assistants could diagnose wounds from images patients took with their own mobile phones. Hollywood-based physician group Wound Technology Network also uses smartphones and 3G-enabled laptops to capture images of wounds for remote care.

For more on Mobinil's teledermatology pilot, read the release.