Wireless Healthcare in Cambridge, England has issued a research report that examines that use of wireless imaging, especially camera phones, in healthcare and notes how easy it is to establish trial services.
The report, "Wireless PACS [Picture Archiving and Communication System] -- A Picture of Health," says increasing numbers of trials are being conducted in hospitals.
The report says there are two major problems with camera phones for healthcare uses: (1) The handsets and networks can't accommodate necessary higher resolution images and (2) when neither the IT department nor the handset vendors are involved in the trials, the lessons learned aren't translated into improved products or services.
The report's author, Peter Kruger, says the camera phone industry is developing, in some ways like the early days of the "microcomputer" business. He notes, "Then, users found they could prototype applications at their desk without begging the IT manager for time on the organisation’s mainframe. Some of these small applications formed the basis of the medical imaging and PACS applications in use today.”
One wireless imaging application that doesn't involve camera phones is the ability to retrieve an image (or a section of an image) from a medical database and view it on a PDA. These systems are designed for enabling viewing on a small screen, the report says.
The report also discusses medical products that include or will include wireless cameras, such as capsule endoscopes that are inserted into a patient's body and transmit photos to a receiver on the patient's belt.
Threat to film vendors
One of the most interesting aspects of the report (based upon what I read in the press release) is the threat of imaging to the business of providing photographic paper. Kruger says, "“Film manufacturers, already under pressure in both the consumer and healthcare sectors, have diversified into PACS by purchasing small medical imaging companies.
“However, they are reluctant to cannibalise their revenue from medical film and have been slow to integrate digital imaging operations into their core healthcare business.”
Wireless Healthcare recommends that the integration be completed before the introduction of the next generation of PACS technology. The report says a variety of wireless imaging applications, such as remote screening for skin cancer, would make a good fit with the film vendor’s consumer and healthcare businesses.
U.S. camera phone expert
This topic is right up Dr. Bill Koslosky's alley. As a I wrote yesterday, Bill is a New York doctor who is branching out into examining the medical uses of wireless technology. He's a Treo 600-lover, an excellent photographer (with his Treo and digital cameras) and a blogger.