Friday, March 24, 2017

Using Cellphone Photos for Medical Analyses

There's an app now for taking medical-grade selfies of a sort. Actually, they're selfies of urine dipsticks, useful for diagnosing and monitoring certain diseases and conditions.

Clinical diagnosis of certain diseases and conditions relies on simple dipstick analysis of a sample of urine. Typically, a paper dipstick that changes color when dipped in urine is compared to a color chart to determine the presence or absence of certain substances in the urine, such as glucose, blood, or protein. Diagnosis depends on a physical comparison of the color of the dipstick to a reference color chart.

It would be nice to be able to just take a photo of the dipstick and send it in to a health professional, so that diagnosis could be done remotely without the patient having to go to a clinic. But the problem with photo analysis of a dipstick is that the colors depend critically on lighting conditions and the angle at which the photo is taken. But now an app developed by an Israeli company called has gotten around that problem. First, a photo of the dipstick is taken against a proprietary color card. The app, called, then color-corrects the background colors to mimic natural ambient light and reads the dipstick. The company hopes that will provide patients and their physicians with an easy and inexpensive way to monitor certain diseases characterized by substances in the urine, such as diabetes (glucose), chronic renal failure and pre-eclampsia of pregnancy (protein), and urinary tract infections (blood).

The ability to standardize photographs for color and size opens up all kinds of possibilities. Take dermatological conditions, for example. If moles on the skin were photographed against a background card displaying objects of various sizes and colors, the results could again be standardized to allow long-distance diagnosis. The barriers to entry into this exciting new development in distance medicine are low (just the development of an app), so we can expect to have healthy competition in the future.

Disclosure: I have no financial interest in, nor do I expect to have one in the future. I'm just interested in new and interesting medical technologies.

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