Now that smartphones are a part of daily life, they are becoming a valuable tool for medical purposes too. This article covers a proposal of guidelines patients and medical professionals need to follow in order to effectively use smartphone photography to provide more efficient health care.
Smartphones are one of the most common electronic devices today, and due to their capabilities as cameras, methods of communication and gateways to information, they offer a potentially interesting use for general healthcare and medical photography. On top of that, the medical capabilities brought by smartphones can be exploited by patients and physicians without the help of a professional photographer, as long as a few basic photography practices are followed to allow for accurate medical assessments from the photos taken.
A thesis by Anna Hagman and Sander Riedberg for the Royal Institute of Technology of Stockholm (KTH Technology & Health) looked into current guidelines within medical photography . In addition, it investigates the technical capabilities and limitations of smartphones when compared to professional medical cameras, and how they performed side by side in terms of sharpness and colour temperature under varied light conditions. Based on their findings, Hagman and Riedberg compiled a comprehensive but easy to follow set of guidelines that can turn regular smartphone photography into an actionable tool for medical assessment, without acquiring any additional equipment.
The rise of the smartphone within medicine
Since the smartphone became a mainstay across all ranges of the population, it has also naturally made its way into the medical sector. The implementation of smartphones into medical care in the near future is expected to bring both economic and time savings by facilitating and reducing the workload at modern-day health facilities. For the purpose of medical photography, it has been demonstrated that a smartphone without any additional components or applications is fit for achieving good results. Due to its ease of use, medical professionals and patients can employ it properly unlike professional medical camera equipment which requires an experienced user and is financially inaccessible for most people.
Many organizations and medical scientists have developed guidelines towards improving the quality of medical photography, including ones specifically aimed at smartphones, and there is literature explaining the image procedure within different areas of medical photography. Currently the biggest obstacles in the way of full integration of smartphone photography into standard medical practice is the lack of regulatory procedures and protocols to ensure the full legality of this new instrument, and the safety and privacy of patients (more about this in our previous article).
The technical aspects of medical photography
In order to determine what makes a photo medically usable, Hagman and Riedberg referred to scientific articles within the KTH database Primo, Pubmed and additional written material supplied by the thesis’ supervisor.