Smartphones deemed kosher for telemedicine, says Mayo study

Smartphones in telemedicine have more than a few things right, according to a new Mayo Clinic study that highlights both their efficacy and quality in capturing medical images to evaluate stroke patients.

The study, published in the Sept. issue of Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, is the first to test the effectiveness of smartphone teleradiology applications in a real-world telestroke network, according to Mayo Clinic officials.

"Essentially what this means is that telemedicine can fit in our pockets," says Bart Demaerschalk, MD, professor of neurology, and medical director of Mayo Clinic Telestroke. "For patients this means access to expertise in a timely fashion when they need it most, no matter what emergency room they may find themselves."

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Patients showing signs of stroke can be examined by the neurologist who can also view scans of the patient's brain to detect possible damage from a hemorrhage or blocked artery. If necessary, patients can be administered clot-busting medications within the narrow window of time necessary to minimize permanent injury to the brain.

The study compared the quality of medical images using a particular smartphone application to the same types of information and images typically viewed via desktop computers. Mayo Clinic neurologists worked with emergency physicians and radiologists at Yuma Regional Medical Center to compare brain scan images from 53 patients who came to that medical center with stroke.

The scans were reviewed by radiologists in Yuma and a separate adjudication panel of stroke neurologists to determine the level of agreement between these traditional interpretation routes and new images and scans on smartphones interpreted by telestroke doctors. The study found a high level of agreement (92 to 100 percent) among all the reviewers over the most important radiological features.

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"Smartphones are ubiquitous, they are everywhere," Demaerschalk says. "If we can transmit health information securely and simultaneously use the video conferencing capabilities for clinical assessments, we can have telemedicine anywhere, which is essential in a state like Arizona where more than 40 percent of the population doesn't have access to immediate neurologic care."

The study was funded by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the technology and technical assistance was provided by Calgary Scientific, the maker of ResolutionMD.