6 Smartphones and Telemedicine
This chapter discusses the emerging use of mobile photography in the world of medicine. It provides advice on optimizing image quality as well as on proper use of smartphone capabilities in the context of security, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance, and patient privacy. Best practices for image sharing, security, and storage are proposed.
HIPAA, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, image quality, mobile photography, privacy, smartphone, security, telemedicine
Smartphones and Telemedicine
Optimum-quality medical photographs require meticulous attention to photographic equipment and use of studio techniques. However, this is not always feasible and there are many times when a quick photograph from a smartphone is far superior to not getting a shot at all, speaking to the adage that “the best camera is the one that’s with you.” Additionally, almost all current devices also have video capability, which is highly useful for communicating a clinical situation rapidly. Smartphones also excel at image sharing between colleagues, caregivers, patients, and doctors, although this raises several potential security concerns.
Smartphone imaging technology is still rapidly advancing at the time of this writing. Because of this, it is recommended to always use current-generation technology for best results. When choosing a smartphone, consult multiple independent reviews, compare sample images, and, if possible, test the device under real-world conditions.
Smartphone cameras lack most manual controls, and have a wide range of different capabilities and features in terms of lens, resolution, image stabilization, and focusing mechanisms. Therefore, understanding your device’s capabilities is important. Regardless of device used, the following principles are critical to optimizing image quality. First, compose images according to the same principles found elsewhere in this book, and using the same image series (Figs. 6.1–6.3). Surgical towels or plain linens can be used to improvise a distraction-free background if needed. Next, ensure the camera lens is impeccably clean, and always give the lens a quick cleaning with a lens cloth before use. This is especially important as phones are commonly carried in bags and pockets without the use of a lens cap. Disable the flash, and ensure that the lighting in the room is bright and even.