That cellphones are full-fledged computers useful for a lot more than basic communications is well known, but actual, practical applications are just coming online. To date, most have been in the transfer of market information (CellBazaar) and money (M-PESA), with a host of trials in the medical arena. But getting doctors to use new technology isn’t always easy–unless it fits right into what they are used to doing.
ClickDiagnostics, a new company spawned at MIT (and winner of the MIT Enterprise Forum’s $100K competition in the “development” field), may have accomplished that. The idea is to use cell phones in the field, particularly remote rural areas, to take pictures of people’s eyes and skin, then transmit those images to doctors for diagnosis of cataracts and skin cancer. In an initial test last winter students travelled to Bangladesh to shoot images, then tested their quality with doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital (aka MGH, aka “man’s greatest hospital”) in Boston. The doctors said they were of high enough quality to make an initial diagnosis and prescribe a treatment regimen–or point to the need for immediate hospital-related care.
In addition to the common skin disease prevalent in all developing countries, these simple cell phone images can detect the onset of HIV, Malaria, Hepatitis C, and TB. To the extent the product can be deployed in the field, it could have a hugeÂ impact on the early recognition and treatment of these debilitating and potentially deadly diseases.
With the MIT prize and some seed funding under its belt, ClickDiagnostics has its first contract to provide service in Egpyt, starting this fall.