More Mobile, More Apps: Get Ready

April 22, 2011

Radiology’s first app received U.S. FDA approval in February 2011. More will be coming.

By Whitney L.J. Howell
Radiology’s first app received U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approval in February 2011. Called Mobile MIM, it lets radiologists review images and make diagnoses. Others, such as Mobile AbbaDox, let you review and sign off on reports, listen to dictation, and sift through your workflow.
“This important mobile technology provides physicians with the ability to immediately view images and make diagnoses without having to be back at the workstation or wait for film,” said William Maisel, M.D., MPH, chief scientist and deputy director for science in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a written statement.
The agency also plans to issue draft guidance for mobile applications manufacturers to provide clarity for developing future health care products.
In other words, this was the first of many apps to come.
The apps offer several benefits, said Asim Choudhri, M.D., a neuroradiologist at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, although he doesn’t recommend using them for final diagnoses. Many radiologists use them to consult from anywhere at any time. Others bring surgeons into the patient-care conversation to determine whether a patient needs surgery. The apps also promote multidisciplinary treatment decisions, such as those for stroke patients, because providers see the same information simultaneously.
Choudhri published a study in 2009 through the Radiological Society of North America detailing how well radiologists could make diagnoses with mobile devices. Most mobile devices offer screen resolutions comparable to those found in workstations, he said.
According to research completed in April by DiagnosticImaging.com, 52 percent of U.S. physicians currently own an iPhone and another 25 percent plan on owning one in the next 12 months. In a year, about 60 percent of physicians will have an iPad.
Be aware – apps have downsides. Instant access means access at 2 a.m., even when you aren’t on call.  Looking at images on a mobile device gives you a good sense of the patient’s condition, but it is possible to miss the minute problems.
Despite diagnostic app limitations, Elliot Fishman, M.D., professor of radiology, surgery, and oncology at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins, said this technology is radiology’s future.
“This isn’t going to be a unique thing. This is where radiology is going to go,” said Fishman who has created multiple radiology apps and used one clinically for the past six months. “Apps will impact everything from education to patient care in a positive way.”