Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

July 24, 2013

Could a smartphone physical be in your future?

As my attending physician walked in with the next patient, I quickly stuffed my iPhone into my pocket. There was a strict "no cellphone" policy in the pediatric clinic where I was working as a third-year medical student. If my attending had caught me, I would have received a stern lecture about how cellphones were not to be used while patients were in the room.

We proceeded to examine the patient, a young boy named Tim, who had an earache. As part of the routine physical exam, I used my otoscope - a device first described in 1363 - to examine Tim's eardrum. Unfortunately, it was difficult to see the characteristic cone-shaped membrane. The more I maneuvered the otoscope, the more Tim yelped in pain. I finally gave up and admitted that I couldn't find the eardrum. Tim had been subjected to enough agony, and we sent him home with a course of antibiotics for a presumed ear infection. My attending later confessed that after 10 years of practicing, she still sometimes had trouble seeing the eardrum.

I remembered Tim's eardrum when reading the 2013 program of TEDMED, an annual conference in Washington showcasing the most promising medical advances in the country. A medical technology blog that I write for had organized an exhibit called "The Smartphone Physical" to showcase smartphone apps - many of them already commercially available - that doctors could use in a physical. As part of the exhibit, the team used CellScope, a mobile phone attachment to show attendees a picture-perfect magnification of their inner ear canal - much clearer than I'd seen with my otoscope.

I recently mentioned the device to a pediatrician. "That'll be the day," she replied.

 Many doctors share her skepticism of smartphones in medicine. Less than half of attending physicians in a recent survey reported using smartphones for patient care. Many doctors worry that these technologies will hurt their relationships with patients. In a 2012 essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Georgetown University physician Caroline Wellbery warned that "these devices deprive us of the very essence of presence. . . . We may be surrendering our capacity to be in the moment."

But what if these technologies not only make physicians' physical exams easier but also improve our interactions with patients? Smartphones can offer doctors a more reliable exam while increasing patient involvement in their care. Within the next decade, the smartphone physical might replace the traditional physical exam. Even now, the long-standing "routine physical" may no longer be so routine.

The traditional physical exam may be overrated when it comes to picking up diseases. A chest exam done as part of a physical, for instance, has been found to pick up only half of all pneumonias. A study found that stethoscopes wielded by young doctors correctly identified only one-fifth of previously diagnosed heart conditions.

So while the traditional physical exam may be hands-on, it's probably time to find ways to improve it; to me, smartphones offer that possibility.

Text Only
CNHI/Southeast Iowa
  • How professors are using Facebook to teach

    Technology is an established part of the lives of students. But university lecturers are becoming increasingly frustrated at how they must compete with tablets and laptops for students' attention in the lecture hall.

    July 10, 2014

  • Why does the Vatican need a bank?

    The Vatican Bank's history reads more like Dan Brown than the financial pages, but its worst -- and weirdest -- days may be behind it.

    July 10, 2014

  • Bologna photo Celebrating 35 years of hot rods The last 35 years has gone by quick. This weekend, July 11-12, the 35th Annual Bologna Nationals Classic Car Show, hosted by Resurrected Tin, will be held in Pella.Resurrected Tin is a local classic car organization.β€œIt was started by a group of hot

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Judge rejects Techel trial continuance

    OTTUMWA — Judge Daniel Wilson has rejected a defense bid to delay Seth Techel’s murder trial. The motion for a continuance was filed Tuesday and Wilson’s ruling came just a day later.

    July 10, 2014

  • New York to offer free lunch to all middle-school students

    New York's $75 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that began last week includes the first step toward offering free lunch for all 1.1 million students, expanding a program now reserved only for the city's poorest children.

    July 9, 2014

  • Are America's biggest alcohol brands targeting the country's underage youth?

    Underage drinkers - those between the ages of 18 and 20, most specifically - are more heavily exposed to printed alcohol advertisements than any other age group, according to a new study. And it's America's biggest booze companies that could be to blame.

    July 9, 2014

  • Survey shows colleges flouting sexual assault rules

    More than 40 percent of 440 colleges and universities surveyed by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., haven't investigated a sexual assault in the past five years, according to a report released Wednesday.

    July 9, 2014

  • Oskaloosa has plan to deal with ash borer

    OSKALOOSA — The Emerald Ash Borer has been found in Eddyville, and the city of Oskaloosa has a plan to deal with the situation.The Emerald Ash Borer is a small, metallic-green beetle from Asia that arrived in Detroit in about 2002. The insect has bee

    July 9, 2014

  • How do I thank them all? OTTUMWA β€” An unbearable weight for one family has been supported on the shoulders of hundreds, perhaps thousands of neighbors from Ottumwa and beyond. "I don't know how to thank them all," said Deb Hall, whose son, Cpl. Adam Wolff of the U.S. Marine

    July 9, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 11.24.10 AM.png VIDEO: Pilot buys pizzas for storm-delayed travelers

    A Frontier Airlines pilot went above and beyond the call of duty when a recent flight from Washington, D.C. to Denver was diverted to Cheyenne, Wyoming due to bad weather.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps

     I climbed the ladder quickly, free to work any hours in any location for any pay. I moved from market to market, always achieving a better title, a better salary. Succeeding.

    July 8, 2014

  • ent_taylorswift.jpg There's less good music now β€” here's why

    Taylor Swift, the seven-time Grammy winner, is known for her articulate lyrics, so there was nothing surprising about her writing a long column for The Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry. Yet there's reason to doubt the optimism of what she had to say.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why North Korean cheerleaders may soon descend on the South

    When you think of North Korea, "cheerleaders" may not be the first thing that springs to mind. The Hermit Kingdom is perhaps better known for less savory things like gulag-like labor camps and leadership purges.

    July 8, 2014

  • 140516-recalls_1357_88cb85dbc81b724b4ae9c83db4426fd8.jpg Auto recalls break single-year US record with six months to go

    With six months left in 2014, automakers have already recalled more vehicles in the United States than in any other year on record.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • YMCA photo YMCA Summer Day Camp teaches core values, fun activities

    OSKALOOSA — The YMCA Summer Day Camp, which teaches children the core values of honor, respect, and responsibility, offers fun and exciting activities for children to learn, play and enjoy nature.The activities are held at the new and improved Bruce

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

Obituaries
Featured Ads
Poll

The Iowegian wants readers to think about the upcoming election in November. In the next few weeks and months we will ask our readers to pick a candidate in selected local, state and federal races. So, the question of the week is, "Who do plan to vote for to fill the seat in the United States House of Representatives in Iowa District 2: Democrat incumbent Dave Loebsack or Republican challenger Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks?"

A. Dave Loebsack
B. Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks
C. Not sure
     View Results
Iowegian on Facebook