Many of us think of the App Store as a place to look for software for learning, entertainment, music, writing, productivity. Coming to the App Store next week is a new app that allows physicians to use an iPhone and iPhone to view images and make medical diagnoses based on ‘computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nuclear medicine technology, such as positron emission tomography (PET).
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved Mobile MIM, a new mobile radiology application that produces images clear enough for making medical diagnoses. (The app is not approved for reading x-rays and mammograms, though.) According to a press release:
“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., M.P.H., chief scientist and deputy director for science in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Radiology images taken in the hospital or physician’s office are compressed for secure network transfer then sent to the appropriate portable wireless device via software called Mobile MIM. Mobile MIM, manufactured by Cleveland-based MIM Software Inc., allows the physician to measure distance on the image and image intensity values and display measurement lines, annotations and regions of interest.
In its evaluation, the FDA reviewed performance test results on various portable devices. These tests measured luminance, image quality (resolution), and noise in accordance with international standards and guidelines. The FDA also reviewed results from demonstration studies with qualified radiologists under different lighting conditions. All participants agreed that the device was sufficient for diagnostic image interpretation under the recommended lighting conditions.
Maisel emphasized that Mobile MIM ‘”is not intended to replace full workstations and is indicated for use only when there is no access to a workstation,”‘ according to Apple Insider. The new app gives physicians the ability to view images, and to make diagnoses, quickly, and when it’s not possible to have ready access to other equipment. In the February 4 LA Times, MIM Software chief technology officer Mark Cain described the software as useful ‘if a radiologist wanted a second opinion about a PET scan from a specialist in such scans who was at a conference, on vacation or otherwise removed from a workstation.’
There are some caveats to the new Mobile MIM app, the LA Times notes. FDA spokesperson Erica Jefferson acknowledged that ‘the agency has no way of knowing if doctors are using mobile devices all of the time simply for the sake of convenience or saving time.’ Khan Siddiqui, chairman of the American College of Radiology’s IT and Informatics Committee, acknowledged a ‘potential of abuse’; doctors might prefer to use the app for convenience or to save time. But Siddiqui predicts that the app will be used ‘mainly by non-radiologists such as surgeons or cardiologists to confirm courses of treatment and explain them to patients,’ and that the benefits of the new app outweigh any doubts.
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