Clinicians enjoy a growing arsenal of downloadable applications and lightweight peripheral attachments that turn ordinary smartphones and tablet computers into powerful, portable diagnostic tools. For thousands of early adopters of these technologies, inexpensive apps are replacing tools as basic as the physician’s stethoscope. They promise to revolutionize clinical diagnosis and patient care, allowing clinicians to quickly consult pain-medication doses, or to conduct ultrasound or echocardiogram exams — all using a smartphone or tablet.1,2

In the near future, portable computing and communications technology will allow a patient to “take a video of a rash on your foot and get a diagnosis later that afternoon without making a doctor’s appointment,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius predicted in December. “This takes the biggest technology breakthrough of all time and uses it to address our greatest national challenge.”1

Already, much-anticipated mobile melanoma-exam apps are being used in consultations between nonspecialist clinicians and dermatologists. Handheld dermatoscopes with dedicated iPhone software apps allow physicians to photograph, store, and share magnified images of suspicious moles and suspected melanomas on patients’ skin. This permits nonspecialist physicians in rural settings to conduct skin-cancer screenings and refer suspicious lesions to qualified dermatologists in other cities for follow-up.2-5

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There are even video-education apps to help clinicians teach women how to do breast cancer self-exams or to help foster patients’ understanding of smoking cessation and cancer awareness.2