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Cell Phone Medicine

May 19, 2008

Cell phones may enable doctors to do sophisticated medical tests in developing countries.


A lifesaving phone call. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the developing world, many doctors don’t have access to high-tech imaging systems, like ultrasound and MRI, and if they do, the machines are often broken. University of California at Berkeley bioengineer Boris Rubinsky has a solution: call up a working machine with an ordinary cell phone. He explains that you can do the scanning part with relatively cheap instruments, and send the raw data to a remote server as a cell phone text message. That server would then convert the raw data into a high-resolution image.

BORIS RUBINSKY (University of California, Berkeley):
And the central processing facility can send back the image, as a regular image, the way you would send a photo through your cellular phone.

To prove the concept, his team performed a kind of tumor-detecting electrical scan via cell phone, and it worked. He says the technique could also help control health care costs here at home. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.