Smart phone app would allow patients to send doctors photos - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Smart phone app would allow patients to send doctors photos

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 MADISON (WKOW) -- Want to send your doctor a photo of your surgical wound?  There could be an app for that.

UW School of Medicine and Public Health researchers are using a $500,000 federal grant to develop a smart phone app, so patients can securely photograph and transmit images of their post operative wounds.

Studies show up to thirty percent of surgical wounds become infected.

Department of Surgery Chair Dr. Craig Kent believes technology could bridge the gap between an operation and the typical, follow up appointment weeks later.

"It dawned on me that maybe there's the possibility of more closely following those patients after their discharge without having to have them come into the office," Kent tells 27 News. 

"Most of these infections develop within two or three weeks after discharge. So in essence, there's nobody looking after the patients, there's nobody monitoring the wound," Kent says.

Kent's research trial will involve patients from vascular surgeries.  He says computer programmers, a photographer, and security personnel have helped to develop a smart phone under testing.

Kent notes many vascular surgery patients are seniors.  "You have to make this incredibly easy to use."

The surgery department chair also says transmitted photos will become part of patient medical records.

"Security is paramount," Kent tells 27 News.

UW-Madison nursing and engineering professor Patti Brennan says the security challenge begins with the properties of the personal cell phone.

"When you up the ante and begin to put mission critical, personal, secure, and sometimes sensitive information about individuals on it, you're pushing the tool beyond what it was originally designed for," Brennan says.

But Brennan believes security will catch up to the technology.   "As we migrate care from the institution to the home, we have to take advantage of every technology that's possible."

Kent says research personnel are using sophisticated coding to limit access to the developing app to patients and medical providers.

Brennan says technology is already making remote medical record keeping a reality.  "For your laboratory report, you may have to sign in to a secure web site."

Brennan says patient security expectations will be important, as different levels of cyber protection will attach to remotely-delivered patient data, depending on the sensitivity of the material.

Kent says the app for patients to deliver wound photos to medical providers may be available for use to patients through the research project within a year.

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