According to researchers, including those from Imperial College London in the UK and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, smartphones could also help enable people to test themselves, and get results and support in their own homes.
This would make it easier for people to look after their own health — particularly in rural regions, where clinics can be too far away . The researchers further added that patients worried about a potential HIV infection might be more inclined to get tested if they could do it at home and avoid the stigma of attending a clinic.
Many smartphones have sensors built in that could aid diagnosis, such as a heart rate monitor and an oximeter, as well as a camera and microphone that can be used to analyse images and sounds like a person’s breathing.
The apps would send the results to local clinics before being uploaded to a central online database — instead of patients having to attend in person. Smartphones are increasingly used in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2020, one in two mobile phone connections in the region will be via smartphone– a similar figure to worldwide smartphone adoption. The researchers said this presents a prime opportunity to harness the existing technology where clinics in rural areas can be scarce.