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Camera phones now able to detect malaria and early kidney disease

Pixel Phone
(Image credit: Google)

As camera phone technology progresses, health is becoming a larger focus for phone manufacturers. Working in conjunction with the Health app and Apple Watches, iPhones can track your activity and calculate how many calories you burn. However, now camera phones are taking health technology to the next level.

New testing methods mean that health organizations can now use camera phones to diagnose diseases. The NHS is currently supporting Health.io to provide home testing kits to patients as an early detection method for kidney disease. 

• Read more: Best camera phone (opens in new tab)

The NHSX, a digital arm of the NHS, is working with Healthy.io (opens in new tab) to provide half a million home testing kits over the next 3 years. This new technology essentially enables users to turn their camera phones into highly capable medical tools. The home testing kit is sent out to patients to use alongside a camera phone app. The patients simply scan the results and send them on to their GP.

This new method has been implemented in order to reduce unnecessary trips to the GP and hospitals. With more than six million people potentially being affected by chronic kidney disease, these home testing kits could prove invaluable. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said (opens in new tab), "This is another brilliant example of how innovative technologies are transforming healthcare and improving lives. Patients are able to receive a diagnosis sooner, saving time for clinicians so they can spend more time on treatment, and ultimately saving more lives through earlier diagnosis. This innovation is another step forwards in making high-quality healthcare more accessible – in some cases without leaving the comfort of your own home."

The use of camera phones to diagnose diseases is not only becoming more viable, but is also becoming more popular. This is especially due to the pandemic and the social distancing guidelines that organizations across the world have had to adapt to. 

Malaria is another health condition that can now be tested for with a camera phone. Estimated to have 229 million cases worldwide, there's currently no approved vaccine for malaria, so early diagnosis is extremely important. 

An app called Malaria screener (opens in new tab) is now being used to analyze blood smear images. The high resolution cameras and processors in camera phones can scan thin and thick blood smear images to identify symptoms. 

Of course a microscope is still the gold standard for identifying symptoms. However, the fact that camera phones have become so capable in recent years makes them potentially brilliant medical tools. 

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Usman is a commercial and architectural photographer based in West Yorkshire, who has been working professionally for over seven years. He has also spent over four years as a writer for the biggest photography sites in the world, including Staff Writer for Digital Camera World, senior staff writer for FStoppers, and tech writer for Petapixel. 


With a particular interest in technology developments, high-resolution imaging and the high-end cameras, Usman has been on the cutting edge of camera news as well as writing features about medium format systems and global shutters, and has reviewed some of the latest Leica cameras as well as a tripod that’s even taller than Andre the Giant!