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The use of mobile phones in today’s society is pervasive, and for genitourinary medicine (GUM) attendees mobile phones as a common form of communication have been documented.1 However, as far as we are aware, the use of a mobile phone as a diagnostic aid has not been reported.
A 35 year old black Caribbean man presented to our clinic and gave a history of having developed a collection of “small lumps” on his prepuce, 1 week previously. However, he had been unable to attend at that time. He reported that the lumps had improved and had crusted over. He reported no systemic symptoms. On examination there were crusted lesions consistent with healing genital herpes and no palpable lymphadenopathy. Fortunately, the patient had taken a video clip using his mobile phone when the lesions had first appeared (he had taken both a still and a video of his penis). The images were very clear and there was no doubt that this man had had an outbreak of genital herpes. As a result of the images from his video mobile phone we were able to make a confident diagnosis of genital herpes and then have an appropriate discussion with increased certainty.
A second case involved a 41 year old man who presented to the clinic because his long term partner had had an episodic rash affecting the natal cleft for the past 3 years. She had been seen by her GP and had also been referred to a local dermatology department. According to the patient the episodic rash had remained undiagnosed despite a skin biopsy having been performed by the dermatologist. He had taken a picture of the rash during an episode with his video mobile phone. This revealed the characteristic vesicles of herpes simplex infection. He himself had a distant history of genital herpes infection but had no recent recurrences. He was advised to encourage his partner to attend the clinic for further management (along with his mobile phone).
These two consultations illustrate how video mobile phones have been used in our clinic to facilitate and aid diagnosis. Dentists often send photographs via email of suspicious oral lesions to oral medicine specialists. Dermatologists are performing telemedicine consultations with GPs for the diagnosis and subsequent investigation of skin complaints.2 The use of mobile phones within GUM services is increasing, with some clinics texting results to patients.3 However, as far as we are aware this is the first time that patients have utilised similar technology to facilitate the diagnosis of genital lesions.
Who knows, maybe in the future, patients will phone up and use their video phones to do distant consultations with GUM physicians. And the complaint: “It has always gone by the time a patient gets to see a doctor” will be a thing of the past.