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David and Charlene

The ultimate selfie 

Ultrasound 009

For many people, taking a selfie and posting it on to their Instagram or Snapchat account is a part of everyday life.

 And now a physiotherapist at East Kent Hospitals aims to use the same technique so that haemophilia patients can carry out ultrasound scans at home.

They would then send their selfie scan image to doctors at their hospital by their own mobile phone.

Dr David Stephenson, who is based at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, says; “Technology is moving so fast and I really want to utilise that to improve the care we can give our patients.

 “It may seem like something out of Star Trek, but I want to bring in technology that allows haemophilia patients to use mobile phones to self-scan themselves.

“They will then be able to send via an app the image they have taken directly to doctors who can assess and diagnose what they are seeing.”

At the moment, patients – like others across the UK and further afield - take clotting factor home with them after a hospital visit. If they then feel sharp pains in their joints, which can indicate a serious bleed, they can inject it.

However, this technique can be problematic because haemophilia patients can also, over time, get arthritis in their joints and the uncomfortable feeling they get from this is very similar to a bleed.

Understandably, it can be very difficult for a patient to tell the difference between arthritis in their knee, elbow or elsewhere and a more serious build-up of blood in the same part of their body.

That means many potentially use the injections – which are very expensive – unnecessarily or have to travel to either A&E or the specialist haemophilia centre in Kent and Canterbury Hospital regularly to have an ultrasound scan so staff can see what’s going on.

Dr Stephenson, a physiotherapist at the centre, has received a grant to fund research into developing the app and examine how feasible it is for patients to carry out ultrasound scans at home and beam it to doctors.

He believes he can harness the technology of today and tomorrow, as well as the knowledge and skills so many of us have gained through using our own tech equipment such as phones, to help his patients.

The department he works in at Kent and Canterbury is no stranger to pioneering new techniques as it was the first haemophilia department in the UK to start using ultrasound on site rather than send patients to radiology departments for scans.

Dr Stephensen is leading the research with co-researcher Charlene Dodd from the Trust, which will take place at East Kent Hospitals, the Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel, and the Royal Victoria in Newcastle once it gains full approval.

He says: “We have gained grant funding from the pharmaceutical industry to carry out our research across the UK.

“At the moment it is in the initial stages and I am awaiting full approval to go ahead, but I really hope that patients will be able to use this technique in a few years.

“It may not be perfect for everyone – as we are not all tech literate - but we have people of all ages that have haemophilia and hopefully it will transform the lives of many of them.”

Dr Stephensen, who recently gave a talk on his research project to medical professionals in Spain, says he came up with the idea after carrying out a shopping exercise to look for new ultrasound equipment.

He adds: “We needed new equipment and the technology you can get nowadays is very, very small. In addition, these micro-ultrasound scanners now have wireless capability. That was really the impetus for this research, so I wrote a research paper and gained the funding.

“Part of the research will include discovering just who among haemophilia patients will benefit and be able to use this to self-manage their treatment.

“We also want to test the feasibility of training patients to do this at home either on themselves or, in time, to be able to test their children.

“Hopefully, by the end of the research we will have developed techniques that will really help many patients and free up valuable NHS resources including the time of medics, which can be used to provide care for others, which is really important.”

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