For diagnosing certain conditions, smartphones can be as powerful as doctors — and far more accessible. With a relatively low cost and a built-in suite of data-sharing and camera capabilities, smartphones are uniquely positioned to transform condition diagnosis and care delivery, especially in remote or developing areas where the closest doctor may not be so close.

A recent wave of mobile diagnosis tools empowers patients to take an increasingly active role in their own health within a changing care industry that rewards convenient, scalable health solutions. Here’s a quick overview of three standouts:

PEEK

PEEK, short for ‘Portable Eye Examination Kit’, is a mobile app designed by eye health experts to empower a full range of eye examinations: from a general vision test to the diagnosis of cataracts or other eye problems. The app leverages the native smartphone camera and flashlight, sending an image back to Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London if further examination is needed.

According to the World Health Organization, 90% of the world’s 285 million visually impaired live in the developing world, and 80% of this impairment could be avoided or cured if identified in time.

PEEK’s objective is to improve eye health in these developing communities by providing a low-cost, readily available diagnosis tool. The PEEK app, loaded into a $300 smartphone, can perform the same tests as a $10,000 set of medical equipment — and is far more portable.

PEEK is currently being piloted in Naruku, Kenya. So far, 5,000 people have been tested and 1,000 of those have gone on to receive sight-saving treatment they would otherwise have missed.

OTO HOME

Recently released in California by health startup CellScopeOto HOME is a mobile app with an auxiliary otoscope device that enables remote diagnosis of ear infections.

Since ear infections are among the most common reasons children see a doctor, Oto HOME is targeted at young parents, helping them diagnose an ear infection (or a false alarm) from the comfort of home, without taking time needed to see a doctor.

After the user clips the otoscope to a custom smartphone case, Oto HOME instructs him on how to (carefully) insert the otoscope into his child’s ear and move it to capture different areas. The app records a video throughout and sends it to a doctor who will determine whether or not the ear is infected.

The Oto HOME kit costs $79, and each consultation costs $49.

WHITE EYE DETECTOR

White Eye Detector is a smartphone app that analyzes photos to identify retino blastoma, a rare pediatric cancer of the eye that affects 250-350 children a year. 95% of diagnosed children survive the disease, but early detection is critical as the condition can become fatal if it goes too long without treatment.

Research teams studying retinoblastoma discovered that leukocoria, an early indicator of retinal tumor growth, is often visible in digital photography as “white eye”, an abnormal white reflection in the subject’s pupil.

The White Eye Detector app scans user-submitted digital photographs for signs and severity of leukocoria, with the hope of driving early diagnosis and improving patient prognosis.

(Originally Published on the Centric Digital blog // February 24, 2015)