A new smartphone app, which is being trialled in selected pharmacies, provides innovative solution in urine testing, by helping women test for urinary tract infections and access fast-track treatment in the pharmacy without the need for a GP visit.

The Dip UTI test kit, developed by Israeli med-tech company Healthy.io, combines the traditional dipstick test used by GPs with an app armed with the latest scanning technology which works like a laboratory digital analyzer and a virtual nurse to talk users through the test.

The technology is already being used within the NHS to monitor diabetes and kidney transplant patients and has been adopted by the NHS Innovation Accelerator scheme. Healthy.io uses smartphone cameras coupled with the very latest computer vision and artificial intelligence technology to deliver clinical-grade imaging and analysis.

The trial in pharmacies in London, Sheffield and Cardiff allows pharmacists to offer the test kit to women who suspect they have a urinary tract infection and provide a short course of antibiotics if the results are indicative of a UTI.

The Dip UTI test kit will retail at £9.99 and the pharmacy consultation service and drugs will cost an additional £14.99, if antibiotics are needed.

Women who suspect they have a UTI will be assessed by a specially trained pharmacist. If there are no ‘red-flag’ symptoms or complications, such as diabetes or age-related limitations, they will be offered the opportunity to buy the kit.

Once patients have downloaded the Dip UTI app, a virtual nurse called Emily talks them through the test and helps them to avoid common pitfalls associated with urine-analysis dipsticks.

The dipstick is placed on a colour-board and then scanned by the smartphone app, which references colour blocks on the board to colour correct a scanned image of the dipstick and eliminate any variations due to different phones and lighting conditions. As a result, the kit provides a far more accurate interpretation of any changes and is as accurate as a digital analyzer, claimed the company.

Urinary tract infections are one of the most common bacterial infections seen in general practice and account for up to 3 percent of all GP visits.

UTIs can be diagnosed on the basis of symptoms alone, but Public Health England endorses the Royal College of Practitioners guidelines, which recommend using a urine dipstick test to confirm infection is likely. However, there is evidence that as many as one in five women who present with severe symptoms will test negative for infection and be denied treatment despite having had a UTI.

“Accurate diagnosis is important on two counts. It reduces the risk of antibiotics being prescribed to women who don’t need them and it minimises the dangers associated with denying them to women who do need them,” said Dr Gill Jenkins, GP.

Laboratory tests and clinical trials confirmed the accuracy and consistency of the test kit when compared to visual reads, said the company.

In 720 checks, the Dip UTI test kit recorded an exact match in 99.64 percent of cases and the correct colour block in 100 percent. Another test, which compared results using 21 different phones, produced an exact match in 99.4 percent of samples. And to ensure different lighting conditions would not affect the result, 440 sticks were tested under 10 different illumination settings, resulting in 99.52 percent exact matches and 100 percent colour-block matching.

Katherine Ward, a fellow of the NHS Innovation Accelerator and the chief commercial officer of Healthy.io, said: “What is really exciting about the Dip UTI test kit is that it is not some incredibly expensive new technology, and it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It is simply an intelligent way to allow customers to conduct the dipstick test themselves. By doing so they may significantly shorten the time for treatment.”