Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 06, 2013

Mobile Medicine: Get a Physical Exam via Smartphone

Apparently, by hooking a variety of gadgets onto a smartphone a person can get a nearly complete physical. Want to check your blood pressure? Well, here, plug this arm cuff into your smartphone for a fast reading. Go ahead and put your fingers right here (wherever that is) and the rhythm of an EKG appears on your phone's screen.

Then, plug in a few more devices and you could have photos of your eardrum looking all pristine and uninfected (if not the opposite). You can see the back of your eye, listen to your heartbeat, chart your lung function, or even get a sonogram, all courtesy of a smartphone and some key hookups.

The best part is that users don’t even have to go to the doctor, or put on that horrible paper mache outfit the nurse makes you wear.

Companies are rapidly developing miniature medical devices that tap the power of the smartphone in hopes of changing how people can understand their bodies. Those working on this technology are careful to point out that they are not encouraging a total DIY healthcare a la self-diagnosis, but are looking to enable people to better monitor their physical heath.

Joseph Flaherty of AgaMatrix describes his company's iPhone-accessible glucose monitor. “We wanted to make sure they have all the right tools available in their pocket,” says Flaherty.

By plugging the iBGStar into the bottom of an iPhone, users can check blood sugar on the go without carrying an extra device.

Such mobile monitoring can come in handy in situations that are ambiguously urgent. For instance, in March, prominent San Diego cardiologist Eric Topol tweeted “no emergency landing req'd” when he used his smartphone EKG to diagnose a distressing, but not immediately dangerous irregular heartbeat in a fellow airplane passenger at 30,000 feet.

The University of California, San Francisco, is looking to enroll one-million people in its Health eHeart Study to see whether using mobile technology, including smartphone tracking of people's heart rate and blood pressure, could help treat and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Many of the tools cost $100 to $200, and there's little public sales information available. It's still unclear whether this branch of mobile medicine will be growing investment of burn out trend. 

But, if you are among the masses without healthcare, this could be very promising. Also, if you are Woody Allen or any other type of neurotic with a tendency toward hypochondria – these devices are your new best friends.

Edited by Ashley Caputo

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