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Physical by smartphone becoming real possibility

AP/ SMH | May 3, 2013
The idea isn't to self-diagnose with Dr. iPhone but companies are rapidly developing miniature medical devices that tap the power of the ubiquitous smartphone in hopes of changing how people monitor their own health.

And University of Washington researchers are testing a way to measure lung function in people with asthma or emphysema as they blow onto the phone and it captures the sound. Usually patients blow into special machines at the doctor's office, while a use-anywhere version might help someone spot early signs of worsening before they see a doctor.

Insurers are studying what smartphone technology to pay for. For example, health care giant Kaiser Permanente is about to begin a project in Georgia to sell the iBGStar alongside other diabetes monitors in its on-site pharmacies. The project will determine whether patients like the smartphone monitor, if it improves care _ and if so, whether the readings should beam into patients' electronic health records, in Georgia and in other Kaiser regions.

But ultimately these devices may have a bigger role in developing countries, where full-size medical equipment is in short supply but smartphones are becoming common. Even in rural parts of the U.S. it can take hours to drive to a specialist, while a primary care physician might quickly email that specialist a photo of, say, a diseased retina first to see whether the trip's really necessary.

"These tools make diagnosis at a distance much easier," said Dr. Nicholas Genes, an emergency medicine professor at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who helped with TEDMED's smartphone physical.

 

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