Health Care goes Mobile (mHealth)
Mobile Health Devices - The idea is not entirely new
Science-Fiction stories seldom manage to anticipate the future. In some respect Star-Trek is an exception. While intergalactic space travel as envisaged by the popular series is still light-years away, the shell-like wireless communication devices used by captain Kirk and Mr Spock have already become reality with today's mobile phones (even though the shell-type ones have not succeeded as the preferred format). Now another Star-Trek device is about to enter the real world: Mr McCoy's medical tricorder.
Smartphones are ideally suited to operate as remote medical devices. They are capable of elaborating and storing huge amounts of data and able to connect to medical add-on applications. In case of an emergency they are with the patient even when a doctor is not at hand allowing for remote diagnosis. Six billion mobile phones worldwide (one out of six being a smartphone) mean that almost any person on the planet will be connected, and thus receive at least some sort of medical treatment in the not too distant future.
Medical diagnosis devices have been in the making for some time and some have already been cleared by the FDA.
Devices already available
- AliveCor - a San Francisco-based company has developed an iPhone case with two electrodes that allows for an electrocardiogram (ECG) instantly from any place in the world.
- Sanofi - a French health care giant has released the iBGStar, a small device that lets you test your glucose level while on the run.
- MobiSante - a firm headquartered in Redmond, Washington has built a small ultrasound probe that plugs into any smartphone.
- CellScope - a start-up has made a device able to detect pathogens like tuberculosis and malaria. They have even built a gadget that turns the iPhone into an otoscope, allowing for remote diagnosis of children ear infections.
- Scanadu from Mountain View, California has launched the Scout tricoder What is unique about the Scout is that it unites multiple sensor apps into one unit. Vital signs like the pulse, blood pressure, breathing frequency, temperature are all measured remotely with one device!
mHealth - checking your health constantly
The future of health care is mobile
There is no question smartphones suitable for medical diagnosis are coming. Doctors might be reluctant to rely on data provided directly by the patient, but the advantages of these medical devices are simply too huge and cheap to be ignored. Think about the unsustainable health care costs in developed countries or the scarcity of doctors in developing one's. Medical smartphones will get their slice of the cake. A decade from now they could be as ubiquitous as today's thermometer.