With the availability of over 6000 medical and health apps, is it easy to appreciate the iPhone's role in providing the general public with medical information. Apps such as Stroke Patient, THUMPr and Baby Sprout inform users about stroke recovery, healthy heart habits and tracking children's health, respectively. These apps also have enormous potential in developing countries for both education and disease tracking purposes. Kenya's Magpi app, for example, has over 22,000 users and is funded in part by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization. It seeks to collect first-hand health data which subsequently enables better epidemiological tracking and more effective responses to disease outbreaks. The uses of downloadable apps are endless and widespread. Known as mHealth, or mobile health, this is an easy way to communicate widespread health information and is a rapidly growing market expected to be worth $142 million by 2016. What is gaining traction and attention now, however, is the use of the iPhone in medical procedures themselves.
By using the iPhone as a control unit, external devices can be attached to the phone, making its medical possibilities limitless. Using the iPhone's intrinsic camera feature, an endoscope adapter can be easily connected to it, thereby allowing the user to simultaneously take endoscopic photographs and record video while the endoscope end is inserted in the body. Similarly, an iPhone-compatible microscope can be fixed to the camera, and the captured photograph can be sent to a medical professional for diagnosis, even from remote areas.
For diabetics, iBGStar offers a plug-in blood glucose monitoring system that syncs with the user's iPhone to display and record levels on a related app. Similarly, other plug-in devices that can be inserted in to the bottom of the iPhone include breathalyzers, blood pressure monitors and even ultrasound systems. Doctors themselves can also use the devices in their practice. For example, the AliceCor Heart Monitor is FDA-approved and costs significantly less than a traditional system would.
The medical benefits of the iPhone and its accessories have been dubbed the future of medicine. With this trend, the iPhone looks set to find a space in the medical device industry.
[Editor's note: We've written about mHealth before...check out some previous articles on the subject here.]