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Avo Reid

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Health Care and Mobile Devices

March 19, 2010

Regardless of where you come down on the Health Care Debate, there is no debating that the advancement in mobile networks and devices will have a significant impact on the Health Care Industry.

Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse made the case at the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society on March 1.

Today, on a planet of 6.8 billion people, there are more than 4 billion active cell phones-more mobile phones in the world than TVs, PCs and cars combined. The cell phone is the most rapidly adopted technology in the history of this planet... High mobile phone penetration provides an incredible opportunity for us to work together to improve health care and health care access, regardless of location, age, gender or disability.

Mobile devices may be on their way to replacing the characteristic stethscope hanging from every doctors neck or pocket. Today 64% of U.S Physicians use smartphones and is expected to reach 81% by 2012 according to the health care consulting firm Manhattan Research. With the introduction of iPhone 3.0 OS just over a year ago Apple set the stage for increased penetration of the iPhone into the Healthcare industry. Features included in that release made this possible, such as the External Accessories API, allowing external accessories to interface to the iPhone via the dock connector or wirelessly over Bluetooth. Apple used a blood pressure cuff as an example so I guess the stethoscope analogy isn't that far off.

In fact, Apple seems to have always had it's eye on the Healthcare market, partnering with Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge, chief medical officer for Epocrates Inc., to reformat a huge medical database into a downloadable app known as Epocrates RX, before the iPhone was even launched. Today, Rutledge claims Epocrates RX is used by one in five U.S. doctors as a drug reference and to prevent interaction problems between a patient's multiple medications.

In India, the iPhone is being used to cure a disease called Retinopathy of Prematurity (RoP), an eye disease that affects thousands of prematurely born infants and can cause blindness if not swiftly treated. This type of disease is especially a problem in countries where there is a lack of adequate facilities, long distances to travel, illiteracy and low accessibility to quality healthcare. Laboratory assistants take pictures of the retinas of prematurely born babies and transmit them via broadband to pediatric eye surgeons, many times hundreds or thousands of miles away. The surgeons, use the iPhones high resolution graphics and pinch-and-drag capabilities combined with special software to diagnose and then determine treatment.

Currently there are hundreds of mobile applications in the AppStore's "Healthcare and Fitness" category available to businesses and consumers. Many more applications will be needed by the growing Healthcare Industry. Device manufacturers are improving their operating systems and SDKs to appeal to application developers designing tomorrows Healthcare Solutions.

A few application areas that apply to Healthcare include:

  • Medical Spanish or Medical translation capabilities so doctors can communicate with Foreign language-speaking patients
  • Fast medication facts, alternative medications, multiple drug interaction data, health plan insurance guidelines on medications.
  • Remote diagnostic and treatment recommendations, bringing Healthcare to the patient.
  • Receive and analyze laboratory test results.

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