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smartphone medicine

It is estimated that one in five Americans have a health ‘app’ on their smart phone. One of the first uses of such an ‘app’ was to monitor vital signs such as a runner’s heart rate, by connecting a sensor from the body to a smart phone.

Smart phones are already in use to take blood pressure and even do an EKG. Currently in development is a product called iTest which will begin by testing for strep throat. This is done by swabbing the throat, placing the swab into a vial of liquid, which is then placed into the iTest device, and in turn, is plugged into the phone to be analyzed.

The producers of iTest are also developing tests for HIV and MRSA, a common infection that is particularly difficult to treat. They are also working on tests for the flu, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases. Another test can detect troponin which will help verify if someone has had a heart attack. The iTest is anticipated to sell for about $150 plus the test kits.

Other tests may soon be integrated with the cell phone. For blood, it includes cholesterol, potassium, hemoglobin, kidney, liver, and thyroid function, and some toxins (poisons). For urine, it can test for infections, protein, and HCG (a hormone to monitor high risk pregnancies.) Saliva can be tested for influenza. It will even test one’s breath for alcohol level, heart failure, and drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines. In development are tests for certain cancers such as lung, ovarian, breast, and prostate, which will be detected by analyzing one’s breath.

In the works are ‘apps’ that will allow one to wear wireless sensors to detect blood oxygen and blood glucose levels, blood pressure and heart rhythms. This information can be sent to your health care provider.

We now have the ability to take a picture of a rash with a smart phone and download an ‘app’ to process the image and receive a text with the most likely diagnosis. Then it will advise whether you can treat it yourself, or if you should see your doctor.

Also in development are hand held devices that can take X ray, MRI, and ultrasound images which will incorporate the use of smart phones.

The goal of the smart phone in medicine is not just for an individual’s use. It has tremendous applications for use in third world countries as well as remote and resource poor areas. Some of the information I have provided may seem quite farfetched, but I do believe it will become a big part of our future.

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