getting health connected

Health is changing. There's over 12,000 health-related iPhone apps already available to Apple users. The majority of these include self-help and self-care apps, but some hint at a future mobile intelligence which promises amazing things.

A case in point the Skin Scan app will check your moles for signs of cancer. The app sends images of your skin lesion to a central server where the image is cross-checked against a database in order to give some indication as to your chances of having cancer.

doctor in your pocket?

In future, your smartphone could become very like a doctor in your pocket. That’s certainly the hope. Medical practitioners in Africa can easily become isolated in remote areas as they deal with emergencies, how can they continue to treat those outside the immediate area? Mobile’s part of the answer. In 2010, mobile phones accounted for over 90 percent of all Africa’s telephone lines and were in the hands of over half the population.

  • The Praekelt Foundation offers a range of mobile health-focused services: TxtAlert sends automated SMS reminders to patients to take their medication and Please Call Me, which pings a patient’s doctor to request an urgent call if they run out of credit.
  • An initiative called ‘Health eVillages’ gives doctors and healthcare workers mobile phones preloaded with drug guides, medical alerts, journal summaries and recent medical references from Skyscape. The idea is that local healthcare will be improved by putting a library of up-to-date information into the hands of health workers.
  • CellScope is another amazing mobile example currently under development at UC Berkeley. CellScope uses an attachment to turn a standard cellphone camera into a 5x-60x microscope.

This may not sound like too much, but it means health practitioners in the field, or poorly-equipped doctors in, for example, sub-Saharan Africa suddenly have a powerful microscope in their hands. Not only can they use this for immediate blood work, but images captured by their handheld microscope can easily be transmitted to other doctors, regional health centres or other sources of treatment diagnosis and support.

evolving diagnosis technology

Pioneering work’s taking place all across the continent. In Kenya, two radiologists built Medisoft East Africa, a company developing radiology and integrated archiving services. The aim is to develop remote health solutions that enable doctors to diagnose patients without meeting them.

Another SMS-based developer, Medic Mobile, allows patients to get home-based care even if they can’t be visited by a health practitioner. Tools include PatientView (an electronic medical record system); Messaging Module for direct to patient messaging and CelloPhone, a revolutionary diagnostic tool that will be able to perform basic diagnostics such as Complete Blood Count, diagnosis of Malaria and TB, and CD4 T Lymphocyte count on the back of a camera phone.

SMS apps are fine for the plethora of feature phones already in the hands of the African peoples, but there’s lots of innovation taking place within the smartphone sector, too.

iHealth Lab’s blood pressure monitoring system for iOS devices turns your device into a powerful blood pressure monitor. It includes a diary for tracking records of your systolic and diastolic pressures, heart rate, measurement time, and pulse-wave graphs. And you can email the results to your doctor for analysis.

and beyond

More advanced solutions are also in development. Scientists at Korea Advanced Institute of Science of Technology recently confirmed that those sensitive touchscreens in your smartphone can detect biomolecular material as well as traditional medical testing equipment.

This means it’s theoretically possible scientists will be able to develop solutions capable of identifying cancer and other diseases. If these developments prove fruitful, then your smartphone could become a complete medical lab. And that’s going to grab a slice of the estimated $5 billion medical monitoring market.

We’re interested in hearing from companies and individuals involved in this cutting-edge development of medical solutions for smartphones. It that’s you, or someone you know, please drop us a line in comments below.


image © rangizzz -

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.