New at Battling for Health: SmartPhone Health Apps Series



How is the new multimedia technology changing our lives? In lots of ways.

Recently, Apple announced that more than 2 billion phone applications (apps for short) have been downloaded. And that’s just for iPhone & Co. There are operating systems (OS) out there, from Androids to BlackBerry. The current estimate is 140,000 different iPhone apps are available with new ones sprouting up every day. I can’t find any figures but many of these apps (10% is my estimate) have something to do with health and medicine. Health apps will range from tracking your weight and calorie gain to tracking to blood pressure and glucose levels to tracking your pregnancy. All in your so-called mobile smart phone.

No wonder that developers are scrambling to come up with newer and more innovative and more user friendly apps for mobile phone users. And pharmaceutical companies and other health care industry players are realizing the potential for these apps and they, too, are developing industry-sponsored health apps.

The mobile phone is for many people, the doctor in the pocket. The site iPhone Medical Apps: news, reviews, and trends said it rather aptly:

“Smartphones will soon be diagnosing illness as well as advising on cures. Will we all become iPho-chondriacs?”

Lena Bryce’s mobile phone got her pregnant. Dan Woolley’s kept him alive for days under a collapsed building. Fran Neri’s saved her from a life-threatening infection. A fast-growing array of downloadable applications for smartphones is turning the mobile phone into a doctor in your pocket, on constant call to diagnose ills and propose cures. Soon mobile apps could even provide lifesaving home treatment for millions. That’s the upside. Experts warn, though, that apps may turn us into a neurotic nation of phone-hugging iPho-chondriacs.”

Phone apps are not only for patients. More and more doctors rely on their smart phone as a data storage, research and even diagnostic tool. In doing medical literature search using PubMed (U.S. National Library of Medicine), the keyword “iPhone”, a term we generally do not associated with medical journals, came up with 14 results. A paper published in the journal Health Informatics in August 2009 said:

Beyond phones. With the proper infrastructure, smartphones can help improve clinician satisfaction and increase EMR use.

Smartphone use is gaining traction among clinicians, with products like the iPhone and the BlackBerry supporting the display of drug references, medical calculators, decision support and EMR access. It is critical that a sound wireless infrastructure is in place to support smartphones and ensure connectivity. By tying in smartphones to the electronic record, CIOs can help to improve clinician workflow and maximize EMR use. Some clinicians will resist smartphone use; therefore, CIOs should continue to offer a variety of devices including COWs, tablets, laptops and wired PCs.

In April and the coming months, I will be starting a new series here on Battling for Health called SmartPhone Health Apps. Having recently upgraded from a first generation phone to a 3G iPhone, I am having fun trying out these apps. And I would be sharing with you what I’ll find out. Stay tuned!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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