Medical devices that become obsolete against a smartphone

Image | Brighthub

We have already looked at how a mobile phone can be used as a tool for helping and monitoring people with certain medical conditions (like for example diabetes patients or people with reduced eyesight), but more and more apps and accessories are appearing in the mHealth field, which make use of the features of smartphones in order to replace other traditional medical devices.

The advantage of this type of services and tools is obvious: a considerable cost reduction for medical devices, which not only allows anybody to obtain such devices to monitor a patient at home, but it also makes it less difficult to provide them in developing countries, regions in crisis or areas, where the closest hospital may be hundreds of kilometers away.

SpiroSmart, your Phone turned into a Spirometer

A spirometry may be one of the tests most frequently done on asthma patients and others suffering from breathing problems, fundamentally measuring lung capacity and volume. Although portable spirometers do exist, wouldn’t it be great to be able to take these measures wherever you are with your mobile phone?

This is exactly what a group of researchers from Washington University enables you to do with SpiroSmart, an application which – without any additional accessories – allows you to use your smartphone in place of a spirometer. It works in a very simple way: All you need to do, is blow towards the telephone allowing it to analyze the sound frequency. The application uses the user’s windpipe and voice chords to replace the tubes in traditional spirometers.

Although the method used by the application is different from the way these devices have worked in the past, the application was tested and produced quite good results which are actually quite similar to the ones obtained by portable spirometers that are available on the market for thousands of dollars. For the moment, SpiroSmart is still being tested further but the goal is to obtain approval for the product to enter the market soon.

MobiUS, Pocket size Ultrasound Scanner

Numerous medical examinations are based on ultrasound scans, that create two- or three-dimensional images of what is going on inside our body (like the womb of a pregnant woman, to give you a very common example). How is it possible to realize these kinds of exams without carrying a big and heavy piece of machinery? Pocket Scanners are one possible option, but they are quite pricy. MobiUS is another possibility.

MobiUS, has already received approval from the american FDA to be sold on the mHEalth market. It is a accessory which you can connect to a smartphone or tablet computer and slide it over the part of the patient’s body to be analyzed. The images obtained by the ultrasound accessory appear on our smartphone screen and may be stored or shared immediately with other doctors. And the accessory works with batteries, which makes it possible to use it in areas where no electrical grid is available.

Four more Examples, but there are many more

Although we have looked at two examples of how a smartphone may be used to realize medical examinations substituting traditional (and more expensive) devices designed for this purpose, there are many more examples of how telephones, using additional accessories or just their built-in features, could help change medicine as we know it today.

An iPhone application and a tool which lets you create electrocardiograms helped a cardiologist to diagnose a passenger with symptoms of heart problem during a flight. With a special otoscope connected to a telephone it is possible to realize a complete examination of the patients ear, take photographs and even enlarge them in order to see even the smallest details. And there is also an ophtalmoscope working in a similar way: you plug it onto your smartphone and you are ready to examine.

Medical devices that become obsolete against a smartphone

Image | Smart Blood Pressure Monitor

And the times, where we had to see a doctor or go to a pharmacy every now and then to have our blood pressure checked out, are over as well: Smart Blood Pressure Monitor fulfills this exact function by connecting a special bracelet to any device running iOS. There are even devices like Scanadu Scout, which take care of monitoring and analyzing all the vital signs of a patient (blood pressure, pulse, body temperature, oxygen levels in the blood,…)

In the short run it seems impossible that these devices could actually replace the bigger hospitals and medical centers. However, their usefulness becomes obvious, if we look at emergencies, self monitoring done by patients at home and medical attention in remote areas. Do you yourself know or use other apps or accessories which substitute medical devices?