January 26, 2012

The iPad and the iPhone are a huge hit thanks to their ease of use, mobility and Internet connectivity. And of course the huge range of available apps has amazed all of us with just how many functions these devices can perform. In health care, another huge benefit of these devices is that they can provide the functionality of a wide range of medical devices with just a few simple add-ons and plug-ins.

The processing power, big color screen and touchscreen interface allows these iOS devices to provide the core computing platform necessary for many diagnostic devices. We expect the market for iOS-based medical devices to explode in the near future as new apps and extensions are designed and developed. These devices will prove useful in the clinic, and at home as patients with iOS devices take a more active role in their own care.

“[Thanks to the iPhone] suddenly everyone has a medical device in their pocket,” said Sean Mehra of HealthTap, an interactive community of patients and physicians exchanging personalized health care information.

Below we present five beautiful iOS medical devices that are on the market today or nearly there. And next week, I’ll follow up with a post with three ideas for medical peripherals that are further off in the future, but that I think will be valuable for the physician, the caregiver, and the engaged patient.

1. iBGStar Glucose Meter

Over 17 million Americans have diabetes, but today most use needles and a clunky kit to check blood sugar three times a day. With an iPhone compatible-glucose meter, diabetics can collect, track and share blood sugar data easily. TheiBGStar glucose meter by Sanofi-Aventis is said to be more accurate than standalone glucose meters. A case can be fitted around the meter and phone, making them one unit and essentially just extending the length of the phone a bit. Your phone can also be programmed to remind you when it’s time to check levels.

2. iPhoneECG Electrocardiogram

This clever design incorporates electrocardiogram (ECG) electrodes right into an iPhone case, which then transmits data to the iPhone when you press the device to your chest. The combination turns your phone into an ECG, the iPhonECG, developed by Alivecor and Oregon Scientific. It costs around $100, including the app. While it doesn’t yet get granular enough to replace a complete ECG–which gathers data from ten electrodes, not just two–it can be a useful tool for a quick diagnostic or for patients eager to take an active interest in their health.

3. Withings Blood Pressure Monitor

This monitor measures systolic and diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate with an inflatable cuff. It can help users monitor hypertension, which can cause hardening of the arteries and lead to heart, brain and kidney damage. French tech company Withings created a plug-and-play solution that’s compatible with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Its price tag of $129 includes the inflatable cuff, which runs off standard batteries. The app will alert users to unhealthy blood pressure ranges and can be set up to email results to your doctor.

4. ECEM Pulse Oximeter

Monitor the oxygenation of hemoglobin in a person’s blood stream with this peripheral, which will be of particular use to patients with heart or lung problems such as emphysema. A small clip attaches to the patient’s fingertip and beams a light through the tissue to a receiver. The light received is translated into a percentage of oxygen saturation of the blood. The Electrical and Computer Engineering in Medicine research group in collaboration with the Pediatric Anesthesia Research Team at the University of British Columbia developed the Phone Oximeter. It comes with decision support software too (and has a sweetpromo video well worth watching).

Bonus: The device can make anesthesia care safer throughout the developing world, where death rates from anesthesia are 100 to 1,000 times higher than in developed countries.

5. MobiUS SP1 Ultrasound Imaging Device

Watch your little one grow day by day with your own personal ultrasound; rural doctors and home care givers can benefit from the extreme portability of this peripheral compared to the standalone machine, and will certainly enjoy its lower price–$7,495. Wi-Fi and cell connectivity means images can be shared quickly. Captured images are small enough for mobile usage but smaller than those captured through traditional ultrasound machines. Unfortunately, Mobisante’sdevice doesn’t run on iOS yet. But we thought it was so cool, we had to include it and hold our breath waiting for an iOS version.

If you found this post intriguing, wait for a coming post, where I’ll discuss three more devices I dreamed up with the help of Russel Pryor, our graphic designer. Meanwhile, I’d sincerely appreciate hearing your comments on this post–please feel free to share in the space below. Thanks!


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