Frank Irving, Editor
April 17, 2013

The SmartPhone Physical, described as “a checkup of the future,” was demonstrated April 16 at New York’s Kennedy Center during TEDMED 2013, an event focused on innovation and breakthrough thinking across health and medicine. The SmartPhone Physical enables a comprehensive physical examination to be conducted using minimal equipment that connects to an iPhone.

The Smartphone Physical utilizes a series of smartphone-based devices that provide clinically relevant information. The devices can collect both quantitative and qualitative data, ranging from simple readings of weight and blood pressure to more complex readings such as heart rhythm analysis and visualization of the back of the eye.

A team of medical student-engineers designed the checkup. They collaborated with Nurture, a Steelcase company focused on providing user-centered solutions in healthcare, and Medgadget, a medical technology and innovation blog, to bring the TEDMED demonstration to fruition. Their hope is to provide a view of what patients may see in their clinicians’ exam rooms in the not-too-distant future.

TEDMED delegates were offered a series of quick diagnostic tests using devices connected to an iPhone to pull patient data. Patients received an overall health assessment and EHR-ready results from the Smartphone Physical immediately after the experience. Smartphone Physical’s team of clinicians aimed to perform nearly 800 personal 10-minute “office visits” during TEDMED.

Specific screening and diagnostic tests included:

  • heart/lung sounds using a digital stethoscope from ThinkLabs;
  • body composition using an iHealth Scale;
  • blood pressure using a Withings BP Monitor;
  • oxygen saturation using an Masimo iSpO2 device;
  • visual acuity using an EyeNetra phone case;
  • optic disc visualization using a Welch Allyn iExaminer case attached to a PanOptic Ophthalmoscope;
  • ear drum visualization using a CellScope phone case;
  • lung function using a SpiroSmart spirometer;
  • electrocardiogram (ECG) using an AliveCor heart monitor; and
  • blood vessel visualization using a Mobisante ultrasound probe.

Shiv Gaglani, a Johns Hopkins medical student and Medgadget editor, led the development of The Smartphone Physical. The device-selection criteria were largely based on what doctors might use in the primary care setting, but they also had to make for an efficient visit. “These devices can abstract away the mundane and standardize the unreliable aspects of the physical exam,” Gaglani said in a news release. “I firmly believe that devices like these will become the standard tools of the coming generation of clinicians.”

Gaglani recruited a team of clinicians and biomedical engineers from Johns Hopkins and other top medical centers to participate in the project.

Collaborators said they would make available anonymized data and infographic depictions of the health status of participants throughout the conference.

“The pervasiveness of technology is crucial to the advancement of healthcare facilities, but it will only be effective if it works in sync with the importance of the space in delivering better clinical experiences,” said Rob Heitmeier general manager of Nurture, said in a prepared statement. “Today’s healthcare leaders need to rethink how the environment is an integral part of the medical process and find ways to better connect people with place and technology.”

Mike Hoaglin, an MD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and former clinical director for The Dr. Oz Show, said the real winner is the patient. “We’re re-engaging patients with robust handheld digital devices, because they promote more personalized, data-driven decision-making at the point of care. In turn, this can save time, money and lives,” Hoaglin said in a news release preceding the demonstration.

Click here for more information about the SmartPhone Physical. You can also visit the Nurture blog by clicking here. The Medgadget blog, which receives more than 2 million visits per year, can be accessed here.


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