Medical and Mobile
IT makes its mark in health care
By J.D. Rachid
The medical field is keeping up with the mobile Joneses. According to Bulletin Healthcare, a provider of news and information on the latest developments in medicine, the consumption of medical news and information via smartphones climbed by 45 percent between June 2010 and February 2011. In analyzing the reading habits of more than 550,000 health care providers, including more than 400,000 physicians, who subscribe to its daily email briefings, Bulletin Healthcare found that nearly three in 10 health care professionals now access the daily medical information and briefings via mobile platforms, while seven in 10 continue to use traditional desktop platforms. Current usage trends suggest that the ratio will to continue to swing strongly in the direction of mobile usage.
Examining digital platforms favored by the health professionals, Bulletin Healthcare says iPhone usage fell to 79 percent in February 2011 from 86 percent in June 2010, while iPad-shared information nearly doubled to 14 percent, up from a meager 8 percent in the same period. Devices based on Google’s Android operating system, Apple’s main market competitor, also swelled by more than 50 percent.
Smartphone and mobile devices allow health care providers to collect, store and retrieve information electronically. This ability to rapidly transfer patient information facilitates speedy analysis of the information, effectively cutting the time it takes to make a diagnosis. Thanks to digital sharing of patient information, the analysis may begin even before the patient arrives at the location of the health care provider. Mobile devices can be used for diagnosis wherever a patient is located, even in remote areas, with the information transmitted immediately for the physician’s evaluation prior to surgery. “This new technology can expedite diagnosis, and therefore treatment,” says Asim F. Choudhri, a physician in the division of neuroradiology at Johns Hopkins University.
It was only a matter of time before medical applications, or apps, appeared on the scene. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already has approved a number of apps for marketing in the United States, including AirStrip OB to facilitate communication during labor and delivery, AirStrip Cardiology and AirStrip Patient Monitoring, all products of medical software developer AirStrip Technologies Inc. AirStrip Cardiology was featured as the best U.S. medical application for the iPhone as part of Apple’s App Store Rewind 2011. AirStrip Cardiology and Patient Monitoring are available for iOS devices only, while Airstrip OB is available for almost all current mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.
Pegasus Imaging Corp., which conducts business as Accusoft Pegasus, recently released AIMTools and Barcode Xpress Mobile to enable access to medical records on Android devices. These apps mimic the function of the barcoded identification wristband patients receive when they register for treatment.
And what about your everyday cellphone user who isn’t a member of the professional medical community? Can we integrate the use of mobile devices into our personal care? The answer is “yes.” As with most smartphones and tablets, “there’s an app for that,” from EKGs, to cardiograms, to testers for glucose levels in the blood. Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal’s personal technology columnist and a Type 2 diabetic, tested Telcare Inc.’s 3G-enabled blood glucose meter and described it as “a leap ahead of nearly all glucose meters” in a recent column. “The BGM acts like a normal glucose meter but also embeds cellular connectivity that sends blood glucose data to Telcare’s servers, where both doctor and patient can access them via the password-protected website or iPhone app. If necessary, doctors can send direct messages back to the glucose meter from the same device,” he wrote.
There are apps for medical study and even to help ordinary individuals learn more about the medical field. Product development opportunities clearly abound in health care information technology.