7 Ways Smartphones Are Saving Lives

If you think mHealth just means tracking steps and calories burned think again. These smartphones are saving lives.

Peek smartphone eye examination

The smartphone industry now dwarfs the PC industry with 2bn smartphones purchased every year and in a market that is not yet saturated it spells plenty of room for growth.  With newer and more powerful smartphones coming on to the market companies are developing new and exciting ways of utlizings smartphones to provide care, assistance and ultimately save lives.

1. HIV and syphilis test

HIV and syphilis iphone test
New York’s Columbia University’s diagnostic dongle. Image via Bloomberg

Developed by New York’s Columbia University, this “diagnostic dongle” attaches to a smartphone through the audio jack and correctly identifies HIV and syphilis infections 92 percent to 100 percent of the time according to a report in Science Translational Medicine. The test was used to identify diseases in pregnant women that can be passed on to their children. An author for the report told Bloomberg “If you diagnose and treat them on the spot, you can save the life of a newborn.” Lab testing equipment of this kind can cost from $10,000 to $,20,000. This one costs $34.

2. The eye exam

Peek smartphone eye examination
Peek mobile eye exam. Image via BBC

Peek is a smartphone-based portable eye exam kit that performs several eye tests such as visual field, acuity (clearness of vision), color vision, contrast sensitivity, lens imaging for cataracts, retinal imaging and image grading. With 80 percent of blindness avoidable, the U.K based Peek say they’re creating “mobile based versions of everything you need for a comprehensive eye exam.”

2. The electrocardiogram

AliveCor electrocardiogram

AliveCor, is an ECG device that clips onto the back of a smartphone and provides real time data when a user places their thumbs over its sensors. AliveCor was used ‘in the field’ by cardiologist and well-known digital health evangelist Eric Topol not once but twice in two years to diagnose a patient suffering heart distress on a commercial flight. Topol even received an email from a patient whom he had prescribed the device to saying, “I’m in atrial fibrillation, now what do I do?”

4. The skin cancer detecting app

cancer detecting app
University of Houston cancer detecting app. Via Engadget

Researchers at the University of Houston have created a smartphone app that can detect melanoma with 85 percent accuracy which, according to Engadget, is just as efficient as visiting a dermatologist and better at diagnosis than the average primary care physician. While the app supports the discovery of cancerous moles, it requires a $500 magnifying glass which attaches to the smartphone which means it’s an expensive piece of kit for now but, like most technologies, will become more affordable to the average consumer in time.

5. The disease detecting DNA lab

The Biomeme smartphone DNA testing kit. Via TechCrunch

Biomeme wants to turn your iPhone in to a mobile DNA replicating machine that will change how diseases are tracked and treated. With the Biomeme device the iPhone becomes a real-time qPCR thermocycler, which are used in labs to amplify segments of DNA and so far the lead indication is detecting sexually transmitted diseases. The device and kit cost around $1,000 and claims to be just as accurate as the much more expensive laboratory model.

6. The glucometer

iphone glucometer
The LifeScan Verio Sync.

The LifeScan Verio Sync from OneTouch is the first glucose meter in the US to use bluetooth to automatically and wirelessly transmit glucose readings to a smartphone (iOS only for now). The slick looking design is very Apple-inspired and allows the user to see trends in their data, add notes and the app can be used with or without the meter.

7. The dermatoscope

The mobile dermatoscope by Handyscope.

Handyscope turns a smartphone into a mobile dermatoscope by attaching an optical device alongside an accompanying app. The phone is placed flush against the person’s skin, which is illuminated by polarized light from the built-in LEDs. The encrypted data is recorded with saved images where comments can be added manually.

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