Smartphone as Doctor
If there’s any doubt that mobile apps are taking health care in directions unimaginable a few years ago, consider a few tidbits from just the past few weeks.
First, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just gave the green light to something called an “ingestible sensor.” It’s a tiny computer chip embedded inside a pill. You swallow that pill when you take your other meds and the ingested chip goes to work, recording when the dose went down and transmitting that data to a stick-on patch on your body. The patch then sends it to your smartphone. And to your doctor’s office, if you wish.
A few days later, yet another mobile health startup jumped into the market, this one called Mango Health, in San Francisco. Nothing so unusual about that, except the people running the small company come from a mobile games background and they’ve made it clear that they’ll be looking for ways to bring social gaming principles into the health business.
The first app they plan to roll out will be designed to help people stay on schedule with taking their meds, but also will let them know about potential interactions with other drugs and food. In the the spirit of gaming, it will reward, with discounts, those who stick to their schedules.
Your smartphone will see you now
Hard to believe, but there are more than 13,000 different mobile health apps available for download. Most are designed to help people stick to diets or exercise routines, and, in truth, they range widely in quality and commitment to real science. Which probably explains why, according to research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, only 10 percent of Americans with smartphones have downloaded a health app.
Expect that to change dramatically, though, over the rest of this decade as the population ages and developers focus more on helping people with serious health problems. Already, there’s been a rise in the type of apps that work with other devices to monitor your blood sugar or blood pressure or how you slept last night.