Physical exam by phone nearing possibility
By Lauran Neergaard THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — It’s not a “Star Trek” tricorder, but by hooking a variety of gadgets onto a smartphone you could almost get a complete physical — without the paper gown or even a visit to the doctor’s office. Blood pressure? Just plug the arm cuff into the phone for a quick reading. Heart OK? Put your fingers in the right spot, and the squiggly rhythm of an EKG appears on the phone’s screen. Plug in a few more devices and you could have photos of your eardrum (Look, no infection!) and the back of your eye, listen to your heartbeat, chart your lung function, even get a sonogram. If this sounds like a little too much DIY medical care, well, the idea isn’t to self-diagnose with Dr. iPhone. But companies are rapidly developing miniature medical devices that tap the power of the ubiquitous smartphone in hopes of changing how people monitor their own health. “We wanted to make sure they have all the right tools available in their pocket” is how Joseph Flaherty of AgaMatrix describes his company’s tiny glucose monitor. Diabetics can plug the iBGStar into the bottom of an iPhone and check blood sugar on the go without carrying an extra device. This mobile medicine also might help doctors care for patients in new ways. In March, prominent San Diego cardiologist Eric Topol tweeted “no emergency landing req’d” when he used his smartphone EKG to diagnose a distressing but not immediately dangerous irregular heartbeat in a fellow airplane passenger at 30,000 feet. And the University of California, San Francisco, hopes to enroll a staggering 1 million people in its Health eHeart Study to see whether using mobile technology, including smartphone tracking of people’s heart rate and blood pressure, could help treat and prevent cardiovascular disease. The question: Do smartphone devices really work well enough for the average patient and primary care doctor to dive in, or are early...
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