Smartphones for Health: The Future of Medicine?

by Bob Curley on February 24, 2012

Smartphone use has become nearly ubiquitous, and some experts believe the devices will play an increasingly important role in tracking and precisely monitoring health, the New York Times reported Feb. 23.

Already, smartphones can be used by diabetics to keep an eye on their blood-glucose levels, and patients also can use their phone to check their blood pressure or track their heart activity.

“I recommend these devices because it makes it more fun and I get more readings than if I ask them to do it manually,” says cardiologist Eric Topol, M.D., author of the book, “The Creative Destruction of Medicine.” Topol predicts that someday smartphones will allow users to run routine medical tests on themselves and share the data with doctors and others, allowing them to skip office visits.

Some doctors are leery of patients using smartphones for self-assessment, concerned that many will not consult with a physician or will use badly designed apps, such as several poorly reviewed stethoscope programs now being sold.

For patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure, however, smartphones could provide information with an immediacy that would be impossible to duplicate with doctors’ visits. “For people to have real command over these diseases, we need to close the feedback loop and give people the information they need to make smarter decisions in real time,” says Joseph Flaherty, senior vice president of AgaMatrix, which makes a blood-glucose monitor that attaches to an iPhone.

Reader Question: Do you use your smartphone to keep track of your health?

(Photo © Digitpedia via Flickr)