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Mobile Health and the iPhone

by John Moore | July 23, 2008

There has been a tremendous amount of buzz regarding the latest iPhone release with most of the attention focusing on the 3G and GPS capabilities of the new iPhone. But one of the biggest features may turn out to be the AppStore, providing you health specific apps to take with you on your iPhone.

The AppStore leverages Apple’s existing iTunes and similar to selecting and downloading music, the AppStore allows one to select from some 800 or so applications to download to their iPhone. Most applications are free and probably 95% cost less than $10. When one clicks on an App icon a brief description of the application is provided along with screen shots highlighting features of the app. Along with the description, there is also a “star” rating system with user reviews.

In addition to games, business apps, restaurant guides and the like, as of today there are 32 apps dedicated to health. About a third of the apps are for nutrition, diet and weight. Another third are dedicated to fitness. The remaining apps are split between PHR-light apps (ICE-type apps of which there were 3) a real, mobile PHR platform called MyLifeRecord (a personal version for $10 or a family version for $50), 3 apps targeting physicians, including iChart EMR from CareTools which was the most expensive app at $140. and the popular Epocrates. Another interesting app for the physician was MIM for medical imaging – looked pretty slick. Surprisingly, did not find the A.D.A.M. app at the store nor anything from Dr. Jay Parkinson’s new company Myca, despite his well-known use of the iPhone. (Note, it does appear that an iPhone app, HelloHealth is forthcoming from Myca).

Nice start but what I would like to see in the future are:

  • An app that provides the ability to locate a highly rated physician in close proximity to me and make an appointment if something comes up while on travel. Something like ZocDoc, but with countrywide coverage.
  • A medication reminder telling me which medication I may need to take at a certain time of day.
  • Universal, biometric reading and charting app pulling data from virtually any biometric device, via Bluetooth, loading, it up to the iPhone and a hosted app. Currently there is one for glucose monitoring, but would like to see a single platform for numerous measurement types.
  • Tie in my Garmin 305, which I use for my cycling training, with other apps like MapMyRide or training software such as TrainingPeaks.
  • Enable an e-Consult or second opinion through a service like American Well.

Obviously, I could go on and on and I’m sure you have ideas of your own. Better yet, why not put an idea or two down in the comments field at the end of this post.

While we talk of consumer-facing HIT solutions e.g., PHRs, and Personal Health Systems (PHSs), these are virtually all tied to a computer, be it desktop or laptop. Having a BlackBerry myself, which handles email brilliantly, its ability to allow me to easily navigate the web is abysmal and I would never use it to access my hosted PHR or perform most of the wish list tasks above.

The iPhone was built for the Web and the graphics display is impressive. Combining its ability to easily access and navigate the Web and present information (or take in user generated info) in a tight, portable package has the potential to liberate a PHR and for that matter any number of health and wellness apps to travel with the consumer.

Sure, there are already some biometric devices that, via Bluetooth, can transmit data to a repository for later viewing and tracking. And yes, there are some PHR applications that provide rudimentary access via a cell phone or smart phone. The iPhone, however takes all of this to a new level that I have yet to see on any other platform and that AppStore makes it extremely easy to find and choose an app that is most appropriate to your needs (where else will you find PHR type applications listed with actual user reviews?)

Health does not take place in the hospital or in your doctor’s office. It occurs every moment of the day, in the foods you choose to eat, the biometric device you may be using to monitor some aspect of your health or that exercise regime that you are just beginning. Health goes where you go, this is why the future of consumer-driven health will increasingly rely on mobile technologies like the iPhone coupled with apps designed for such a platform. This is what I refer to as the 4th generation of Personal Health Apps, which includes PHRs: apps that are highly personal, always with you, providing actionable information when needed or as programmed.

What remains to be seen is how will the iPhone and the health apps delivered therein become a part of the broad ecosystem plays of Dossia, Google and Microsoft. Really should not be too big a bridge to cross as all of these ecosystems are supporting various Open Standards and putting the consumer firmly in control of their data, its only a matter of connecting the dots.

While I projected in a recent presentation to AHIC that the 4th generation mentioned above is still several years away, it looks like I may have to refine that projection as this train appears to be moving faster than I originally thought.

2 responses to “Mobile Health and the iPhone”

  1. […] AppStore to see if any new health & wellness applications have been added to the site since the post I did on July […]

  2. AlexM says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

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