When it comes to the motifs of health care as applied to mobile technology,
it’s becoming clearer that we’re beyond the experimentation phase. A few years
ago, the fact that you could download an app at all was exciting. Companies
like those Steve Jobs first demoed onstage the iPhone in 2008– MIM Imaging
and Epocrates–introduced us to a means of obtaining information of high
quantity and quality.
Now, we’re starting to see mobile, web and browser-enabled apps geared toward
complex disease management. Sophisticated mobile communication platforms like
Doximity allow physicians to collaborate on patient care and exchange
insights and information whenever and wherever they happen to be.
Below, I’ve pulled together examples of four companies at the forefront of
Patient monitoring: Medivo enables physicians to track lab panels for
patients with diabetes. Not only can a doctor look at how the data changes over
time, but practice groups could in theory track a population of patients. For
their part, patients can input their own values and maintain a level of
engagement that wasn’t conceivable before.
Active disease management: WellDoc’s DiabetesManager System has come so
far as to get the FDA’s green light as an approved disease management
solution–a fairly high bar. With WellDoc, patients take blood readings using a
wireless-enabled glucometer, and that information is then beamed to their cell
phones. From there, users can share that data with the company’s computer
system, which analyzes it, generating and sending back targeted advice.
Passive disease management: With Ginger.io, patients don’t have to log
data or use any external tools or sensors. This MIT Media Lab product is doing
sophisticated data analysis based solely on information it can pull directly
from a patient’s cell phone such as change in location, time and frequency of
movement, number of calls, etc. All this behavior information can then be
analyzed to see how, for example, an Alzheimer’s patient is doing over time.
Passive sensor apps: There’s a great deal of speculation suggesting that
the iPhone 5 may contain a near field communication radio, an addition that
would allow people to use it instead of a credit or debit card. This would also
open new opportunities for mobile health. In anticipation of such a
development, a company named Gentag is experimenting with incorporating
dermal sodium chloride sensors to NFC chips so that a nearby smartphone can
measure salinity of sweat and track medication effectiveness in cystic fibrosis
The last four years have witnessed a progression from one-offs to more
sophisticated platforms. We’re beginning to enter the age of integration. The
companies above are optimizing this new phase of mobile health knowledge and
can, I believe, change how we practice medicine.