iPhone OS 3.0: The Medical Tricorder

So, there are about a bazillion blogs talking about the iPhone update.  I don’t have any exclusive insider info.  I’ll spare you the details you’ve already read about 3,000 times by now.  What I want to talk about are possibilities for the medical field.

One image that stuck in my head from the Apple presentation was one of a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff) plugged into an iPhone.  Then, when the Johnson & Johnson representative described the blood glucose meter, I was struck by the possibilities.  A doctor equipped with an iPhone (or iPod Touch) can get multiple vital sign readings in a digital device which can upload that data to a database, which could be encoded in some sort of national health database, or encoded in a chip inside a MedicAlert style bracelet.  This way, all of the data from your last checkup is instantly available to doctors or emergency medical personnel.  Apple may have just enabled the creation of Dr. McCoy’s medical tricorder.

What’s great about this is that it’s a relatively inexpensive consumer device.  For the cost of a desktop or laptop Mac (with an Xserve as a desirable, but not strictly necessary, option), an iPhone or iPod touch, some medical peripherals for the mobile device, and the services of a system integrator, a doctor can have this system set up fairly quickly and inexpensively.  Over time, the cost of these systems should be less than the square footage needed to store those immense filing cabinets of patient records found in doctors’ offices.  As long as all data is stored in open standards compliant systems, the data will be portable to other doctors, hospitals EMTs, or whomever needs access to the info.

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