How the smartphone is transforming medicine

How the smartphone is transforming medicine

Mobile health is not new. The practice of using personal mobile devices such as smartphones with wearable sensors like watches for tracking and even diagnosing medical conditions have been around for over a decade. The company Withings launched its connected scale in June 2009 and its blood pressure monitor (connected to the iPhone) in 2011, for example. And Apple made its foray into personal fitness and health tracking when it partnered with Nike in 2006 with the Nike + iPod Sports Kit.

What is the mobile medicine feed?

  • Software companies have more data than ever.
  • Hardware upgrades make smartphones even smarter.
  • There are over 350,000 healthcare apps available.

What is new, however, is the breadth of today’s technology. Over the past few years, AI has advanced so rapidly that smartphone apps and their connected sensors can now accomplish feats unimaginable just a few years ago. Using just a smartphone, you can now prevent health emergencies, diagnose clinical conditions, and even treat conditions without prescription drugs.

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More data than ever

Nor is AI the only technology driving the dizzying explosion of mobile medicine. AI-based software is only as good as the data it relies on to make medical predictions.

Today, software companies have more data than ever before, thanks to millions of users around the world tracking their heart rate, steps, sleep and other data. biometrics, knowingly or unknowingly, for years. This ever-expanding database allows software makers to refine the accuracy of their existing applications while creating new software and sensors that can monitor, diagnose, and treat people in other amazing and new ways.

Another factor fueling the transformation of smartphone medicine is hardware, which has become more sophisticated in recent years. This hardware upgrade gave our phones the ability to process and store more data in a smaller space, making them as powerful as some supercomputers. Today’s smartphone even surpasses the Orion spacecraft’s supercomputer, launched by NASA in 2014 to prepare for the first human-crewed mission to Mars.

As our smartphones get smarter and our healthcare costs continue to rise, the world of medical apps has exploded. Today, there are more than 350,000 health apps. The mobile health market is expected to approach $290 billion in revenue by 2025.

The mobile health market is expected to approach $290 billion in revenue by 2025.

It’s a fascinating contradiction: as the costs of technology continue to fall (anyone remember the price of the first personal computers?), the costs of health care continue to rise. It’s hardly surprising that there’s a lot of interest, especially from big tech and the business community, in using the power of technology to address one of healthcare’s biggest challenges. health: the cost.

I believe this is one of the reasons we have seen so many technology companies enter the healthcare and life sciences sectors; their outside perspective is not unlike the one I had looking at the telecommunications industry and imagining how GPS could be used in a whole new way. The industry is not only revolutionizing the way we view medicine, but also the power we have to take care of our own health.

Home health checks

Think about it for a moment. If you could own an app that could diagnose you with the same accuracy as your primary care provider, you would have the virtual equivalent of a doctor on call with you at all times that could help streamline your care in real life. .

Earache? Let the AI-enabled app, perhaps combined with access to a telehealth provider, distinguish between something that requires an office visit in a day or two, a simple prescription with advice to follow within a week, or a recommendation to go to the emergency room or urgent care right away. Without the cost or chaos of an unnecessary office or rush visit, you’d be able to see this virtual doctor regularly without waiting until you get seriously ill only to realize something was wrong with you – or if you should just take an over-the-counter pain reliever and rest for the day.

The Future of You book coverLikewise, if your phone and a few connected sensors could monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other basic biomarkers around the clock, you’d know in seconds if something was off rather than waiting to get to the same conclusion after developing symptoms.

How many of us go to the dermatologist every year for a head-to-toe exam to check for signs of

skin cancer? What if your phone could also scan your skin for signs of cancer or other conditions without the annual trip, and from the comfort of your own home? And then send the scan to the dermatologist’s office, where it can be examined? If things look good, you might get a letter in your electronic health record saying you’re good for another six months or a year.

If the dermatologist sees anything concerning, you might get a phone call instead, asking you to schedule a follow-up in the office. The setup could also be ideal for parents who are concerned about a rash on their child. You would have the ability to find out what was wrong, probably in less time and at less cost than it takes to get an accurate diagnosis today.

The smartphone has become the great equalizer of medicine, making it easier for everyone to get the best medical care, regardless of the factors that have traditionally limited the quality of healthcare.

In short, smartphones are democratizing medicine in ways we’ve never seen before, an idea first presented by eminent cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol in his 2014 book. The patient will see you now. Since then, more and more of us are owning smartphones. Nearly four billion people worldwide, including 81% of American adults, own this portable supercomputer.

Now anyone with a smartphone or smartwatch can potentially access quality healthcare, regardless of age or where they live, whether in a big city with access to excellent hospitals. and specialists or in a rural area without many medical facilities or qualified doctors. . We will always need trained doctors, of course, and there is some level of infrastructure needed to have health systems ready to receive data from our phones and digital devices, but the smartphone has become the great equalizer of medicine, making it easier for everyone to obtain the best medical care, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, age, income level, insurance coverage or other factors that have traditionally limited the quality of health care.

An app for almost all conditions

Today, you can find a smartphone app for almost any medical condition or outcome. Apps abound for monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, fertility, sleep, and even brainwave activity. Some apps can diagnose or offer medical advice; others share your information with a doctor or other healthcare provider.

There are apps that mimic medical equipment, turning your smartphone into a digital stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, spirometer, and even ultrasound machine. You can use your phone to access your electronic health records or instantly connect with a doctor via video or text. Your phone can help you find and sign up for a clinical trial or help you find the best price on prescription drugs. Using a smartphone and a few sensors, you can tell if your child has an ear infection or learn to walk again after a devastating spinal injury.

Besides offering innovative ways for you to take control of your health, what these apps all have in common is that they are powered by AI and big data.

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How does AI fit in?

Simply put, AI comes into play in two ways. First, your health data is detected and compiled through the smart features of your devices in a way previously not possible, such as heart rate, blood pressure, sleep restlessness, temperature, etc. Second, these smartphone apps can create extremely large datasets across the entire population that uses that app (bigdata) as well as the extraction of external data from other studies or research related to the same health parameters.

This is where the AI ​​comes in. When you combine these two types of information and use sophisticated algorithms to identify patterns and see correlations, you can understand what is happening with large groups of people and how health or population metrics change. . You can also tell individual users how their patterns compare to those of others, how their own pattern might change from day to day, or, in a crisis, diagnose an emergency.

But making those connections between individuals and populations only becomes possible with advanced AI tools and software trained to “learn” the patterns and compare them to known health standards.

Excerpted with permission from The Future You: How Artificial Intelligence Can Help You Be Healthier, Stress Less, and Live Longer by Harry Glorikian, published by Brick Tower Press, 2021.

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