I probably spent too many hours of my life watching Star Trek (TNG, of course). I was always fascinated by the technology of that imaginary, futuristic world. Healthcare in the Star Trek universe was simplified, thanks to a sophisticated handheld device called a tricorder, which was used by doctors to collect information about patients and diagnose health issues.
Transport to present-day reality.
Healthcare today involves some pretty impressive technology, but the "cool" factor of the Star Trek tricorder has been missing from doctors’ offices and hospitals. The iPhone, however, may be changing that in the very near future.
In June of 2007, Apple released its much-hyped device, the iPhone. The iPhone was revolutionary at its release, being the first touch-screen smart phone, which combined phone, iPod, and internet into a single device. On March 17, 2009, Apple announced the 3.0 operating system for the iPhone, which will permit hardware accessories to be connected to the phone that will communicate with software applications on the device.
Developers have been able to create third-party software applications for the iPhone since version 2.0 of the operating system was released in July of 2008. This opened the door for the iPhone to be used as a healthcare tool. Several health-related applications have been created for the iPhone, and in fact, there is an entire section in the iTunes App Store dedicated to medical applications. These range from heart-rate monitoring tools to drug reference programs.
Apple’s 3.0 software for the iPhone will allow the device to serve in an even greater capacity in the medical field. The ability to attach hardware accessories to the phone was demonstrated when Apple announced the functions of the new operating system. The first demo showed a sphygmomanometer attachment that plugs into the bottom of the phone, which then communicates with a software application that allows the user to check blood pressure, and potentially send that data to a doctor for real-time monitoring. Johnson & Johnson presented the second demo, which revealed a blood glucose testing device that connects via Bluetooth to the iPhone. The accessory would allow a user to test blood glucose levels, chart those results, and even share the data with a doctor.
The iPhone 3.0 software update will be available this summer, and it will be exciting to see companies taking advantage of this remarkable technology to develop new products geared towards the healthcare industry. It’s not so crazy to say that, in the near future, you may be reminded of the Star Trek tricorder when you see a healthcare professional pulling out an iPhone.