Business Impact

Medical App Explosion: TR’s Picks

Medical apps are bringing health care to your mobile phone. Technology Review picks six of the most promising.

Sep 12, 2011
Apple approved: Lark is an app and armband that track, score, and offer advice on your sleep patterns. The $99 system, sold in Apple stores, was designed with advice from sleep researcher Jo Solet of Harvard University. The armband contains accelerometers that transmit your movements to the app. Lark also acts as an “un-alarm,” vibrating to wake you at a point in your sleep cycle when you will feel alert, not groggy. 
Doctor tool: The Mobile MIM app for iOS gives physicians a sophisticated, hands-on mobile system for viewing and annotating radiology images, such as CT scans. Heavy encryption keeps patient data safe in case of a lost or stolen device, while a version for patients, VueMe, allows them to securely receive images sent by a doctor. The app first appeared in 2008 but was pulled from Apple’s app store after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration signaled that it would require regulatory approval. Earlier this year, Mobile MIM became the second app ever to be approved by the FDA.
Blood work: Telcare makes a blood glucose meter (right) for diabetics that broadcasts readings to a mobile-phone app (center) where patients can see results and set goals. Charts and custom alerts make it easier to avoid undesirable swings in blood sugar. A Web interface (left) provides fuller access to data, also stored on a secure server. Telcare’s system recently won first prize from the Cellular Telephone Institute of America (CTIA) for best Mobile Healthcare Solution and for best Enterprise Healthcare Solution.
Listen closely: The 99-cent iStethoscope app was created by computer science researcher Peter Bentley of University College London, who says that more than three million doctors have downloaded it. The user holds the base of an iPhone—where the microphone is—against a person’s chest and listens in using earphones. The screen displays a detailed spectrogram of the sound picked up (left), and the app can also filter out background noise to produce a clearer signal.
Safe storage: Need instant access to your family’s health records? HealthVault, Microsoft’s system for storing such records, is now mobile friendly thanks to third-party apps. Here, the Health Guard app for Windows Phone 7 provides a secure way to store and analyze health records for casual browsing or emergency use.
Light pulse: One of the most popular health apps on the market, Instant Heart Rate takes your pulse when you place your finger over your phone’s camera lens. The app uses light from the camera flash to detect color changes caused by blood moving through your finger. The app is available for Android (left) and iOS (right).