Tech sector innovation continues to churn out affordable and easy to use smartphone add-ons with the potential to enable and streamline care in developing countries, where bigger, more expensive equipment may be out of reach. With these tools at doctor’s fingertips, reaction time to emergencies or disease detection can be greatly decreased.
1. Fluorescent Microscope or Flow Cytometer
Dr. Aydogan Ozcan of UCLA developed a cell phone case/attachment that converts an iPhone camera into a miniaturized flow cytometer and fluorescent microscope. With medical applications from transplantation to studying the interaction of the immune system and cancerous tumors to prenatal diagnosis, flow cytometers can cost up to $150,000. Assembled for merely $50, the new device is much more portable than a full-scale machine.
This portable, wedge-shaped iPhone cradle made for less than $200 can be just as accurate, or so developers claim, as a $50,000 spectrophotometer, which can be used to measure blood hemoglobin saturation as well as for many research applications. Developed by Professor Brian Cunningham at the University of Illinois, the wedge aligns additional lenses with the iPhone camera, which can then detect toxins, proteins and bacteria in a slide-mounted sample. Its developers eliminated the need to label samples with expensive florescent dyes, using the sample’s wavelength as a built-in label instead.
3. Plug-in Remote Pulse Oximeter
Researchers at the University of British Columbia are tailoring the Phone Oximeter gadget to improve performance and make it more cost-effective for those in the developing world. The peripheral add-on tethers a finger-mounted light sensor to the phone jack that senses hemoglobin saturation in the blood, bypassing an actual blood sample, which puts the patient at risk for infection.
4. A Smartphone Specifically Designed To Communicate With Physicians
Doctors are now able to run a myriad of tests on one smartphone-sized, Android-based machine, packed with sensors. Measuring blood glucose level, heart rate, body fat percentage and more, the LifeWatch V can be used by a consumer on-the-go and the results sent automatically to their physician. Price varies based on data plan selected.
5. Blood Pressure Monitor
While it is available for consumer purchase, doctors can use the WiThings blood pressure monitor with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to easily track patient’s progress and provides single BP measurements or an average over time. And for patient use, the results can be emailed to providers. For $129.95, this FDA-approved device is also simply designed and easily installed.
To streamline the process doctors must go through to obtain an ECG in a hospital, Qualcomm has helped developed an iPhone case with two electrodes embedded in the back that wirelessly transmit data and can detect electrical and muscular activity in the heart. The AliveCor iPhone ECG is FDA-approved and is sold for $200 to licensed medical professionals.