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Features for Senior Citizens

Seniors May Want to Take a Closer Look at How Smartphone Apps are Changing Healthcare

The field is growing so fast it has spurned a million-person study and an online magazine to medical professional aware of the latest apps

By Tucker Sutherland, editor

May 4, 2013 - Even senior citizens, not often the most interested in new ways of doing things, have probably heard "There's an app for that!" It refers to the applications available for smart phones. Seniors should pay close attention to the new wave of sophisticated apps offering stunning medical help - like an EKG to check your heart, and apps that check blood pressure and heart rate. Among the most amazing is one that helps people with artificial hands determine the grip they want to use.

“Double-amputee Jason Koger used to fly to visit a clinician when he wanted to adjust the grips on his bionic hands. Now, he's got an app instead,” according to an Associated Press report in USA TODAY.

“Koger this week demonstrated the i-limb ultra revolution, a prosthetic developed by the British firm Touch Bionics. Using a stylus and an iPhone, Koger can choose any of 24 grip patterns that best suit his needs.”


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The miraculous app – announced last month – is part of what the company dubed as the i-limb ultra revolution, which uses a biosim mobile application available for download from the Apple App Store and compatible with several Apple devices.

The AP reports the price tag on the package is $100,000.

But, don’t be misled to think all these medical apps are super expensive. You may find some free but most of the most sophisticated cost between $100 and $200.

An AP feature story by Lauran Neergaard, finds a number of these helpful healthcare apps in the market

“It's not a "Star Trek" tricorder, but by hooking a variety of gadgets onto a smartphone you could almost get a complete physical — without the paper gown or even a visit to the doctor's office”, writes Neergaard.

He reports how easy it is to use a smartphone app to check your blood pressure are even perform an EKG on the screen.

“Plug in a few more devices and you could have photos of your eardrum (Look, no infection!) and the back of your eye, listen to your heartbeat, chart your lung function, even get a sonogram,” according to Neergaard.

“If this sounds like a little too much DIY medical care, well, the idea isn't to self-diagnose with Dr. iPhone. But companies are rapidly developing miniature medical devices that tap the power of the ubiquitous smartphone in hopes of changing how people monitor their own health.”

Reporter Neergaard says the University of California, San Francisco is trying to enroll a million people in its Health eHeart Study to learn if smartphone tracking can prevent cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Jeff Olgin, the chief of cardiology at UCSF and one of the principal investigators, told Drew Joseph of the San Francisco Chronicle, “"We're trying to take as much of the in-person visit and allow people to do that at home as frequently and easily as possible."

“Mobile apps will monitor and send heart rates to the researchers. A special phone case will perform electrocardiograms. Wireless cuffs will transmit blood pressure readings. The study will also track people's sleep habits, diet, alcohol use and exercise patterns in hopes of being able to predict and treat heart disease,” Joseph reports.

Heidi Dohse, 49, is one of those already enrolled in the UCSF study. She has spent much of her adulthood monitoring a pacemaker implanted into her chest at the age of 19 to repair arrhythmias, or rapid irregular heartbeats.

For years, that’s meant that Dohse, has had to fly several times a year from her New York home to California for check-ups with the medical team at UC San Francisco that performed the life-saving procedure to correct her heart rhythms when she was a teenager.

Those time-consuming trips are no longer as necessary since she’s enrolled in the ambitious online cardiovascular study – Health eHeart -  that harnesses the power of mobile technology to monitor patients using their smartphones and send the information to doctors who can analyze the data and provide instant feedback.

“Because I live in New York and my UCSF doctors are here in San Francisco, I can use all these mobile devices and tools to feel like I’m still a patient of theirs,” Dohse said. “It’s one of the reasons my staying with UCSF makes sense.”

Interested in joining UCSF’s Health eHeart Study? Click here to learn more.

Through the Health eHeart Study, which launched in March, physicians hope to better understand how the heart functions and to develop new ways to predict and prevent cardiovascular disease. The study is funded by the Foundation.

But, if you are still not convinced these medical apps are going to play a big part in health care, you should be aware that the field is so big there is already an online magazine for medical professionals reporting on the latest new smarphone applications for use in healthcare.

iMedicalApps, says it is the “leading online publication” for medical professionals, patients, and analysts interested in mobile medical technology and health care apps.

“Our physician editors lead a team of physicians, allied health professionals, medical trainees, and mHealth analysts in providing reviews, research, and commentary of mobile medical technology. Our publication is heavily based on our own experiences in the hospital and clinic setting.

There is no question that the mobile device apps are in healthcare to stay and seniors may live healthier, happier lives with a little help from their smartphone, even if it is just a phone call or text message for help.

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