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Medical Uses of the iPhone

As I was walking to the dialysis unit today, I couldn't help thinking about the iPhone -- mostly because I had to walk through a crowd of people who were waiting outside an AT&T store to buy one.

The iPhone (in case you haven't watched any media for the last three months) is Apple's new phone, combining a video iPod, a touch screen phone, and an internet device with several other "breakthrough" features.

That's all well and good -- but how might the iPhone be helpful to doctors and patients?

MedGadget, back in January, had this to say:
Apple's iPhone has got a lot of people excited... including the Medgadget crew. Why? Well, among its other uses, it's a powerful medical device. For instance, you can use the iPhone to:

1. Watch medical podcasts [or videocasts; see an intro to medical podcasts here]
2. Dial 911

Sure, you could always do this before on a separate iPod and cell phone, but convergence is key. Later this year, we expect to hear about the first patients that diagnosed their MI via medical videos watched on their iPhone, and were able to alert EMS with the very same device.

Then, hopefully, Steve Jobs will add a defibrillator to the second-generation iPhone...
A portable device for watching medical videocasts and listening to podcasts would be helpful for medical education and displaying medical information for patients, but as MedGadget points out, you don't need an iPhone to do that -- you could use a regular video iPod.

One way to really leverage the special nature of the iPhone would be to use its integrated YouTube player. There's an increasingly large amount of medical education videos on YouTube -- for example, clinicalcases.org reviews pathology cases and echocardiogram teaching cases. There are many videos designed for patients as well.

Imagine a patient-physician encounter where the doctor pulled out an iPhone and punched up a video on YouTube that explained the patient's medical condition or the procedure about to be performed.

Or a physiology discussion where a process was illustrated by someone's iPhone playing a computer generated image like those seen in The Inner Life of the Cell.

If you have any more ideas for using the iPhone, please feel free to comment.

(I've posted a longer discussion on using the iPhone to improve productivity on The Efficient MD.)
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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.