Smartphones have completely transformed the way we look at telephones. From its humble beginnings as a communication tool, the phone has evolved into a movie theater, music studio, library, and now a portable hospital.
A number of apps have been invented that can check a patient's heart rate. In the past, patients were required to wear sensitive pads on their torso, close to the heart, but this is no longer necessary. If the app user feels chest pain, they can take their own pulse by placing their finger on the smartphone's camera, or laying the phone against their chest. Wearing a smart watch, instead of using a phone, is even more effective as the apps can monitor heart rate all the time, not only when pain is felt.
If there are any abnormal signs, the phone can automatically send an SMS to the patient's doctor. Experts have said that this could help save valuable time in diagnosing a condition, as doctors would not have to wade through piles of information in order to observe the problem.
Obviously these apps have been designed specifically for patients with heart conditions, and the ability to monitor their hearts as they go about their daily lives is a major advantage in combating heart disease. But these revolutionary apps have found some other applications, too.
People without serious health issues, but who like to keep track of how their lifestyle affects their well-being, use these apps for more general health monitoring. Other uses include performance assessment for athletes, diet monitoring for overweight people, and even a driving safety system.
Imagine a device that "could be used in combination with cameras and other mechanisms in the car," says David Atenza, who works on smartphone medical technology. "The driver could be monitored for hunger, tiredness, and any other things that affect driving ability."
At the moment, there is a huge wave of interest in producing these kinds of medical apps. Products like the iStethoscope, which allows you to listen to your heart through the phone's microphone, are already popular. The hope is that in the future this type of technology will allow doctors to save lives faster and more efficiently than ever before.