There's more to the iPhone app store than just games and business-related apps. In fact, there are a handful of iPhone apps that point towards a future of patients having more medical data at their fingertips. We look at three of these apps.
Asthmapolis uses a special GPS-enabled device that attaches to an inhaler and automatically records the time and location when asthma patients in the US use their inhalers. This data is automatically transmitted to the patient's doctor, while aggregate data is available to asthma researchers and public health agencies.
Under development for two years by Reciprocal Sciences, Asthmapolis has a companion smart phone application, currently only available in the US, that allows asthma patients to record and review when and where they used their inhalers.
The smart phone application "is not as elegant a solution as the inhaler device because it puts the burden back on the patient to record usage, but it has the benefit of being rapidly available to the millions of people with smart phones," says Van Sickle, who not only runs Reciprocal Sciences but is also a post-doctorate fellow a the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Van Sickle says the firm's iPhone app will help gather data from asthma patients that will help researchers.
"What we're aiming to do is expand the amount of surveillance data that we have about asthma by an order of magnitude," he says.
"Even at the national and state level, the focus has primarily been on the really small number of asthma attacks that cause emergency room visits. There are many more asthma attacks that result in doctors' office visits, missed school and missed work. We're trying to capture some of that data."
Van Sickle says it's important for applications like Asthmapolis to be easy for patients with chronic illnesses to use.
"We're trying to develop applications that don't add to the burden of having a chronic disease, but that make it less burdensome," he says.
Van Sickle says he's excited about the Community Health Data Initiative, but he warns that it is difficult to develop user-friendly applications like Asthmapolis.
"The folks in [Health and Human Services] are really doing some pretty amazing work as they are wrangling and encouraging efforts from the IT and software development communities," he says.
"It's a great and stimulating model. But to build apps that have daily relevance and value for the individual is going to take a lot of work."
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