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Ink Out Loud: Calling for a lifeline

It’s a phone. It’s a camera. It’s a flashlight. It’s an alarm clock and a daily organizer. You can listen to music and watch television and movies. With the touch of a finger or a voice command, you can get reviews of restaurants, hotels, auto shops — you name it. And Siri will guide you step-by-step to your destinations anywhere in the world. I can talk to my granddaughter and see her beautiful smile via Facetime. It’s the stuff of science fiction movies of my youth.

Now your phone is a piece of medical equipment, too. According to MIT Technology Review, “By 2017, the app market is projected to reach 26 billion users. Among its key drivers: the world’s aging population with its increasing need for medical care.”

Mobile Medical Apps (MMAs) are used by an estimated 500 million smartphone users.



There are obvious benefits to MMA technology. The interface is one that consumers are familiar with because they use smartphones in everyday life ,which increases the odds of the app being used properly.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), mobile apps can help clinicians identify appropriate scans or tests to order and can also be used directly to conduct simple examinations for visual acuity or color blindness, as well as blood pressure or glucose levels.



The NIH reports, “The iMurmur app provides recordings of 20 types of heart murmurs, allowing a physician to match and identify what she or he hears.”

There are apps are available to determine pregnancy due dates that are reported to be quite accurate.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has created three categories of MMAs:

Unregulated: Consists of wellness-focused apps such as exercise trackers and heart-rate monitors that many consumers use in their fitness routines.

Enforcement discretion: Includes disease-focused apps that work as simple professional calculators (for instance, measuring and calculating mean arterial pressure, or assessing a Glasgow Coma Scale score); or that provide coaching for patients with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Regulated: Consists of specific patient- or disease-monitoring and treatment-responses, such as infusion pumps, which act as medical devices and could cause harm to patients if faulty.

The FDA has taken a light approach to MMAs so far, according to the BBC.

The bottom line is, your phone is far from the model of the early days of Ma Bell, and rarely used to make actual phone calls anymore. Your phone could be your lifeline.

Mandy Feder is the Managing Editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She can be reached at mfeder@tahoedailytribune.com or 530-542-8006.


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