That the iPhone is a game changer is a bit of a given nowadays, but yet another area where it is likely to make its presence felt is in the nascent m-health industry. One thing that is missing in m-health is conformity of devices- a fragmented device market can mean that costs remain high, that there is lack of standardisation in the technology used and even, occasionally, that the standard of devices could be called into question.
Of course that is just one challenge that the m-health industry has to face. Others include the route to market, which may require sign off by doctors and medical staff, as well as an understandable requirement for strict compliance with health regulation.
Nevertheless, the app-store model could lend itself well to m-health applications. Already there are some 5,000 medical apps for the iPhone alone, allowing you to track weight, waistline and any number of other fitness parameters. Most of the app names- weight tracker, quitter, iCal- leave little to the imagination as to what they do, and by and large their strength lies in imparting information to the iPhone subscriber.
Its our guess, though, that these represent a first wave of medical apps. It will not be too long before there are a host of medical smartphone add-ons, wearable sensors and monitors that can keep tabs on numerous conditions such as heart rate and respiration. This additional hardware could turn the iPhone into a hub where information from external devices is processed and forwarded as necessary.
You would still have the need for medical compliance, but if the iPhone itself were certified as a medical device for the carriage of health data, then, maybe, just the add-ons would need certification, speeding time to market.
Its early days, of course, and the jury is still out on the precise role that the iPhone and other smartphones will play in healthcare- and even the extent to which they need to be regulated if they are used passively to transfer data. Food for thought though...