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A Mobile Health Survey: 5 highlights

16/01/13 16 January, 2013 0 Comments 0 notes

Curious about the mobile health (mHealth) space I decided to survey the landscape. Before long I found myself in a world of robot doctors, cervical mucus and ingestible sensors that use your body like a battery. I’ve summarised the highlights from my survey below so put on the provided patient gown and prepare yourself for a dose of mHealth.



Remember Felix Baumgartner? The Austrian skydiver who parachuted back to Earth from space? Well Equivital was the company responsible for measuring his vitals throughout the event.

Equivital found that Felix’s heart rate was 60 beats per minute (bpm) during ascent. That’s the normal resting heart rate for a man of Felix’s age and fitness level, essentially he was cool as a cucumber. Not bad considering he was carrying 30kgs of equipment on his back and the world was watching live as he was carried to the edge of space by a massive helium balloon.

Another measurement of note was taken during the first 1/3 of the jump while Felix was hurtling through the stratosphere. He was in an out-of-control spin for a period of around 40 seconds, experiencing around 2.5gs. His heart rate hovered between 160-180bpm which is the absolute maximum a man of Felix’s age and fitness level would experience during intense exercise. You don’t naturally equate the act of free falling with the most intense exercise performable.



Patients not taking their medication as prescribed cost the US $290 billion in increased medical costs. Proteus has developed a tiny ingestible sensor that goes a long way towards solving this problem. 

The sensor that can be added to ingested products, such as pharmaceuticals. Once ingested, the sensor powers on, using your body as a battery, and relays information from inside the body to a mobile app via a patch worn on the skin.

The time the sensor was taken is recorded along with heart rate, respiration, temperature, body posture and sleeping patterns. Giving individuals and clinicians the data to ensure medication is taken as prescribed as well as showing how a patient is responding to the medication.

Medic Mobile

Community health workers in Malawi were given mobile phones and were trained for a variety of usage cases: patient adherence reporting, appointment reminders and phyician queries. In the field the community health workers coordinate via a free and open source platform called FrontlineSMS. This little sketch from their website says it all:


During a pilot program in 2011 the hospital saved 2048 hours of worker time, $2750 savings in operational costs and doubled the capacity of the tuberculosis treatment program (up to 200 patients). Proving that mHealth interventions can provide cost-effective solutions to communication barriers in the setting of rural hospitals in the developing world.



Given that 75% of medical costs directly stem from preventable health conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, a device that gamifies exercise, healthy eating and sleep has the potential to make a huge impact. 

fitbit tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, sleep slept and then matches that with your fitness goals. It’s a constant, fun, reminder of how you’re tracking against your goals that you carry around with you everywhere you go, you even sleep with it.

fitbit have also developed a set of bathroom scales that measure and wirelessly record a user’s weight, bmi and body fat percentage. Even more data to keep you on track.

The fitbit app ain’t bad either.



WebMD is a free app the helps you diagnose what ails ya. You start by describing your symptoms to the app. For each symptom you select the area on your body where the symptom is occurring and answer a number of proceeding questions to help the app best describe the symptom. Once you’ve described all of your symptoms WebMD lists the possible conditions associated with the symptoms you’ve described along with helpful information about each condition.

More highlights

This is by no means an exhaustive list but after a whole lotta searching this list covers a great deal of the mHealth landscape:

3D 4 Medical - 3D4Medical make an impressive range of medical, educational and health & fitness apps for professional reference as well as student and patient education.

Magic Carpet - A sensor laden carpet that tracks the movements of a patient through their home that can alert carers in the event of a fall or other irregularities in a patient’s activity.

Airstrip - A system that sends patient information directly from hospital monitoring systems, bedside devices, and electronic health records to a clinician’s mobile device.

InTouch Health - Welcome to the future. InTouch make remote presence devices, basically doctors on wheels, so doctors can visit patients while saving on the travel time.

MIM - Mobile MIM is an iOS app used for the viewing, registration, fusion, and/or display for diagnosis of medical images from: SPECT, PET, CT, MRI, X-ray and Ultrasound.

GPS for the Soul - An iOS app that reads your heart rate using the device’s camera and attempts to correlate that with how stressed you might be. If you are stressed it directs you to a number of guides to get your stress levels down. Developed by Huff Post.

Run keeper - A mobile app that allows you to keep track of your workouts, view your progress, and share your stats with friends. RunKeeper also gives you access to your data via their HealthGraph API.

Nike+ -  A mobile app that helps you track your runs and helps you tough them out by encouraging real time cheers from your friends or playing power songs when you need a boost. By the way, the most popular power song? “Pump It” by the black eyed peas.

Ovuline - An iOS app that asks you a series of questions about key markers of fertility. It then takes that data, compares it to other Ovuline users and clinical guidelines, and churns out personalized recommendations to help you get pregnant faster. 3x faster according to their website.

Pocket Pharmacist - A mobile app that provides you with a drugs list so you can read about what you’re swallowing. You can also enter in multiple drugs to see whether they interact poorly.

Weight watchers mobile - A mobile app by Weight Watchers that helps you track your food, weight and activity.

mPedigree - A simple mobile way to check the drugs you’re buying are the real deal which is a big problem in Africa I hear.

Qualcomm - $100bn company with a number of interesting sensors and mobile products for tracking vitals.

Who actually put on a patient gown?