Impact Insights

Dr. Smartphone to the Rescue

A “new” life saving device may already be in your pocket or purse. Your smartphone! The constant development of mobile technology has led to hundreds of thousands of applications (apps) for smartphones (Hodges, 2012). Within these apps a subcategory of mobile health applications (mHealth) have emerged. These apps have the potential to lower health care costs, diagnosis diseases and save lives.

In Eric J. Topol’s article The Future of Medicine Is in Your Smartphone, Eric discusses apps and wearable devices that are in development and currently being used to track blood pressure, check for fluid in the lungs, conduct a breath analysis, check for ear infections, and help with virtual counseling (Topol, 2015). These apps may seem unrealistic, almost like receiving a note when you are about to have a heart attack in the Bayer aspirin commercial, yet we may be able to accomplish these things sooner than you think.

Nursing students at Ball State University have been using smartphone applications to help with diagnosis and prescriptions for a few years now. I was a graduate assistant in 2012 at Ball State University’s Simulation and Information Technology Center (SITC) where I helped nursing students complete a mental health analysis using a virtual simulation tool. Now these tools could be used to help patients who are more comfortable with technology than talking face to face with a nurse (Lucas, Gratch, King, & Morency, 2014).

With the use of mHealth, taking vitals and patient monitoring can be tracked at the patient’s home or work instead of visiting clinics to check these signs (Schiller, 2015). This can help reduce cost to patients and alert patients and providers of any instantaneous needs. Certainly mHealth should not become a patient’s replacement for regular care or visiting a doctor when something is not right, but as technology improves it can become a reliable source of personal health information.

Apple teamed up with Epic to develop the recently released HealthKit app that now comes on the iPhone 6, and IOS 8 update. The two industry giants developed this dashboard and health information app that can interface with health tracking devices and other applications for iPhone users to collect all their personal health information in one place. Now several hospitals have picked up on the potential this app has to impact their facilities. Christina Farr reports that “Fourteen of 23 top hospitals contacted by Reuters said they have rolled out a pilot program of Apple’s HealthKit Service” (Farr, 2015).  This marks a huge opportunity for mHealth to take off for both patients and health systems.

With most things in healthcare there are always challenges, skeptics, and delayed adoption. There is certainly room for errors to occur with apps, which is why it is important to keep a regular routine of care with your primary care physician. Delayed adopters and those that decide not to use mHealth will have their reasons; security, time consuming, or uninterested. But as technologies continue to improve and healthcare remains in the media spotlight, I predict that we will see more mHealth adoption by hospital systems and patients. Hopefully this movement will lead to lower costs, better diagnosis, and more lives saved.



Farr, C. (2015, Februrary 5). Exclusive: Apple’s health tech takes early lead among top hospitals. Retrieved from Reuters:

Hodges, R. (2012, December 12). How Many apps for your smartphone in 2013? Retrieved from E2 Save:

Lucas, G. M., Gratch, J., King, A., & Morency, L.-P. (2014). It’s only a computer: Virtual human increase willingness to disclose. elsevier, 7.

Schiller, B. (2015, January 2015). Five Ways Health Care Is Changing In 2015. Retrieved from Fast Co.:

Topol, E. J. (2015, January 9). The Future of Medicine Is in Your Smartphone. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal: