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Smartphone Apps Now Playing Doctor

We don't use our smartphones for talking as much as we once did, but we are and will increasingly use them to detect and monitor health risks, from ear infections to E. coli bacteria in drinking water, industry experts say.

A woman tests an Iphone device for measuring body temperature at the 'Medica World Forum for Medicine' (MEDICA) fair on November 17, 2011 in Duesseldorf, western Germany.
Patrick Stollarz | AFP | Getty Images
A woman tests an Iphone device for measuring body temperature at the 'Medica World Forum for Medicine' (MEDICA) fair on November 17, 2011 in Duesseldorf, western Germany.

Health app developers initially focused on consumer diet and exercise, said Brian Dolan, editor of Boston-based MobiHealthNews.com, which tracks advances in mobile health and medical technology. "Now we're seeing them look into more serious health conditions where there's a real need for innovation."

Glen Stream, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, sees an "explosion" of mobile medical apps, and gives the trend a qualified endorsement. He's an "iPhone guy" who uses about 20 medical or health-oriented apps.

"People want to be empowered to take care of their health," Stream said. The devices and apps, Stream said, "certainly are not going to replace the need for a collaborative relationship with a family physician."

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