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TeleMedicine Gets An Apple App Store Facelift

The promise of telemedicine has been around for years, with robotic surgeries, remote monitoring of patients and big city doctors able to care for rural patients over computer networks.

But not until a new company called Airstripcame along, have we seen the true promise and convenience of what telemedicine can really be. Not on an emergency, expensive basis, but in a day-to-day, real-world kind of way.

Airstrip is gaining so much momentum that the company's software was featured at the recent Apple Worldwide Developers' Conference in San Francisco, and the app was met with rave reviews.

Though probably no one is more excited about the new software than Manpreet Kaur, 32 weeks into her high risk pregnancy, strapped to a Silicon Valley hospital bed where a fetal monitor and other equipment keep a close, high tech eye on everything happening to her. At the same time, her doctor can monitor everything that equipment sees, in real time, no matter where he is, or how far away from the hospital he might be, thanks to the Airstrip software.

The program, one of the more than 50,000 applications now available on the Apple App Store, streams the data right to his iPhone where he sees precisely what the nurses see, as they see it, bedside, in Manpreet's hospital room.

"It gives us the opportunity to access crucial patient data and the stuff we need to manage the patient any place we are," Dr. Alan Fishman tells us. "It gives us a very accurate picture of what is going on from a moment to moment basis."

The Airstrip software is now used by 2,000 doctors in 100 hospitals nationwide, each paying hundreds of dollars a month in subscription fees. The software took years to develop, with Airstrip now celebrating its sixth year in business.

"With Airstrip, we provide physicians with real time, remote access to critical patient data, any time, anywhere, on their mobile device, with just a cell phone connection," Dr. Cameron Powell, the company's president tells us. "It allows the physicians to utilize that internet connection, which is the cell phone signal, to obtain these data…so from the patient safety standpoint, it is critical to be able to deliver these kinds of data to a doctor anywhere they have a cell phone connection."

The software comes at a key time in both the evolution of health care and technology, with both moving more and more into the mobile arena. As mobile devices become better, with higher resolution screens, running on ever faster networks, particularly 3G, mobile medical software like Airstrip has a real shot at changing the industry. In fact, Airstrip's software now runs on Research in Motion's Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices.

The company has no imminent plans to go public, preferring the freedom that its private status affords.

However, as the software takes off, and Airstrip is in need of cash to expand, it's certainly not ruling out the possibility.

Also, while the FDA has approved the technology for fetal monitoring, cardiac care is under review and could be next.

"There is no doubt that mobility in health care is where everything is headed," says Dr. Powell. "It makes people realize, 'Hey, it is where everything is headed,' and we need to step up and play ball here in the mobile space, especially in health care. This is where everything is going."

Patient Manpreet Kaur doesn't really care how she connects with her doctor, only that he's always there, and thanks to this technology, always "here," virtually in her hospital room. "It is just like worry-free," she says.

Worry-free, thanks to a new kind of bedside manner for doctors, turning their iPhones into life-lines.

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