The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 982: Smart Phone Medicine — A Doctor in Your Pocket

Health apps for smart phones have the power to revolutionize the practice of medicine and put patients in the driver's seat.
Current time

Smart Phone Medicine — A Doctor in Your Pocket

0% played0% buffered

Many people currently carry around tiny but powerful computers in their hip pockets or pocketbooks. We use our smart phones to check our bank accounts, keep up with our friends or get a weather report.

Apps are also proving as good as dedicated fitness trackers at telling us how much we are moving. Before long, the smart phone will be an essential tool for health care.

In his book, The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is in Your Hands, Dr. Eric Topol envisions a time when patient-driven data is critical for informing clinical decisions. He tells of diagnosing a heart attack at 30,000 feet with an iPhone app and add-on device. In that instance, the plane made an emergency landing that may have saved the patient’s life.

What Devices Can Do

Wearable devices will soon be able to help us discover hidden problems like sleep apnea or elevated eyeball pressure. When people are ill, they will be able to stay home and monitor their vital signs from the comfort of their own bedrooms instead of a hospital room with people running in and out at all hours.

Will these changes help people get access to their own medical data? That is the only way they will truly be able to participate in making informed decisions about their own health care. Dr. Topol sees this as completely feasible, along with patients participating in getting the right diagnosis with the help of their smart phones. We also discuss the pros and cons of on-demand medicine.

For a light hearted take on “give me my dam (data about me) data” you may want to watch this YouTube video.

This Week’s Guest:

Eric Topol, MD, is professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute, chief academic officer at Scripps Health, and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. Dr. Topol is a practicing cardiologist at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, and editor-in-chief of Medscape.

His most recent book is The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands. You can read a review of the book from The New York Times Sunday Book Review or The Washington Post.

You may also be interested in Dr. Topol’s essay in the Wall Street Journal. Here is a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote.

Listen to the Podcast

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

Buy the CD

Download the mp3


Rate this article
4.4- 18 ratings
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 8 comments
Add your comment

I just had surgery to install a bi-ventricular ICD; and now I’m going to install a ‘ invisible fence’ for my dog. any problems here? my dog & I are waiting….thanks for any knowledgeable respondses…

You and Dr. Topol touched on the issue of the security of patient-generated data transmitted and stored electronically. Given the regular breaches of customer data in other sectors of the economy, makers of the devices patients would use to generate the data have a high bar to clear in terms of assuring patients that their data would be secure. This problem’s not unique to the health industry; newer, high-tech cars are easily hackable, too.

I’m not against sharing of medical data. I belong to an HMO that’s a leader in integrating data sharing among medical staff and with patients, even offering lab tests result via a secure web portal. I can send my doctor documents and images via email and get a response within 1 day. But this HMO has been at this type of thing for two decades, and they use (AFAIK) a private data center infrastructure, not the public internet, for securing patient data.

The public’s been burned repeatedly by the problems of securing electronic data that’s supposed to be private. Personally, I’ll avoid this tech. until a few scandals force tech. companies to create end-to-end transmission security, revamp data storage security technology, reduce the chance for malware intrusions and social engineering.

has anyone considered the amount of electromagnetic radiation humans are being exposed to? All of these wireless technologies are exposing humans to to very high amounts of microwave radiation without any thoughts about the negative health consequences. Governmental regulation is sorely out of date and inadequate in protecting human health.
The Bioinitiative Report reviews current science examining human exposures to electromagnetic field radiation. The evidence is overwhelmingly showing that humans, particularly children, are being harmed by these ever increasing and cumulative exposures. How about a program delving into this issue instead of just a program extolling the virtues of additional 24/7 wireless monitoring in the name of “health”.

My husband has sleep apnea. In order to see the sleep information recorded by his cpap machine i had to illegally download the software. You cannot even buy the software if you are not a doctor. If we do not look at the data no one does. His doctor has not suggested he have a follow up on his sleep study in the 3 years he has had the machine. Now the data download is no longer working and i am going to have to figure out if i need to “aquire” the software again. Makes me so angry! No wonder compliance with cpap is so low!

For Marilyn and others interested in their own CPAP data: search for the free software “SleepyHead” online. You will know you have the right one when you see an icon of a sheep wearing a CPAP mask! It runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux and is continually being improved by its creator. It shows essentially the same data as the commercial programs, the big differences are that it can read several manufacturer’s machines, and you can not change your machine’s settings with it. As a retired sleep physician, I often recommended it to my patients.

I’m a healthcare consultant and find this program fascinating (I’m writing this as I listen). You mentioned “Hugo” who was unable to get his medical data. My recommendation is that he and other patients who are unable to receive their medical records with file a complaint with HHS HIPAA.

There has been some discussion regarding exposure to Electro-Magnetics such as Computers, Smart-Phones or the cumulative effect of using 2 or more of these. Any comments would be appreciated

The research in this area is a bit sparse and somewhat confusing.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^