Can you say sphygmomanometer? If you’ve visited a doctor recently, you’ve undoubtedly come into contact with one when the nurse measures your blood pressure. Way back in 1733, Reverend Stephan Hales recorded the first blood pressure measurement on a horse. The problem was, he had to cut into the horse’s artery to do so. More than a hundred years later, an Austrian physician, Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch, invented the sphygmomanometer as the first non-intrusive method of measuring blood pressure. That invention led to the “bulb-and-cuff” medical device widely used today.
Obviously, I’m interested in how healthcare has evolved over the years. In February, I wrote about a new app called Skip a Beat, which measures your heart rate and uses that information as an input to control the game. Now we have numerous medical apps going a step further to measure biometrics on a smartphone. Blood pressure apps rely on a smartphone’s microphone to listen to your heartbeat while measuring your pulse from a finger placed over the camera. Other apps let you monitor heart arrhythmia on the go to detect atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of stroke. Simply rest your smartphone on your fingers or chest to record an ECG in only 30 seconds.
New mHealth technologies like these can help us monitor our health by making biometric data as accessible as the smartphone in our pocket. Eventually, with Apple Watch™ and other wearable devices, we’ll also be able to transmit that data to our physicians for diagnosis.
Of course, none of this comes without some controversy. Last year, Wired reported on medical apps that have doctors worried about people using non-FDA-approved apps to gather biometric information. Physicians fear their patients will make dangerous decisions about their health based on this untested data. We’re sure to see new regulations as a result.
Ultimately, though, it’s an exciting time for the mHealth market, with new technologies and innovative products popping up every day. Perhaps a few of them will be like the sphygmomanometer, and become as integral to patient care and diagnosis as the blood pressure cuff is today.
Trey Lauderdale is Founder and CEO of Voalte.