health AppsThe FDA has announced that it will begin launching a closer study of certain health apps, notably those that can transform a smartphone into a medical device. The devices that concern the Federal Agency are those that monitor more than a simple parameter, such as the body’s temperature. The agency has already approved the heart monitor that AliveCor has made available to consumers. That monitor can provide the user with an EKG reading. Once it has been obtained, that reading can then be sent by email to the physician who has been charged with caring for the device’s user.

At the present time, there are at least one half dozen other apps that can be used to convert a smartphone into a rather sophisticated diagnostic tool. For instance, there is an arm cuff that plugs into that mobile piece of technology. Once plugged into a smartphone’s port, that cuff aids a determination of blood pressure. It measures the blood pressure of the person who has chosen to utilize that particular plug-in gadget.

Another application takes advantage of the smartphone’s camera. Those who download this particular app can photograph their eardrums. The photographs can be sent to the appropriate physician, a professional who can determine whether or not the area has become inflamed.  An entirely different application permits measurement of lung function. It can prove quite useful, if a patient must deal with the condition known as asthma.

Based on current data, the utilization of such applications is expected to increase greatly in the next two years. In fact, estimates indicate that by the year 2015 there will be 500 million smartphone users who have chosen to base their health care decisions on the readings that have been obtained through reliance on a handheld gadget (smartphone/diagnostic tool). In light of such predications, it is only logical that the FDA would consider regulating some of the more expensive devices.

Of course, regulation does not guarantee perfect performance. Hence, even the best-regulated device will prove useless, if it fails to function properly. In other words, the day is fast approaching when consumers will seek help with solving problems caused by broken gadgets just as frequently as they now seek an expert in computer repair. This is the type of message that such a warning should send to you: If you now have access to a reliable computer technician, such as the gentleman who responds to the calls made to, then you might want to learn whether or not the same technician knows how to fix smartphones.

The passage of time makes it all the more likely that you will develop some type of health problem. Consequently, as time passes, there is a greater and greater chance that you will want to download onto your mobile gadget an application that can turn it into a medical device. The FDA intends to make sure that any diagnostic tool on which you may one day come to rely is safe to use. You will be responsible for finding someone who can keep that same device in good working order.

This article was written by Sue Chehrenegar. She holds an MS in biomedical research and has been writing about both health problems and technology topics since 2004.