THE BEST MEDICINE
HOW THE IPHONE IS AIDING MEDICAL RESEARCH
possible to go into communities in developing countries and quickly identify those who need treatment. This could have an especially profound impact on pregnant women, Sia said.
“We know that early diagnosis and treatment in pregnant mothers can greatly reduce adverse consequences to both mothers and their babies,” Sia said.
According to research from the Nature Journal of Science, if a test correctly identifies just 70–80 percent of those infected and 70–80 percent who aren't, one-tenth as many people may die.
THE ADVANTAGES OF AN IPHONE IN DIAGNOSING HIV
The researchers at Columbia, who have been working on a mobile version of a diagnostic lab since 2007, realized they could keep costs down by piggybacking on a smartphone.
They could use the phone's computing power to crunch the data and provide an easy-to-use interface for medical workers.
“The team developed the dongle to be small and light enough to fit into one hand,” said Sia. “We were able to show that complicated lab-based blood tests can run on a small smartphone accessory. The accessory performs the mechanical and optical measurements, while the smartphone provides a simple user interface and communication ability.”
The device plugs into the headphone jack and not only sends data to the phone via this port, but also uses it to provide power to the dongle. The researchers used an iPod touch for their trial run and found that they could do 41 tests between charges. Of course, the latest iPhones would likely last much longer.
The phone's battery powers the optical and mechanical measurements that take place in the dongle. At this point, the dongle sends the data to the smartphone application, which presents the results. Training the health workers to complete this process takes only a half hour.
The app includes a user-friendly interface to aid the workers through each test, offering step-by-step pictorial directions and built-in timers for each step. It also stores records of test results so they can be viewed later.