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iPhone health and fitness applications

7/24/2008 by Julie Deardorff, Chicago Tribune

iPhone health applications have just about everything but the cold stethoscope.

Cell phones can't actually get hot enough to pop popcorn, regardless of what you may have seen on YouTube. But some do have other unexpected abilities that just might help improve your quality of life.

Dozens of new health and fitness Web applications are now available for use with the Apple iPhone, which combines a mobile phone, a widescreen iPod and an Internet browser into one gadget.

The apps, which likely will eventually be available on other phones that will run on a Google-based operating system, enable third-party software developers to create a new breed of health services

These programs can literally put all your health records—including digital images such as ultrasounds and echocardiograms—into the palm of your hand. Or they can administer eye exams  or keep track of your calories and exercise.

cOne application, My Life Record, lets consumers access and share their own medical imaging, charts, medications and even lab results via the iPhone. That would be handy if, for example, you hurt your ankle and had it X-rayed at the University of Chicago, said Dr. Russ Horowitz, an emergency room physician at Children's Memorial Hospital.

If your ankle was throbbing two days later and you went to see Horowitz, he’d have to call the University of Chicago for the report—someone else’s interpretation of the image—or take another X-ray.

"It would save the system a lot of money because I wouldn’t have to redo things," said Horowitz. 

If the phone is lost, privacy could be an issue. But if you immediately contact the My Life Record support staff, they'll disable the device so your health information is inaccessible. If your iPhone turns up, they can re-enable it.

Keep a diet diary, get your eyes examined with iPhone applications

For years, health care providers have relied on "Epocrates," a searchable database of medications, dosages and interactions on handheld devices, and now including the iPhone, said Horowitz.

"This allows real-time investigation of medications patients are taking right at the bedside," he said.

Pictures of the pills allow doctors to identify drugs in case of overdose; this can be especially important for pediatric patients. Here's a list of other iPhone applications:

  • MyNetDiary is a food and exercise diary and weight loss program. You can analyze and plan your diet, get personalized nutrition guidelines, print reports for your nutritionist and track body fat percentage, bone weight and lean muscle percentage. A display option on the nutrient chart shows how fats, carbs and proteins contribute to calories.
  • Netter's Anatomy allows users to carry more than 300 fully annotated images of the human body on their iPhone. Using a finger flick, pinch or tap, medical students and doctors—or curious laypeople—can test their knowledge of muscles, bones, vessels and the joints. The head and neck contain the most images (84) followed by the lower limb (71).
  • iPharmacy, a generic and name-brand drug database, lets you browse thousands of drug descriptions, dosage, symptoms and side effects.  You can use it to view common dosages and directions for thousands of prescription drugs, the company says. But like all applications, it’s no substitute for a other health care professional.
  • The Pocket First Aid Guide, custom-designed for the iPhone, will help you treat anything from bee stings  to eye injuries. 
  • If you're in a car accident or if others can't hear you through windows or long distance, the 911 Help application is designed to draw attention to up to 75 feet away. When you turn your iPhone sideways, the screen is filled with an animated "911/Help" message that flashes in red and white. 
  • The iPhone Emergency Card stores health and contact information, including blood type and allergies to food or medication. It also allows users to access maps to nearby hospitals.   
  • The Symptom Navigator helps consumers match medical symptoms with treatments. Using an image of the human body, it offers possible causes, how to self-treat, when it is an emergency, when you should call a doctor, and prevention suggestions.
  • iEyeExam is a quick eye exam to see if you need glasses.