More FaceTime for Feet: Will the New iPhone Appeal to Healthcare?


We at SALSA have, for many years, been quite interested in always-on-no-excuses video/photo communication. Apparently, the first FaceTime surgery consult was conducted from our unit to George Andros’ and Lee Rogers’ unit in Los Angeles. Now, the gadgetry is so ubiquitous and so inexpensive that this should really be an afterthought. What do you think? Here is a short, thoughtful piece in today’s MobiHealthNews from Chris Gullo:

“Over 80 percent of the top hospitals in the US are now testing or piloting iPad.” So said Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook at Tuesday’s “Let’s talk iPhone” event, according to tech bloggers. While this was the only healthcare specific statement made at the event, the new devices unveiled have plenty of implications for healthcare.
But first, some other interesting metrics from Cook’s presentation:
  • The iPhone 4 now makes up half of the overall iPhone market.
  • iPhone sales grew 125 percent year-over-year, while the overall smartphone market experienced 74 percent year-over-year growth.
  • The iPhone now accounts for five percent of the worldwide mobile phone market. (Cook said that Apple believes all phones will soon be smartphones.)
After 14 months of industry speculation, Apple unveiled its latest iPhone, the iPhone 4S, this week. The 4S sports an identical look to the iPhone 4, despite months of rumors that a design makeover was forthcoming. A bevy of under-the-hood improvements, however, may keep the iPhone as a top choice for healthcare professionals and health-concious consumers alike.
Some new key features include:
Upgraded processor/memory: The iPhone 4S features Apple’s A5 processor, the same CPU that powers the iPad 2. It also has 1GB RAM, twice as much as the iPhone 4.
8MP Camera: The new camera sensor takes pictures at a max resolution of 3264 × 2448.
Siri: A voice-controlled personal assistant that Apple has fine-tuned with some help from the natural language processing experts at Nuance.
There have been persistent rumors of an iPhone 5 announcement at today’s event, with multiple phone case manufacturers producing prototypes for an iPhone with a larger screen and thinner width. Now that those rumors have proven false, some sites are speculating that those specifications are rumored to be for an iPhone 5 prototype that won’t see release until late next year — if ever.
Rumors aside, let’s focus on that 8MP camera and what it means for healthcare.
The new iPhone 4S’s camera boasts a resolution that is six times that of the previous iPhone, and is capable of 1080p video recording. Apple’s site uses its trademark hyperbole:
“The all-new, advanced optics in this camera work together to make sure whatever light you have gives you the best image possible. The custom lens uses five precision elements to shape incoming light, which makes the entire image sharper. The larger f/2.4 aperture lets in more light, so photos look brighter and better. And the advanced hybrid infrared filter keeps out harmful IR light, so you’ll see more accurate and uniform colors. The refined LED flash automatically kicks in when it’s needed…and [the camera] focuses on the most prominent face in the frame and balances exposure across up to 10 faces.”
At the keynote announcement held today at Apple’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Apple’s SVP of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller told attendees that “to many customers this will be the best still camera they’ve ever owned and the best video cameras they’ve ever owned.”
By raising the bar for camera phones, Apple is making it easier for patients to record physical symptoms via photos and video, which they can send to doctors.
In the short-term, physicians and other healthcare providers, of course, will likely benefit from the better camera more so than consumers, because apps intended for use by physicians are already in place to take advantage of the upgrade. Take the new app from online physician network Sermo, which launched its first mobile app, called Sermo Mobile, this summer. The iPhone app’s primary feature is iConsult, a physician consultation feature that makes use of the phone’s camera:
“With three touches of the screen, physicians can take or add a photograph of a physical finding, x-ray or laboratory result, choose a suitable question from the list available and then immediately send it to relevant specialists in the Sermo network. Members can view and respond in real time, offering unparalleled access to shared medical expertise.”
If Apple’s marketing holds true, then correct diagnosis via smartphones may be improved with the new camera.
The iPhone 4S will be available in black and white colors, with pre-orders starting October 7th this year. The actual launch date for the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, France, Germany and Japan is October 14th. Prices are as follows: 16GB for $199, 32GB for $299, and 64GB for $399.
The legacy iPhone 3GS is now free with a monthly contract and the iPhone 4 is just $99. While data plans aren’t cheap, those pricepoints make the legacy devices much more accessible to consumers on tighter budgets.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.