Smartphones as health controllers

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Numerous medical innovations are presented at MEDICA

Smartphones to monitor health, wipeable ultrasound devices, tinnitus therapy using headphones - all these are medical innovations that are being presented at the world's largest medical trade fair, MEDICA, in Düsseldorf today.

By Sunday, almost 4,500 exhibitors from 110 nations will be presenting revolutionary innovations in the medical field at the medical trade fair. At the forefront is the use of smartphones to monitor health. But numerous other world innovations were also presented in the fields of electromedicine, laboratory technology and physiotherapy.

Mobile phone measures blood pressure, body temperature and blood sugar The possible uses of smartphones in the health sector are booming, with the spectrum ranging from blood pressure measurement and weight or blood sugar control to use as a baby monitor. For example, at MEDICA 2011, Deutsche Telekom, in cooperation with product partner Medisana, presented possible uses of smartphones in which patients can record, save and monitor a wide range of body parameters using their cell phones. Various plug-on modules have been developed for this purpose, which enable control of blood sugar, body temperature or blood pressure. The corresponding apps are available for download free of charge. The smartphones can also forward the data directly to the doctor so that he is always informed about the condition of his patients. Another new application for smartphones is the early detection of skin cancer, in which doctors use a microscope attachment to take pictures of suspicious moles and then upload them to an online portal, where they can obtain a second opinion from their colleagues.

Smartphones used in medicine The smartphone baby monitor recently presented at the Health2.0 congress in Berlin, on the other hand, is almost an old hat again. The use of smartphones for weight control or as a weight loss aid has also been known for a long time. The scales send the cell phone the current weight during weighing and support the motivation of those who want to lose weight, according to the inventors. However, although smartphones are increasingly used as health controllers in hospitals, doctor's surgeries and in patients' homes, the mobile applications cannot replace extensive clinical analyzes, in-depth medical examinations and laboratory evaluations, according to the experts. Operating errors by the user cannot be ruled out, which would entail considerable health risks for the patients if they were controlled exclusively by the smartphone. In addition to the fields of application for smartphones presented at MEDICA, a Japanese inventor recently made a name for himself. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he developed an inexpensive Geiger counter that could be connected to smartphones. As the manufacturer Sanwa explained, the results of the radioactivity measurement are shown directly on the display of the cell phone. With the help of a 14 cm long and 5 cm wide probe, the load is recorded and then displayed on the smartphone. The initiator of the development was the young Japanese researcher Takuma Mori, who was angry about the prices of the Geiger counters after the nuclear disaster in March. The devices still available should cost at least 60,000 yen (570 euros) at the time, whereas the probe for the smartphone would be a real bargain with a purchase price of 9,800 yen (95 euros).

Novel tinnitus therapy with neurostimulator However, the fields of application of smartphones are by no means the only medical innovations that will be presented at the medical trade fair in Düsseldorf. Another high-tech development is, for example, a neurostimulator about the size of a matchbox, which is said to help with the treatment of ringing in the ears or tinnitus. In order to avoid the buzzing, beeping and noise in the ear, the patients have to carry the device, which costs around 2,700 euros, with them for around four hours a day. Through the sound of the sounds, the brain of tinnitus patients is supposed to unlearn the uncomfortable continuous tone, the managing director of the manufacturer ANM (Troisdorf), Claus Martini, told the news agency "dpa". As part of the tests, an average of 75 percent of tinnitus patients had no complaints after the novel, six to twelve month therapy, according to Claus Martini. Only 20 to 30 percent of those affected had not responded to the treatment. In view of the fact that the prospects of successful treatment are rather mixed in tinnitus patients, the numbers of the neurostimulator seem to be very promising, which should also have played an important role in the awarding of the new device with the German Innovation Award for Medicine.

Ultrasound images in unprecedented quality Another focus of the innovations presented are developments in the field of ultrasound. So not only was a completely wipeable ultrasound device presented that can be easily disinfected after use in operations, but also the progress in the quality of the images from inside the body was convincing. Today, pregnant women have the opportunity to have three-dimensional color photos of their unborn children printed out, on which the hands, feet and facial features of the fetus are depicted so vividly that similarities with mom or dad could be identified even before birth, the manufacturers promised. Malformations such as cleft palate can be recognized early on in these particularly precise images. The disadvantage of this particularly precise ultrasound examination, however, is the price. The procedure, which is already used in some practices, should cost up to 250 euros per examination.

Golf course ambulance: save lives, protect lawn green The area of ​​the somewhat strange innovation at the medical trade fair is the special emergency doctor car for the golf course. The "RescuECar" from the company Lührs Rescue from Münster is similar to the electric vehicles that can also be found in normal operation on the golf course, but is equipped with some additional accessories to enable patient transportation. The € 25,000 vehicle is particularly gentle on the lawn and enables emergency physicians to collect the needy golfers directly on the course without a conventional ambulance. Anyone who thinks there is no need for this has been wrong. "At first we were laughed at for our developments", but first interested parties from the golf emirate of Qatar had already registered for the golf course ambulance, explained company manager Stefan Lührs. (fp)

Image: Peter Strauch /

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