Consumer tech brings big changes for 2014 and beyond


New apps, hardware, and software bring powerful functions to patients and physicians.


Many of the technologies that will define 2013 have just recently been released. In this Tech Tools installment we introduce you to consumer-level technologies that have the ability to transform the way that we practice ob/gyn and the way our patients interact with us.

Apple iPhone 5S

Announced: September 10, 2013

One of this year’s most highly anticipated technological announcements came nearly one year after its predecessor, iPhone 5.

The newest Apple flagship iPhone iteration, the iPhone 5s, shares the same design and screen resolution of the iPhone 5, but is completely redesigned. iPhone 5s features Apple’s newest processor, the 64-bit A7 chip, a dedicated motion co-processor dubbed M7, a fingerprint scanner also known as Touch ID, as well as a dramatic improvement in battery life and a slew of new camera features (hardware and software-related).

For those of us who depend on our phones for more than entertainment and basic communication, each iteration of the iPhone has included new features that have improved our daily workflow. With the introduction of LTE (high-speed data for mobile phones) to the iPhone 5, many of us gained the ability to remotely access our network with a relatively quick connection.

While to the average consumer the iPhone 5s may seem like an incremental improvement, this model does more for medicine than any other upgrade.

With the introduction of the 64-bit A7 processor, this device will have more than 50 times the graphics performance of the original iPhone while having more than 40 times the processing power. This new processor will allow software developers to add features to their mobile EHR applications and likely add significant functionality to their smartphones.

The proprietary M7 motion co-processor will integrate data generated by the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. Apple describes the co-processor’s technology as a chip that “knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving.” This processor will allow for the rapid collection and utilization of spatial information. It will be interesting to see how software developers will take advantage of this chip, but it appears that this information will be invaluable for those who want to capture fitness-related information, whether it be data derived from the device or collected from a wearable device.

The M7 processor will also afford the iPhone the ability to accurately navigate delicate spaces-think GPS for a room. For patients who are sight-limited or visually impaired, the iPhone 5s may be able to help map an office, a house, or a room, and guide users as they perform their daily activities.

While the fingerprint scanner, Touch ID, may seem like a gimmick, this may be the one reason to invest in a new device.

As many of us merge our work device into our home device, security is of paramount importance. Through the integration of a proprietary fingerprint scanner into the “home button,” the iPhone 5s has the ability to scan subepidermal skin layers to recognize your fingerprint with 360° readability. Not only will Touch ID allow you to access your phone faster (since now you have the option of just placing your finger on the button instead of typing in a code), but it will also allow for true user authentication.

Although Apple states that the fingerprint information will not be available for other apps nor will it be stored in the cloud, it is possible that third party software developers could create apps that would take advantage of the fingerprint scanner, and thereby allow for single-step login to either a remote connection or an EHR. Having the ability to “tap-to-sign” an order, acknowledge a result, or simply log in would be a huge improvement in smartphone workflow, and would likely save countless hours for those of us who try to be self-sufficient from the palms of our hands.

In sum, the iPhone 5s has a familiar form, shares our favorite current iPhone features, and finally takes a huge leap forward in helping healthcare providers disconnect from their desktops/laptops.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Announced: September 4, 2013 microsite/galaxynote3+gear/

Not since the advent of Dick Tracy’s 2-Way Wrist Radio in 1946 has there been so much excitement about what can be done on the real estate of a person’s wrist. Many manufacturers have experimented with multifunction watches and have integrated calculators, GPS, altimeters, and emergency transmitters. However, no company has taken the step of creating a device with mass-market appeal that permits a watch to be an extension of the smartphone.

Earlier this year we saw the release of the Pebble Smart Watch, which allows users the ability to view text messages and other notifications, accept or decline incoming calls, and control simple phone features. Samsung, Apple’s most formidable competitor, took the giant leap in creating a mass-market device that exhibits the principle of form following function.

Although this device in its current iteration can only be paired with the soon-to-be-released Samsung Galaxy Note 3, it sports an impressive 800 MHz processor and 512MB of RAM, which is far superior to the power of any full-sized desktop computer only a few years ago. The Gear is designed to focus the user on the most salient features of the phone and help the user access critical notifications/alerts, utilize certain applications (70 will be available at the time of launch), play music, or even take photos. The Gear also has an integrated microphone to allow the user to navigate the watch or phone by using just his or her voice.

It is not hard to imagine the utility of discreet paging/messaging while seeing patients-it is more polite to look at your watch than it is to pull out your device in the middle of a patient interaction. With smartphone EHR integration, it likely will be possible to receive critical notifications about patients (laboratory values, test results, etc.) while your phone is in your pocket. And best of all, if you misplace your phone, the Gear smart-watch has the ability to activate your phone’s alerts and help you find it.

While the Galaxy Gear may not be a standalone device, it gives Android users and Samsung addicts the first taste of multi-device synced technology; the potential for practicing medical professionals is huge.


Announced: August 8, 2013

Glow is a fertility-tracking, conception- planning iPhone app co-written by Max Levchin, a co-founder of PayPal. Unlike any other fertility-focused smartphone app, Glow has an intuitive, simple user interface and is 100% free.

After the user enters simple information such as last menstrual period and length of cycle, the Glow engine generates a personalized calendar that shows the user her next fertile window and a 5-day view that shows the chance of conceiving on any given day. The application also lets the user enter her partner’s contact information so that the couple can be “synced” and alerted for when they should be “trying.”

A future Glow app may allow physicians to connect with their patients through the app. As more users subscribe, the Glow team will collect the data that users enter into the program. Using this crowd-sourced data, the Glow team will improve the accuracy of their algorithms.

On September 22, the Glow team introduced Glow Genius. Beyond the features described above, the program now has a new tool called “Insights,” which gives patients personalized daily fertility-related facts. With every log and completed task, the user will see new information on how her actions have affected her “quest to conceive.”

Glow Genius now has charts to help patients track their cervical mucus and basal body temperature so they will know when they are about to ovulate. It can also be set to remind patients when to “try” or to restock their prenatal vitamins.

The optional Glow FIRST fund is a crowd-funded fertility program. As part of the $50/month optional program, those users who do not get pregnant after 10 months will receive financial credits to undergo an infertility evaluation or even treatment.

Projects Mighty & Napoleon

Announced: September 17, 2013

Adobe, the software manufacturer of Photoshop and Acrobat, is now going to start manufacturing consumer-level hardware. Their soon-to-be-released products-Project Mighty, a cloud-connected e-pen, and Project Napoleon, a digital-hybrid ruler-will forever change how we interact with our tablets.

Project Mighty is an iPad stylus that works with Adobe’s Creative Cloud app (cloud-based software that lets users carry and work on drawings across multiple devices). The Bluetooth-powered pen has pressure sensors that emulate the experience of writing on physical paper. Unlike a traditional pen, Project Mighty has a button that lets the user toggle between different pen/pencil tips, ink styles, and colors.

Project Napoleon is a digital ruler that the user physically places on top of an iPad. It projects guidelines onto the screen, allowing the user to draw precise lines and edges for artwork or architectural projects. When the pocketsized ruler launches later this year, it will be released with 2 drafting applications that harmoniously work with Projects Mighty & Napoleon.

It is important to recognize the potential for these 2 gadgets in medicine. They will allow physicians to annotate figures, hand-write notes in charts, or document findings from a physical exam or surgical procedure. It may be possible to create schematics of surgical approaches, annotate radiographic studies, and improve the tablet-based experience for medical students.

Structure Sensor

Announced: September 17, 2013

Occipital has created a truly disruptive technology. There is no other device like the Structure Sensor: It is the first 3D sensor for mobile devices.

The Structure Sensor is a consumer-level strap-on device that lets an iPad become a highly sensitive and accurate 3D mapping device. The sensor seamlessly attaches to the back of an iPad, is self-powered with an internal battery, and connects via the standard iPad cable.

The potential uses for a device like this are boundless. It’s not hard to think of a number of potential medical applications. Beyond configuring your next office/clinic to help improve your workflow efficiency, the device can be used to measure human dimensions.

It’s possible that orthopedic surgeons will be able to fit prostheses in ways never before possible; audiologists will be able to make more comfortable hearing aids; weight-loss programs will be aided by precise body dimensions; and fundal-height measurements will be replaced with volumetric 3D renderings.


This year we’re seeing consumer-level devices capable of professional applications. Although medicine may not be in the forefront of every manufacturer’s product plans, it only takes a little creative energy to turn almost any device into a health-tech tool.


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