New oximetry app may promote home monitoring, cut cost, empower patients

Dr Eric Topol

| Disclosures | January 21, 2013
This feature requires the newest version of Flash. You can download it here.

Although not yet approved for medical use, the oximetry app from Masimo is an interesting tool with promise to empower patients through home monitoring. It has the potential to replace costly procedures and is another step towards the creative destruction of medicine.



Dr Topol has no conflicts of interest relevant to this digital technology


See also:



It's time for a new segment on Topolog. We're going to get into an interesting gadget. Before I do that, I want to thank you for all the comments on how to help my mother-in-law with the stroke that she had while unanticoagulated. She's doing very well, and we got a lot of varied input. It was I think a record number of comments—well over 40!—thank you for that.

Now let's get into the digital world. Here's a gadget that I just got a hold of recently; it's an oxygen sensor (oximeter) that connects to the iPhone. It's a pretty nice device, I've been trying it out, and I have to say it's very smooth.

This is my iPhone, I just basically take the oximeter and put it on my finger, and then I call up the app. This is actually a Masimo app—a company that makes oximetry equipment, which is used widely.

I get the SpO2, and then you'll see it start calibrating my oxygen saturation pretty quickly, and—watch this—you have the sound of each heartbeat. There's a perfusion index, which is pretty much meaningless. I've never had 100% sat before (that's interesting!), and my heart rate is 44.

Why is this such an advance of really marked utility? 

While it's not at this point approved for medical use—and I'm not sure how much it will be used for cocktail party chatter!—but nonetheless, this has a lot of potential. You can then turn this "to history," turn off the sound, and now I have a sleep study in the making. All you have to do is tape my finger so this oximetry [gauge] doesn't come off. I've tried it on many fingers and get the same reading (so that's not an issue). You tape the finger and then can get many hours of oxygen saturation and heart rate.

Now that's the beginning of a sleep study, which is terrific because if you do that in a hospital setting it costs $3000 (reimbursed by Medicare). But if you do it at home with this device, it's essentially free, because this is a reusable device. Beyond that, you could add things, like a Band Aid that collects respiratory rate and confirms heart rate—or even potentially heart rhythm—and you could even add a brain-wave sensor. You could take it to an extreme, getting a lot of data beyond just oxygen saturation and heart rate. It would be nice to know respiratory rate.

I would be interested in your thoughts on this. I think it's a neat new addition to the iPhone. These "add-out combinations" really bring enormous potential for changing medicine as I try to advance in the creative destruction of medicine. They are just coming alive one after the other. This one awaits FDA medical approval, but it's out there and can be ordered and has some interesting potential utility in the future.

I'll be interested in your thoughts about how this can be applied to help patients to reduce costs and catch the value of oximetry.

Thanks a lot for your attention to this segment.

Latest in Cardiology

Authors and Disclosures

Cardiologist, Dr Eric Topol, Editor-in-chief, and Director, Scripps Translational Science Institute, translates clinical research in cardiology to daily practice.
Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as:


All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2016 by WebMD LLC. This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.