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How The iPhone Will Make Mobile Health Communications Richer & More Effective

This is not an advertisement for the iPhone.  Although I am a fan of Apple’siphone.jpeg products and own an iPhone, I’ve tried to be relatively objective about its potential impact on the mobile market.  

However, it must be said: by improving existing mobile technologies (i.e., touch screen interfaces and Web browsing), Apple has forced other companies to develop better, more intuitive high-end phones.  That’s good for all of us.  

I’ve experienced this personally.  I consider myself an early adopter of many mobile technologies.  Before purchasing an iPhone, I owned various models of the Palm Treo. I thought the Treo was great.  However, as much as I loved having the ability to e-mail and organize my contacts, and view my calendar, I hated the Web software included in the device.  It was clunky, slow and never allowed me to view Web pages in their native environment.


When I purchased the iPhone, all of this changed.  Today, I use Apple’s iPhone Safari browser to view Web pages and the experience is fantastic.  This is great for Website owners such as the search engine Google, which saw traffic to its site spike after the iPhone was introduced.

Initially, the biggest limiting factor for the iPhone was the fact that third-party software developers could not introduce software native to the product.  With Apple’s release of the iPhone Software Development Kit, this has changed.  As Tom Yager of InfoWorld has noted: “In June, when iPhone firmware is updated to Version 2.0 and the object is opened to developers, I'll see the device that I hoped iPhone would be. That will instantly transform high-end consumer phones and music players, and it will gradually alter the landscape for commercial mobile devices.”

What This Means For Health Communications

Last month, CDC (an Envision Solutions client) co-sponsored the Texting 4 Health conference held at Stanford University.  Although I didn’t attend the event, the presentations posted on the conference Website indicate that CDC (and others) are very interested in mobile.  Currently, the agency is experimenting with SMS (or texting).  The CDC and Stanford’s Mobile Persuasion Lab (producers of the event) believe it is “the only viable interactive means of reaching people on a massive scale around the world.”  

Presenters discussed how texting (along with other interactive technologies) is being used to communicate with large groups of people about HIV, flu, diabetes, smoking cessation and other topics.  This is fascinating stuff.  

However, we are only scratching the surface with mobile.  Mobile has great potential in the blogging, social networking and online video spaces.  Currently, the numbers of people using their phones for these activities is very small – mainly because mobile devices are not designed to do them very well.  The iPhone could help in this regard – especially if other companies continue to adopt its features in an effort to keep up with Apple.

Over time, the evolution of mobile technology could provide CDC and other companies/agencies with richer and more robust tools for communicating about health.  They could develop mobile-only platforms that deliver SMS, Web, video, social network-based messages simultaneously.  This would increase target audiences’ “time of engagement,” aid message penetration and prompt more profound behavior change.  

Overall, the future is bright for mobile.  And, we have Apple to thank for it.

2 Comments/Trackbacks

While I am most certainly a Mac fan, it was not lost on me that "first in line" among the SDK "downloaders" were companies like epocrates! With the superior screen, data connectivity, etc., the iPhone will easily surpass the weak Palm device that epocrates has been forced to offer. Excellent job, Fard!

» Hard Numbers Quantify iPhone’s Impact On Mobile Web from HealthCareVox
Last week, I wrote a post focusing on how the iPhone will help to jump-start the anemic mobile Web market and its implications for health.  Yesterday, mobile media analytics company, M:Metrics released a report showing how iPhone users are much... [Read More]

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