Medical Apps and Obamacare

As technology progresses, the promises of cheaper health care solutions to bring down health care costs becomes more real.  There’s a slew of new apps being created for mobile devices that could replace or supplement many of the functions that your doctor might fulfill today.  These apps, cheap to build and cheap to purchase, could revolutionize many of the routine medical tasks that today could costs thousands of dollars.  The mobile health industry stands to generate $1.3 billion in revenue in 2012—huge business for a tech market in its infancy.

What this revolution in technology and health care is capable of is remarkable.  Mobisante is a company that developed an app to allow your iPhone to conduct an  ultrasound.  When an ultrasound device is connected to the iPhone through its dock. This new portable ultrasound tool can be taken into the field—whether in countries with impoverished populations or home-ridden people right here in the United States.  And a price tag of around $7,500 makes it a rather cheap tool for doctors.  MIT Media Labs has developed an app call PerfectSight, which will allow users to conduct their own eye exams using their smartphones built-in camera.  Just think—with the snap of a camera and an email of your results to an optometrist, your prescription could be filled, drastically cutting down on both time and cost for the consumer.  With this new technology, this type of service could be in our future.  AliveCor is a company developing an app that, when the smartphone is pressed to your chest, will allow you to monitor your heart rate.  This portable, personal ECG could revolutionize the medical device industry.

It’s innovations like this that our health care system is in dire need of.  As the costs of health care skyrocket and with Obamacare poised to add at least $701 billion to the national debt, government should encourage this type of innovation as a way to cut costs and save money in both the public and private sector.  But if things continue the way they are now, we could see government regulations and taxes put a halt or at least greatly hinder this type of innovation.

Obamacare and other regulations imposed by the FDA could put a stop to these innovations.  The FDA has lurched into action to regulate medical apps, creating a maze of bureaucracy for these startups to navigate and thousands of dollars in fees and costs in legal and government fees.  Due to Obamacare, a new tax on medical devices, 2.3% of total revenue of medical devices, will be imposed on companies starting in 2013.  This new tax not only levels a huge burden on established companies struggling in this economy, but also the startups developing the innovative and nimble apps I described above.  If government agencies and bureaucracies continue to impose these burdensome regulations and taxes on the job creators and innovators of our society, these emerging industries could be crushed—halting a positive blip in health care and the economy before it ever has a chance to begin.

Zack Christenson is a digital tech writer for the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research

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