Since its official launch on June 29, 2007, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has sold well over 180 million iPhones. Hands down, it's the most successful mobile phone ever launched.
But what most investors don't realize is the huge impact the iPhone has had on medicine.
The fact is, more than any other product on the planet, the iPhone is driving a whole new sector called mobile healthcare, or mHealth for short.
With an iPhone in hand, it will redefine how doctors and other health-care pros work with their patients.
But here's the big payoff: mHealth promises to save millions of lives as doctors use it to detect and treat diseases much more quickly than they could with old-school devices.
These radical advances will undoubtedly make lots of early mHealth investors quite rich.
But don't take my word for it....
A trade group known as GSMA says the mobile healthcare sector will reach total sales of $23 billion by 2017.
Of course, phones and tablets that use Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system also could play a big role in the sector.
But at this point the iPhone remains the clear leader in this rapidly growing market.
It's So Much More Than a PhoneThat's why I'm glad to introduce you to a startup firm that has staked much of its future on the iPhone platform.
Fact is, AliveCor recently raised another $10.5 million in venture funding. That brings the total raised to date to roughly $13.5 million.
The company first made waves last year when it showed off its iPhone-based heart monitor at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Since then, AliveCor has applied to the FDA to sell it as an approved medical device.
The Alivecor product allows professionals and consumers to monitor the heart health of a person or even an animal. Its heart-tracking technology is designed to work with the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
In technical terms it's a mobile electrocardiogram (ECG) recorder. That means it measures the heart's electrical activity.
Doctors use this test to see if there are any problems with the heart they can't detect with a simple office visit. For instance, an ECG will show if the heart is not beating with the correct rhythm, which could indicate a disease or other problem.
Product reviews say the AliveCor ECG will cost just $100, adding that the product is easy to use. When heart patients want to record their ECG, they open the app and hold the phone to their chests.
In the blink of an eye the app shows the results. It records 300 samples per second. When finished, the app can upload the patient's ECG to AliveCor's servers.
Doctors can then review the tests from just about anywhere in the world using a Web browser in a secure format. The firm says the results match those of much more costly clinical-grade gear.
Last month, AliveCor cited a study in which two doctors cross-checked the results against standard monitors in more than 60 patients. The iPhone platform proved just as accurate at a fraction of the cost, the company says.
You can view of video of the device in action here.
The Market for These Apps Is HugeAliveCor is already targeting what could be a huge market. You see, health stats show that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. It claims nearly 600,000 lives a year.
Many could have been saved had they seen a doctor before disaster struck. AliveCor's ECG would allow millions to track their heart health themselves.
Look at it this way. If the AliveCor ECG caught just 20% of the potential cases, it could save more than 1 million lives over the course of a decade.
Not only that, since it allows for fewer doctor visits, the iPhone approach could have a big impact on healthcare costs.
Consider that the American Heart Association predicts that by the year 2030, the cost of heart disease will more than triple to $818 billion a year.
By then, 116 million people in the U.S., or about 40%, will suffer from some form of heart disease.
But remember, we've just covered one product targeting a single disease. No doubt the iPhone will find uses in many other medical applications.
Taken together, these new apps will save millions of lives and help transform medical science as we know it.
All it takes is cutting edge products like an iPhone and the genius of thousands of creative entrepreneurs.
When you have that there's no limit to how far you can go.
Michael A. Robinson, Defense and Technology Specialist
P.S. If you want to find a way to profit from the next generation of tech breakthroughs, Michael's Era of Radical Change newsletter is a great place to start.
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Michael A. Robinsonis one of the top financial analysts working today. In fact, he recently called out the Wall Street Journal for what he said was "some bad and very misguided press" about the future of asteroid mining.
To find out why Michael says the Wall Street Journal is dead wrong about asteroid mining click here.