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Smartphone Blood Testing Coming Soon


Image: Samiksha Nayak for Columbia Engineering

Your smartphone can do a lot of things. I mean, for a phone, it’s pretty smart. From playing games to unlocking your car, changing the channel or finally settling once and for all arguments over lyrics, the smartphone has become an incredible device capable of making just about anything easier–including blood tests.

Columbia University announced last week that it has created a smartphone attachment that can analyze blood samples in 15 minutes and provide screening for HIV and syphilis, check for warning signs of stroke, track basic metabolism and monitor blood sugar levels for a fraction of the cost of a traditional lab exam. And by fraction, I mean the device costs around $35, and each test is only a few dollars. In a hospital, a traditional HIV test can cost as much as $18,000.

While I can certainly see the positive side of this–being able to conduct blood tests so conveniently is going to be invaluable to Doctors Without Borders and other health initiatives in non first-world countries–at the same time, I am not sure I’m a huge fan of that much power in the hands of someone not a doctor. And call me old fashioned, but I certainly don’t trust apps on my phone with my health. What would happen if you got a false positive for HIV? Or, even worse, a false negative? The idea is a little scary.

Of course, I’m not an expert in the medical field, so if you want to read a more indepth view of the pros and cons, check out this article. In the meantime, let me know what you think! Would you take a blood test on your smartphone? Is it going to be good or bad for healthcare at large? Let me know in the comments!