New mobile can check pulse, send ambulance

You probably have good reason to worry if you get a call on your mobile phone with the following message: "Sir, an ambulance is on the way."

That's the worst call you can receive if you buy a new EPI Life mobile phone, which comes complete with mini electrocardiogram.

It's a new phone developed in Singapore that takes your pulse when you press your fingers on a receptor, and sends the results to a 24-hour medical call centre.

"We think it's a revolution. It has clinical significance," EPI medical chief Dr. Chow U-Jin said at the mobile industry's annual conference in Barcelona.

"Anywhere in the world you can use it as a phone but you are also able to transfer an ECG and get a reply," Chow said.

"If you get a normal reply it will just be an SMS," he added.

"If it's severe, you get a call: 'Sir, an ambulance is on the way'."

EPI Life has three hospitals in Singapore, all of which carry the phone users' history.

EPI Life costs $700 (516 euros), the price of a top range smartphone, and 2,000 of them have been on the market since 2010.

"The most obvious targets are people with heart disease," Chow said.

Depending on your health or nervous disposition you can choose from three packages offering 10, 30 or 100 tests a month.

There is now a mini $99 version with a smaller receptor that links via Bluetooth connection to your smartphone, which is due for launch soon in Spain and France.

The EPI Life is one of a series of mobile health initiatives unveiled in Barcelona.

Many of the services rely on SMS or MMS messages that even older mobiles can receive.

Health Company, which covers Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, sends medical information about sexuality, obesity, children's health etc. to about 430,000 customers in Arab and English.

"You could also send a consultation through SMS," said company vice president Fahad S. Al-Orifi.

"This SMS will go to our website where our doctor answers you to your mobile."

Mobile health is developing in poorer countries where it can play a crucial role, said Kazi Islam, chief executive of Grameenphone in Bangladesh.

In his country there are 156 million people and fewer than 3,000 hospitals but 66 million people have access to a mobile phone.

"Most women don't have access to information of health. Seventy-five percent of women from 15 to 24 have never heard of STIs (sexually transmitted infections)," he said.

"With a simple SMS we are sending information to expectant mothers. This is a necessary help".

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