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After the iPhone, the Blood-Sugar Meter?

Health care is an important, huge, and growing piece of our economy. But as a reader named Beth Wieder points out, the design of medical devices isn’t always as user-friendly (or, I would add, as cost-efficient or as practical) as one might like.

For instance, we blogged some time back about a very cheap and portable asthma spacer.

Here is Beth’s note in which she passes along one journalist’s good and compelling idea for improving the design of medical devices. Once you finish reading it, you will probably start thinking of all sorts of things that you’d like to put Steve Jobs to work on:

San Francisco-based journalist Amy Tenderich, who has Type 1 diabetes, runs the Diabetes Mine blog, featuring facts, gadgets, reviews, and opinions on all things diabetes. She started getting wider attention last year with her open letter to Steve Jobs calling for better product design for medical devices.

Most diabetics have several medical devices — pumps, syringes, lancing devices, etc. — with them 24 hours a day, and while we are grateful for these life-saving gadgets, most have considerable room for improvement from a user point of view. This year, she’s opened up the contest up to anyone.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when you open up a very limited field (industrial designers working for medical device companies) to anyone with a computer and an idea. Any thoughts?

In related news, here’s an article from The Economist about a research project at Berkeley called CellScope that turns the digital camera on cellphones into a microscope,

which means that with the correct stain it can be used to identify the parasite that causes malaria. Moreover, by transmitting an image directly over the mobile network, the CellScope could greatly help with the remote diagnosis and monitoring of many illnesses.