Cutting-edge health tech you can use at home

While some of us dread going to a doctor's office and waiting for what seems like an eternity in their waiting room, new innovations in technology have actually brought health care right into our homes.

On "The Early Show" Wednesday, digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong shared some of the latest products now available to take care of your health in ways you probably never imagined.

But in talking about home health care, how much of an industry are we talking about?

Armstrong says having the ability to respond to your own health needs immediately is an emerging area known as mhealth (m for mobile) where you can personalize your health needs right at home or in your pocket.

Research2guidance, a mobile research firm specializing in mobile healthcare says by 2015, there will be more than 500 million people using mobile health applications on their smartphones to manage medications, health issues, fitness and exercise.

Right now, according to Mobile Health News, there are more than 6,000 mobile Health Apps available today for various phones.

But it's not just about apps, Armstrong said. Mhealth, he notes, is about taking health care into your hands through texting, the web, applications and technology that's now available in your own home.

Armstrong shared the following products on the cutting-edge of health technology:

Text4Baby at Text4Baby.org

Text4Baby is a free text messaging service sponsored by the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies coalition that sends pregnant moms and dads text messages during their pregnancy and their baby's first year covering everything from prenatal care to labor and delivery tips to car seat safety tips and more. You'll receive three text messages per week and they'll give advice during your pregnancy like, "Week 24 - Call your doctor right away if you have signs of preterm labor: cramps, belly tightening, low back pain or bleeding" to advice when your baby gets older like, "Your baby is 6 months old! She should recognize faces, take turns 'talking' with you, roll both ways, sit & even try to stand & bounce with support." Additionally, for men who may not know better, you'll learn that your baby's mouth needs cleaning (even before its first tooth) with a wet washcloth, or get facts from the American Academy of Pediatrics who just announced new car seat guidelines, alerting parents to the fact their kids should now ride in rear-facing car safety seats until age 2, so they really cover a lot of material for new parents. In fact, 135,000 women have already signed up and their goal is to get this important health care information out to one million women by 2012. To sign up, all you have to do is text the word BABY to 511411 or, if you want to receive texts in Spanish, text BEBE to 511411.

Microsoft's Health Vault at HealthVault.com

Google Health at Google.com

Google and Microsoft are both offering a way for you to store your health information from many sources in one location, so that it's always organized and available to you online - something you might have heard being referenced as "the cloud." They are both free to use and require you to register for the service. Google's is called Google Health and you can find it at health.google.com and Microsoft's is accessible at www.healthvault.com. Once registered, you can upload and track your vital medical data and import information from doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. The service also tracks goals for fitness, weight and blood pressure-or even how much coffee you drink in a day. In addition, the service allows users to keep track of medication schedules, monitor medical conditions and share the data with friends, family and physicians. It's great for tracking your family's health and awesome for out of town relatives that you may have to care for and want to know their mediations, allergies, previous surgeries, etc. One extra note about Microsoft's HealthVault is that they are working with doctors, hospitals, insurance providers and medical device makers to make it easy for you to add information electronically to your HealthVault record.

The American Heart Association has a Pocket First Aid & CPR app that works across multiple devices (specifically the Android, iPhone & tablets) and gives you emergency advice with hundreds of pages of illustrations on topics ranging from CPR, choking, bites, burns, seizures, diabetic emergencies and more. There are also tons of videos included in the app that demonstrate the specific steps of what you should do in emergencies. It costs $4 and is available wherever apps are sold.

GoToAid.com is a site that calls itself "Your Online First Aid Kit." It too offers tons of information on how to deal with a variety of emergency services, but also has information specific to cat and dog medical problems/emergencies as well. The site is free, but if you want an app that gives you the same information, you can get one for your iPhone for $4.

Jitterbug phone - $100 at GreatCall.com

The Great Calls Jitterbug phone has a service that's specific to their cellular service called LiveNurse. With it, you get unlimited access to a live nurse (in English or Spanish) 24/7 right from your phone. Nurses document the topics discussed when you call and keep an updated file on those health topics. The phone is priced around $100, and depending upon the LiveNurse plan you choose (which starts at $4 a month), you can also add medication reminder calls and/or daily health tips to your service. They're also great phones for seniors as they have large keypads to make it very easy for dialing, and a loud speaker that makes it easier to hear.

iHealth- $100 at ihealth99.com

Before using an item like the iHealth, you should of course consult a medical doctor, but what it is, is an at-home blood pressure dock that connects to you iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and takes your blood pressure readings and heart rate so you can monitor it more closely. It keeps a bar graph of the info and calculates your averages over time. The dock and cuff cost $100 and the associated application is free to download. It's very easy to use and in my tests, was very easy to share the data that it collects via email.

Intel's Health Guide at CareInnovations.com

Intel's Health Guide is a product designed for people with long-term chronic conditions. It has an integrated video camera that allows healthcare professionals to arrange and conduct two-way video calls with their patients. You're able to have interactive health sessions where patients can measure their vital signs, respond to health questions, complete surveys and access education information and motivational messages. It comes with a 10-inch touch-screen that connects to the internet through a variety of ways and there are attachments that can be used to make different measurements.