How Apps Are Changing How We Get Healthy
While your smartphone can’t make us eat healthier, exercise more or diagnose a lingering cough, various apps designed for the smartphone are helping us monitor, manage and possibly improve our health in a myriad of ways.
Whether a simple lifestyle app for exercise or food diary app, or a more specific app, such as a blood sugar monitor, the types of apps that are available to us are ever-growing to address a number of wellness issues.
What types of health issues do apps address?
The first mobile health applications were primarily focused on lifestyle issues, including diet, exercise and sleep quality. Health apps first gained traction when people were able to start tracking diet, exercise routines and routes or support in quitting certain habits, or achieving certain fitness goals.
Nearly 40-percent of people who use these smartphone health apps use them to pursue a particular health or fitness goal, like dropping a few pounds or training for a marathon.
However, as the medical profession started making inroads into the app world and more people started to acquire smartphones, the health applications grew into an extension of medical practices. Now apps are used to track and enable prescription refills, check blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar—all of which can be emailed back to an individual’s designated physician.
Successful in tracking lifestyle goals, medical professionals want to use the same premise to address chronic ailments, such as heart disease.
How are these apps changing how we manage with our health?
— Increased personal responsibility that is easier to manage: The apps give the patient an opportunity to take more responsibility and have more hands-on engagement with their personal health situation. Even with a doctor’s instructions in hand, it’s up to us to monitor our health.
Apps give us the opportunity be more cognizant of changes and increases our awareness of how can change the outcome of our treatment. They also make the process of managing our health easier by providing handy tools at our disposal.
— Easier access to data: We can now easily access our data and help with routine prescription refills. Because the doctor’s staff no longer needs to search for each file, a significant amount of time can be saved at the office. Additionally, having our health data easily accessible can help save our lives in an emergency when every second counts.
— Daily or weekly metrics means a better overall snapshot of health status: Rather than the occasional, infrequent blood pressure or blood sugar evaluations in the office, we can now keep an on-going record of measurements under normal circumstances and not heightened stress (as a visit to the doctor’s office can induce).
We will also not have to rely on memory, handwritten notes or forms of clumsy record-keeping when presenting our tracking to the doctor; apps are able to email those records to your doctor.
What are some of the concerns about using apps as a wellness tool?
— Security of data. With so much personal, private information available at the tips of our fingers, it is imperative that our health records and tracking is protected. Safeguarding user data is a major concern when it comes to using healthcare apps.
— Efficacy. Some research has suggested that the various lifestyle health apps haven’t been useful achieving a goal. Additionally, two thirds of the people who start using a lifestyle app tend to abandon the project after six months (or earlier), suggesting that the apps can only elicit a behavioral change for short periods of time, and therefore are not very useful in long term health goals.
— Lack of regulation. There are more than 40,000 health apps that exist across multiple platforms, and that number grows every day. Unlike the other heavily-regulated aspects of healthcare, there are no stringent requirements, nor rules and regulations governing the healthcare app market. Potentially incorrect, faulty or dangerous apps could appear in the marketplace if there are medical guidelines or checks in place.
— Improper use of apps. Ultimately, these apps are tools for the patient. If the patient is unable or unwilling to comply with the apps, or uses them incorrectly, the app can do more harm than good. Additionally, the app can give the patient a false sense of security, therefore, failing to follow up with their medical practitioner.Paleolithic Slow Cooker Recipes: The Ultimate Cookbook for Delicious, Natural, Healthy, and Easy Gluten-Free Recipes (Quick and Easy Series)
Healthcare apps are not at the point where they can supplant a visit to the doctor’s office; yet 59-percent of mobile health app users have said that the technology has replaced some visits to the doctor.
Whether we use the latest health apps to monitor our heart rate, help train for a race, monitor our daily supplement and vitamin intake or lose weight, health care apps make us more attuned to and responsible for our own health. The future of these health care apps suggests improved overall health and management, as long as the apps are used correctly.
Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer from Los Angeles who loves using a variety of apps to keep her health in check in between visits to the doctor. Her writing covers everything from personal health and fitness, to dining and travel, to business and marketing.