How smartphone apps can improve your health and wellness
There is no doubt smartphones have changed the flow of communication. But the question is, how are hand held devices allowing us to be proactive and educated about our own health?
Not only are consumers being spoilt for choice by the surplus of apps available, the healthcare industry, professionals, researchers and medical students are actively tuning into the app phenomenon, turning some Gen-Y digital natives into wealthy entrepreneurs overnight.
In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that the iTunes iPhone App Store had more than 350,000 health apps. Android, Blackberry, Windows and other smartphone apps accounted for tens of thousands more. According to Forbes Magazine, by 2017 over half of the 3.4 billion smartphone or tablet users worldwide will be mobile health apps.
In 2009, the FDA released the Health App Guide, which pinpointed the variety and availability of apps and helped recognise high quality medical, general health and wellness applications. Our hand held devices increasingly enable us to live ‘multi-tasked’ lifestyles.
When compared to our Dr. Google blog post, where misdiagnosis is considered a major pitfall of going online to obtain health information, mobile apps have the potential to solve health problems and provide personalised advice and online community support. They have the ability to significantly improve the overall effectiveness of the healthcare industry.
In the US, the FDA stated they have a public health responsibility to oversee the safety and effectiveness of smartphone apps that could present risks to patients. It raises the question of balancing patient safety with innovation, how governments can work together with manufacturers and developers for a clear and predictable outline of expectations.
Physicians, patients and allied healthcare providers
Medical professionals use apps to improve and facilitate patient care. Patients increasingly prefer apps to websites, as apps present content that is easy to navigate.
WellDoc, created by BlueStar, is a US app designed for people living with diabetes, and interestingly is recommended by GPs. It has three core components: patient coach, decision support tools and expert systems.
Healthcare professionals value the new trend. They invest in apps to strengthen their continuing medical education (CME), improve medical literature language translation as well as patient education.
Health, wellness and fitness apps
The Sydney Morning Herald reported fitness hashtags generate more than 19 million posts. Health and wellness mobile apps allow us to personalise advice and track personal statistics on a daily basis. Forbes.com refers to the health app movement as the ‘quantified self-movement’ that can result in behavioural changes and healthier lifestyle options.
Apps range from monitoring calorie intake to acting as databases for food and fitness, to tracking systems. Body and Soul Australia outlined the top 50 health apps in a recent online article.
In Australia the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association (AHHA) has outlined the ‘lifesaving’ benefits of the Emergency ID App. It displays urgent medical information including allergies, emergency contact details, emergency services and healthcare professionals. It allows users to input current medical conditions and reactions, their history of medical procedures, doctor’s details, where records are kept, insurance, medications and their dosages.
There is no doubt that such innovations in technology are highly beneficial. However the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom suggests UK smartphone ownership alienates the elderly and less technologically advanced. The NHS, similarly to the FDA health guide app, has implemented a health app library.
As people become increasingly digitally savvy, governments and medical organisations need to invest in finite resources to expand technological knowledge to ensure those who are disproportionally misrepresented become part of the dialogue.
Which apps do you use to enhance your health and wellness?