What Can They Do for You

Over a million health and wellness apps are available in Apple and Google app stores, with more being added daily. With so many health related apps to choose from, how can you choose which ones you want to use and how they might improve your health?

First, think about what kind of app you are looking for. Overall, you can divide health-related apps into four broad categories: general health and wellness apps, apps that help manage your overall health or a particular chronic disease, telehealth apps, and of telemedicine; and the last category, digital therapeutic applications, which are approved by the FDA to be used for the treatment of specific conditions.

“Our day-to-day behaviors are at the root of most of our disease risk and associated costs,” says Daniel Kraft, MD, founder and president of Exponential Medicine, a program that explores developing technologies and their potential in medicine and in health care. . “And now we have an explosion of new tools to help measure and improve our healthy behaviors. The first Fitbit wasn’t launched until 2009, and wearable devices are now ubiquitous and can measure almost every aspect of our activity, physiology, and even mental health. “

Health and wellness apps

The wide range of health and general wellness apps available include nutrition apps like LoseIt and MyFitnessPal that help you track your eating and physical habits and lose weight, fitness apps like Strava, Fitplan and Aaptiv , sleep trackers like Sleep Cycle and mental wellness apps. like Calm, Headspace and Happify.

“As wearable devices evolve into being fairly commonly used by most people, there are many wellness apps like these that can communicate with your wearable devices,” says healthcare futurist Rafael Grossman, MD, surgeon at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, New Hampshire, which performed the first Google Glass surgery. . “And the data from these third-party apps can be seamlessly consolidated into your Apple Health Kit or Google Fit, giving you a comprehensive report on your health and activity, all in one place.”

Health management applications

These apps typically offer general health management tools like medication trackers and reminders, as well as disease-specific functions like blood sugar tracking for people with diabetes or notification of bleeding events. for people with hemophilia. Many of these apps can also be configured to share information directly with your doctor.

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If you’re looking for an app to help you manage a specific chronic condition, start by asking the doctor who is treating you for that condition. Another good source of recommendations would be with national organizations that advocate for people with your condition. For example, My MS Manager is a free mobile phone application created by the American Multiple Sclerosis Association (MSAA) that allows users to track their MS symptoms, create reports for healthcare professionals, and receive medication reminders.

If you receive care at a large hospital or medical center, they may have one or more apps that help you manage your visits, prescriptions, and electronic health record. Many health insurance companies also offer apps to patients enrolled in one of their plans that allow them to manage their health benefits with a few clicks and swipes, and even encourage healthy behavior by offering rewards. such as gift cards.

Many of these apps can also integrate with wearable technologies like Fitbit or Apple Watch, or other digital home health devices like blood pressure sleeves, smart thermometers, and smart scales. “Applications are now mixing with home diagnostic platforms,” says Kraft. “Partly due to the need for more remote health care visits during COVID, people have become more comfortable using things like connected blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters. The great value is to help you intelligently manage disease processes, especially chronic ones. “

Telehealth and telemedicine applications

Apps like Doctor on Demand, Teladoc, GoodRx Care, Talkspace, and Zocdoc can connect you directly with a doctor for a virtual appointment or help you find and book local healthcare providers for in-person visits. More and more hospitals and healthcare systems, like the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, are also including the ability to participate in virtual tours in their own apps.

“The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the use of virtual visits, and I don’t think we’ll ever return to the pre-pandemic levels of in-person healthcare visits, as patients and physicians alike discover the convenience and efficiency.” compelling, ”Kraft says. “Even before Virtual Zoom or FaceTime with clinicians, we had ever smarter chatbots that can help effectively discern symptoms and triage issues through apps like these at a lower cost.”

Digital therapy applications

In 2017, the FDA approved the first in a stream of new digital therapies for the treatment of disease, a program called reSET from Pear Therapeutics, which uses mobile assessments and interventions to treat substance use disorders. . It has been followed by over 200 others to date, including BlueStar, a personalized coaching app that has been shown to lower blood sugar in adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and Kaia Health, an app. of physiotherapy shown in clinical trials to dramatically reduce pain, anxiety, stress and depression in people with musculoskeletal pain.

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“We are now in an era where hardware and software have evolved into an ecosystem, with apps, smartphones, wearable devices, and AI algorithms,” says Grossmann. “It gives us better answers and more personalized recommendations for behavior changes that make medical sense and can produce real improvements in health.”

Kraft predicts that soon your doctor may prescribe an application rather than a new drug or other type of treatment, or in addition. “It’s a golden age for these digital solutions,” he says. “There are so many options available to help you optimize your physical and mental well-being, detect illnesses before they become significant, or manage complex illnesses ranging from pneumonia to cancer.”

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