It’s 2018, so there’s an app for everything. Personal health management is no exception. In fact, the number of devices, applications, and data resources for managing your health grows every day. This is good news. As Rasu B. Shrestha, chief innovation officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and an expert in health information technology told the Wall Street Journal, “Patients who are more informed, who have data at their fingertips, are more invested in their health and wellness.” Digital health tools provide a wide range of benefits. Here are a few to keep in mind if you are looking to be more deliberate about your health this year.
Digital Health Records
These days, it is likely that your primary provider has a patient portal where you can access your health record, make appointments, keep track of medications, and see what immunizations are due. But what if you have multiple providers with different systems? There are a number of applications that assemble health data from different providers onto a secure server that you can access online. HealthVault is one such solution from Microsoft and it even pulls in data from other sources like your fitness tracker. Another solution, iBlueButton, is designed to aggregate your health data from Medicare, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and your insurance provider into an app for Apple or Android mobile device.
Personal Activity/Fitness Tracker
Personal activity or fitness trackers, include devices and applications that can track your fitness level and how many calories you’ve burned, are a great way to improve overall wellbeing. Fitbit, a device worn on the wrist is the most popular example, but there are lots of options on the market depending on your budget and style. Some of these apps even allow you to team up with others by creating communities of support and encouragement. Another type of fitness tracker is a “smart scale.” It connects with an app and tracks your weight, muscle mass, bone mass, and fat percentage. You can see your results improve over time as you increase your activity level.
According to a review in the Annals of Internal Medicine, studies have consistently shown that 20 to 30 percent of medication prescriptions are never filled and that approximately 50 percent of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed. This results in approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10% of hospitalizations and costs the healthcare system between $100 billion and $289 billion every year. To help address this problem several apps that remind you to take medications and track prescriptions, dosages, side effects and more. Examples are Pill Monitor, Pill Alert, and Medisafe. These apps make it easy to share accurate information about your medication-taking habits with your doctor.
One reason that people often neglect follow-up visits or medication checks is that getting into the doctor’s office can be a pain. You must miss work or make child care arrangements, waiting rooms are often crowded, and who wants to waste time in traffic? The solution is telemedicine. For many visits like follow-ups, test results reviews, and med checks, a video visit is a perfectly safe and wonderfully convenient option. It is also a great solution for connecting with a specialist who might not be located nearby.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Beyond fitness tracking, smart wellness devices can be loaded up with apps that track other health indicators such as your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation, and blood glucose levels. All of this information can be shared with your provider in real-time. This is especially important for people who have chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiac conditions, or asthma, and for people who have recently been released from the hospital.
Healthy Eating Apps
Whether you are trying to lose weight or just make smart eating decisions, there are a number of apps available to help you track calories and keep a food diary. There are also apps that help diners understand the calorie and fat contents of restaurant meals. One app called Food Intolerances is designed specifically for people with allergies and food sensitivities. It will tell you whether a certain food is likely to cause a problem. There’s also an app for tracking your water intake, an important part of healthy living. This article from Kaiser Permanente lists their top 10 healthy eating apps.
If you’ve decided that 2018 is the year you are going to proactively manage your health and get your body in it’s best shape, you are in luck! There are many tools and technologies out there to help you achieve each one of your wellness goals.