New York, NY: How many apps do you have on your phone that are healthcare related? I personally have a steps tracker, nutrition tracker, an app for my health insurance, another to make doctor appointments, one for working out and the list goes on… I also have Apple's Health app, which came pre-loaded on my phone and tracks things like activity, mindfulness, sleep and reproductive health -- just to name a few. So, what are the benefits and potential risks associated with living in a world of mobile, digital health?
A July 6 segment on ABC’s Good Morning America zeroed in on how apps are revolutionizing the way people approach healthcare. Whether you’re using apps for wellness and creating better health habits or to manage a serious condition, there’s probably an app for that. Beyond the standard fitness, diet and activity trackers, ABC reported that there are hundreds of apps intended to help patients with chronic diseases and disabilities manage their conditions. Apps covered in the segment included technology that reminds you to take medications and measures heart rate through the touch of a finger. They covered apps that connect people with a condition to others with the same condition, addressing the psychological aspect of living with illness. Interestingly, they also shed light on clinical trial participants, who are using apps to record data and connect to other trial participants.
With all of these tools available at our fingertips, are apps the answer to ultimately better health outcomes?
The experts GMA spoke with appear to believe that apps at least point to better outcomes – as long as patients are engaged – because feeding data into an app, or setting a series of reminders, does require some level of habitual behavior change; and also pending that digital methods don't come at the cost of a lowered standard of care. People are busy, and as my colleague Kathleen Starr, PhD, Managing Director of inVentiv Health Behavioral Insights has noted, life is messy. One on end, people need to form the habit of regularly using health apps. On the other, they still need to make time to get to the doctor… You get out of it what you put in.
There is still work to be done to bring digital health full circle. Dr. Leslie Saxon of the USC Keck School of Medicine, who was named “Most Tech Friendly Doc” by Rock Health, is working in lockstep with the FDA to drive digital health to its full potential, while ensuring quality care remains a top priority. Health apps can support the patient doctor relationship, the mental state and, indirectly, the physiological condition. The open pathway to health information created by mobile health forms a pillar that helps strengthen and improve our human experiences with healthcare, which still remain number one.
Watch the Good Morning America segment here.