Knowledge is power, and when it comes to your health, you literally hold the power in your hands. Personal devices, together with mobile health apps, provide insights into your health to help you make better, healthier choices and alert you to when something may be wrong. They enable you to partner with your medical practitioner by providing information that you can use to take action yourself rather than being dependent on a doctor’s visit to give you direction.
The ability to be in control of your health has never been as important as it is now, in the midst of a global pandemic. And thanks to mobile health apps and wearable technologies, it’s also never been easier. Move over, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, because today’s hottest power couple is your health data and your devices.
Learn more about how mobile health apps and health technology can help you take control of your health and wellness during uncertain times and beyond.
What Is Health Technology?
Health technology covers a number of areas. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines health technology as the “application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures, and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives.”
Technology has been embraced by almost everyone from large health organizations to communities and individuals alike – and it is changing the way health and wellness functions in modern society. From a macro level, for example, the recent announcement about the development of a COVID-19 vaccine (by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer) shows how the use of technology can fast-track important medical advancements that can change the course of history.
Health technology also refers to the systems and devices used to connect medical care with people, encompassing everything from online medical records to virtual appointments. At a consumer level, health technology means the devices people use to track their health and wellness can provide their doctors with better, more complete diagnoses by taking a holistic look at patterns. It combines physical and mental wellness, both highly relevant while the population struggles with sheltering in place during the pandemic.
What Are Mobile Health Apps?
Mobile health apps are software programs that offer health-related services for mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers. Sports and fitness activity tracking, pregnancy, weight loss coaching, and chronic illness and diabetes management are among the most popular types of mobile health apps, according to Business Insider. Most offer video-guided experiences that increase user adoption and participation.
In today’s environment, where physical distancing is necessary to preserve your health, as well as that of your loved ones and community members, mobile health apps are vitally important. Patients who need to see a doctor, but not necessarily in person, can do so safely through virtual appointments. Mobile health apps are also helping individuals to monitor their own health and identify risk so that they are better informed and don’t need to make unnecessary appointments that take away medical care from others in greater need.
What Are Wearables?
Wearables are devices or gadgets that are worn, usually on the wrist, to track and provide information about your health. The gadgets have sensors that, when synced with an app on another device, can monitor certain details such as your heart rate at any given time, level of activity, number of daily steps taken, sleep patterns (if worn while sleeping), and much more.
Wearables really hit the mainstream when Fitbit gained momentum in the mid-2010s. Since then, there has been no stopping the popularity of wearables and the benefits that they provide to both the individual consumer and their health practitioners.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Mobile Health Apps
According to a recent Forbes article, the most popular health apps are for both physical and mental health – with the meditation app Calm topping the list. Mobile health apps and wearables are especially valuable for those already at risk, as they monitor symptoms and help maintain preventative health measures. They put the onus of wellness in the hands of the patient rather than making him or her a passive participant of the health care system.
In that vein, mobile health apps and technology intrinsically motivate people to make healthier choices. The interactivity keeps you engaged: When your smartwatch tells you it’s time to get up and move around or go get a glass of water you do it because you want to feel good about your health data when you look at it at the end of each day, week, or month.
Being proactive, rather than reactive, about your health gives you the power to prevent ailments from ever taking root in the first place. Illnesses are also usually caught sooner, meaning shorter, more effective treatment and a much better prognosis.
As with all technology, there exist some things that may be considered drawbacks. The first is inconsistency in the quality of different mobile health apps. In response to voracious consumer demand, mobile health applications are prolific, creating a wide range of quality. Further, due to the rapid rate of mobile health app development, scientific, evidence-based methods to evaluate the effectiveness of the apps have not been able to keep up. Most apps do provide user reviews which help to discern the good from the bad but must be taken with a grain of salt as these reviews are inherently subjective.
Another disadvantage is that mobile health apps can be distracting. They can take you away from the enjoyment of the activity and shift your focus instead on the in-app reward. It create a sort of dependence on technology rather than endorphins. However, arguably the benefits of a healthy lifestyle far outweigh the detractions.
Never before has there been a time when individuals had such an ability to be in control of their health. With mobile health apps and devices, we can choose to be proactive about our overall wellness. We may be facing uncertain times, but we know for certain that being actively engaged in our own health and wellness is the best choice for ourselves and those around us.
Do you have a success story about using mobile health apps on your personal devices? Tell us in the comments below.