Smartphones are getting smarter about your health.  According to an article in the Washington Post, besides sending text messages to friends, updating your latest exploits on Facebook or passing the time with a quick game of Jewel Quest, most people now have access to healthcare advice and information — right in the palm of their hands:

“There is incredible potential for using cellphones and mobile apps to engage people about their health and wellness in a new way — to help them take better care of themselves and especially to manage chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure — because of the immediacy and the interactive nature of the technology, and the fact that it is now so widespread,” says Susannah Fox, lead health researcher for the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “In a snap, clinicians can use cellphones to communicate with far-flung patients. In an instant, medical information can be relayed out to the field and forwarded to the people who need it. And just as quickly, those people can text back with questions or on-the-ground reports.”

Smartphones Put Health in the Palm of Your Hand

 

With the explosion of apps of every kind, their are many health related choices available for download to mobile devices.  But not all are equal. In the article, Clinical psychologist Lee Ritterband, Director of the Behavioral Health and Technology program at the University of Virginia says,

“The problem is that there are very few apps that have real, solid empirical evidence behind them, or any scientific backing to what they are or what they say they do.”

Even with these problems, according to the article still there is reason to believe that the use of mobile apps and other mobile technology will aid in increasing awareness of healthcare issues and may even contribute to better health overall for those who use them.  Furthermore, the article suggests that though picking the best apps may be tricky, the following list of standout health apps, provided by Brian Dolan of MobiHealthNews, is a great place to start.  And the best part? Most of these apps are free and available for iPhone (with many available for Android and other mobile platforms):

iTriage (free)Helps you evaluate any troubling symptoms and then suggests the best, nearest health-care facilities; gives you the wait times at some emergency rooms.

GoodRx (free). Can compare prescription drug prices at virtually every pharmacy in the United States. Also provides coupons and cost-saving tips.

ZocDoc (free). Makes it easier to find nearby doctors who accept your insurance plan and to book appointments, even at the last minute.

RunKeeper (free). Tracks your pace, distance, time and heart rate during runs and other fitness activities, and lets you share the information with friends.

LoseIt! (free). Helps motivate dieters by allowing them to set and log their daily caloric intake by doing such things as scanning the bar codes of foods they eat.

Withings WiFi Scale ($159 for the scale; the app is free). Monitors your weight, BMI, body fat percentage and other health data when used with the associated wireless scale.

iBGStar Diabetes Manager ($75 for the meter; the app is free). Track your blood glucose levels and insulin usage and share information and trends with your health-care team with this app and its iPhone-enabled glucose meter.

iHealth Blood Pressure Dock ($99.95 for the cuff; the app is free). An iPhone-enabled blood pressure cuff measures your systolic and diastolic pressure, heart rate and other vital signs with this app, which generates interactive graphs and tracks your numbers.

Beam Brush (just received FDA clearance; will cost $50) . A Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush and app tracks how often and how long you brush your teeth, serves as a timer so you can do 30 seconds in each quadrant of your mouth and even lets you
program your favorite song to brush to.

Zeo Mobile (headband is $149; the app is free). A sensor-embedded headband monitors your sleep patterns, including time in REM and deep sleep, and the app offers advice on how to become a better snoozer.

About UMHS:

Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individualized student attention, small class sizes and recruiting high quality faculty. For these reasons, UMHS is quickly becoming the school of choice among Caribbean medical schools.

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