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Health apps ready to collect your vital signs, wellness data

J. D. Sartain | July 16, 2014
Shifting healthcare policies, new treatment options, aging demographics and soaring inflation all drive an innovation in healthcare that's focused on improving consumers' health and lowering the cost to manage chronic conditions, says Julie Ask, Forrester vice president and principal analyst.

Shifting healthcare policies, new treatment options, aging demographics and soaring inflation all drive an innovation in healthcare that's focused on improving consumers' health and lowering the cost to manage chronic conditions, says Julie Ask, Forrester vice president and principal analyst.

Healthcare providers and consumers are particularly invested in these new mobile technologies, which change the traditional clinical environment by connecting patients with their healthcare providers in a more personal and effective way. Mobile phones play a central role, Ask says, as do wristbands to smart patches.

"Firms are using mobile technologies to collect new kinds of data about consumers, crunch it in the cloud, and then employ a mix of engagement tactics on mobile devices to spur consumers into action and create mobile moments," she says.

Health Apps Following in Footsteps of Fitness Trackers

Wearable devices such as FitBit, Jawbone and Samsung Gear Fit came to market first. Now, emerging mobile applications most of which synch with the most popular wearable devices and smartphone aim to make it easier and more convenient to manage healthcare. Recent app releases from Samsung, WebMD, Apple and Google are all worth a look.

Samsung S Health, an integrated platform preloaded on the Galaxy S5 smartphone, enables nutrition, fitness and wellness tracking, says Samsung's Carrie Gaffney. Using the phone's built-in heart rate monitor and a sensor under the rear-facing camera, for example, you can track your heart rate before and after exercise.

Other S Health features include a walking mate for counting steps, a food tracker for counting calories and an exercise mate for walking, running, cycling and hiking. S Heath app syncs with Gear Fit and other fitness gadgets.

WebMD Healthy Target, originally designed for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypoglycemia or obesity, has become increasingly popular for anyone who wants to manage their weight and blood sugar, track physical activity or just sleep and feel better. Users can set personal goals (to easy, medium or hard levels), adjust as needed and track progress.

David Ziegler, WebMD's director of mobile product management, says the site "sees an opportunity to help consumers store, access and manage their health information in a secure environment." The program then displays relevant physician-approved content and offers "actionable insights," he says. "This gives users a deeper understanding of their progress and, ultimately, helps them attain their goals of living a healthier life."

In addition to Symptom Checker and First Aid Essentials, the iPhone app offers a daily lifestyle magazine of healthy living tips and recipes feedback on a user's activity log, and a weekly progress report. It can also find doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies based on a user's location. Finally, Healthy Target syncs with a number of wearable devices, including Fitbit and Jawbone, as well as glucometers and wireless scales.

 

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