Every Wednesday, I lunch with eight suburban women who range in age from 55 to 82. We've been getting together for about 20 years. We talk about the usual topics -families, books, and our travels -yet now as we're aging, the subject of health seems to creep into every conversation.
It's an open forum of sorts because we all know we can ask each other anything and someone amongst us will provide advice or direct us to a reference. During the past year, since I started writing this blog, I've asked my lunch companions and fellow smartphone users to spend the last 15 minutes of our gathering discussing mobile apps with me.
I ask them about their latest downloads and their new favorite apps. What started out simply as an ad hoc focus group has now turned into a great exchange. All of the women use computers, while six have smartphones and five are regular app users. In fact, a couple of the women have requested smartphones and/or tablets for holiday gifts so that they can join the fun.
A month ago, Julie, a 70-year-old retired nurse and mother of six children (now adults) asked me, "How do you find health and wellness apps? And what about the apps for medical conditions - how do you know those are any good?"
We all agreed that navigating the maze of health, wellness, and medical apps in the iTunes, Android and Blackberry stores can be daunting at times. Since there are hundreds of thousands of apps available, it's hard to know where to start. Sure, you can search for specific categories, but then you're still faced with literally hundreds of choices.
I did some research and came across a website called Happtique that conveniently has an app store focused on healthcare and medical apps.
What makes Happtique different from the Apple, Android or Blackberry app stores is how they are categorized.
- Apps are categorized first by "Apps for Professionals by Topic," "Apps by (Medical) Profession," and by "Apps for Consumers & Patients"
- Under "Apps for Consumers & Patients" the app categories include: Addictions, Alternative Care, Asthma, Cancer, Cosmetic Surgery, Dental Health, Digestive Health, Diabetes, Eyes and Vision, Medications, Men's Health, Mental Health, Rehab, Senior Health, Sex, Weight Management and FDA approved apps.
- A few categories have subcategories. For example, Addictions is broken down into Alcohol Abuse, Drug Abuse, Gambling, Eating Disorders and Smoking Cessation.
- There are a total of 330 categories.
These health, wellness and medical apps are taking center stage as America begins to adopt phases of the Affordable Health Care Act. Recently I attended a Mobile Health Care Summit in Washington, D.C., where the conversation focused on how doctors and hospitals need to involve patients more in managing their own health care. Mobile apps are one example of how patients can be more engaged.
We're certain to see more doctors asking us to use mobile devices and email them our data. And patients who want to advocate for remote health care are encouraged to start the conversation with their physicians.
I talked with Dr. David Lee Scher, a former cardiac electrophysiologist and chief medical adviser to Happtique. Dr. Scher also serves as Chair of Happtique's App Certification Program Blue Ribbon panel, which established standards and procedures for the certifying of health and fitness apps.
He offered me his personal list of favorite apps that can help people with chronic disease manage their health care. This group of apps is available for both Android and Apple smartphones. Since I don't suffer from any of these chronic diseases, I relied on Dr. Scher for his medical opinion. However, I did review the apps for navigability, and agree that these belong on a preferred list.
For Diabetes management, check out the Glucose Buddy Pro app. It contains a diabetes log book along with blood pressure and weight trackers. The data has the capability to be shared with physicians remotely.
For simple cardiac management, Dr. Scher recommends the iBP Blood Pressure app. This app can retrieve your blood pressure and weight from monitoring devices, and email it to your doctor.
At the Mobile Health Care Summit, I saw a demonstration of Asthmapolis, another favorite of Dr. Scher. This app, for asthma and COPD patients, has an inhaler sensor that is attached to a standard metered-dose inhaler to track the time and location that the inhaler is used. Patients can track their progress through the app online or on their phone, and receive personalized guidance and medication reminders.
In addition to medical apps, Happtique has dozens of addiction fighting apps, such as QuitNow, for kicking the cigarette habit and a 12 Step Alcohol Anonymous Companion.
Users can also find some personal nutrition and weight loss app, such as Fooducate, that provides healthy choices while shopping at the grocery store, and LoseIt, the wonderful exercise and weight loss app.
In a few months Happtique plans to unveil its App Certification Program for medical, health and fitness apps.
Each app will be certified based on operability, privacy, security and content. The apps will first be reviewed for technical standards (by technologists) and then for content standards according to Tammy Lewis, Happtique's Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer. Content reviewers will range from physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners.
"All of the apps that meet Happtique's certification's standards will receive a recognizable "seal," similar to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," Lewis said.
Since one in ten Americans suffer from a chronic disease, having a one-stop medical and wellness app store is a welcomed addition to patient health management. Several of the women from my Wednesday lunch group, including two retired librarians, have visited Happtique and reported back that they really liked the app cataloging. It may not be the Dewey Decimal System -but close.
Happtique is definitely worth checking out!