The number of mobile health app downloads has exploded recently. As consumers become better educated about making healthy lifestyle decisions, and as mobile devices become more advanced and pervasive in our daily lives, it’s no surprise to see this rise in interest and use of health-related applications.
I’ve compiled a list of the best representative apps out in the market today. I’d also like to mention that I have restricted this list to only include applications that are available for both Android and iOS.
iTriage was one of the first apps that tried to be the Swiss Army Knife of mobile health apps- a one-stop shop for all your health needs- and it’s continuing to improve. Recently acquired by Aetna, the app integrates CarePass (Aetna’s platform for mobile patient data access) as well as other personal health records such as Microsoft’s HealthVault. Users can view their health record, look up medical symptoms, search for doctors, view hospital wait times, and much more. I’m putting this first on my list because I believe it offers users more of what today’s engaged patients are expecting from their medical providers: engagement and information. It’s not a perfect or complete healthcare tracking solution (yet), but in my opinion, it’s on the right path.
Long established as a popular source for medical information, WebMD’s mobile application provides health information management in an easy-to-use format. From symptom checking (complete with a “touch where it hurts” model), to drug side effects, to pill identification and first aid essentials, the app allows users to get the information they need quickly and accurately.
What better motivation to run than being chased by a horde of zombies? This app places you in an immersive audio experience and makes you feel like you’re in an episode of your favorite zombie TV show or movie. Along with gamification (building up a base as you progress through missions), the app also allows you to track progress on the web, share runs with friends, and sync your runs with RunKeeper (# 7 in this list). There is also a less expensive, 5k training version.
iTunes | Android ($3.99)
If being chased by Zombies isn’t your type of motivation to get out and run, Couch-to-5K might be of interest. Designed to get the average couch potato in shape to run a 5K in 9 weeks, the app provides a number of “personal trainers” to choose from – real human audio encouragement. Workouts are designed to take 30 minutes per day, 3 days per week, for 9 weeks.
5. I’m Expecting – Pregnancy App
I’m adding this one since it’s been on my phone for the past seven months and gets used quite often. As my wife and I get ready to welcome a new addition to our family, the I’m Expecting app has been extremely helpful in keeping us up-to-date on what to expect, what’s happening to our baby on the inside, what’s happening to my wife, and what we should keep an eye out for. My only complaints are that the app is geared towards expectant mothers, not the fathers as well. I suppose that’s to be expected given the name, but I think Dads could get a lot out of the app as well.
6. Fooducate – Healthy Food Diet
I heard about this during a recent dHealth DC Meetup through a story of parents giving their kids this app and telling them they can get any snacks in the supermarket with a B+ grade or higher. Fooducate lets you scan the barcode on food packaging and gives you easy to digest (no pun intended) nutritional information. The app also proposes healthier alternatives if you scan something that may not be too healthy for you. A gluten-free version is also available for $0.99.
7. RunKeeper – GPS Track Run Walk
RunKeeper is one of the top GPS-based run tracking apps in the markets. The interface provides rich graphs, maps, and other statistics about your running activity in a clean, simple user interface. They claim to have over 20 million users and it’s easy to see why. There are many run tracking apps out there, but few seem as polished as this.
8. Strava Cycling – GPS Riding
If cycling is more your style, Strava Cycling helps you keep track of your rides. Similar to RunKeeper, Strava presents an extremely clean, simple experience to track past bike rides, view live data during a ride, compare your stats against friends (or pros), and find new courses to ride. Strava also lets you connect heart rate monitors and track that data as well. Gamification comes in the form of competing against friends or becoming King or Queen of the Mountain. A running version is also available.
Fitbit is one of the dominant tools used by the “self quantifiers.” It’s essentially a web-enabled pedometer that tracks your movement and displays your data in lots of fancy charts. The mobile app also allows users to input food intake to help you track calorie consumption and amount burned, which should help those wanting to lose weight to do so.
This app deserves some explanation as to why I’m including it in this list. As a standalone app, it’s hard to endorse. In what seems to be the major problem with Hybrid applications, the interface isn’t as smooth as native applications should be. Android users are presented with the iOS-centric menus – complete with disclosure indicators (those “>” symbols that tell iPhone users they can click something which Android has not adopted). However, to me, this app represents the future of healthcare in America.
The iBlueButton app builds on top of the Blue Button Initiative, a nationwide movement to get patients’ health records into the hands of patients. The value of this is understood by anyone who has ever had to deal with coordinating care for themselves or their loved ones. Patients sometimes have to visit teams of doctors, specialists, labs, and pharmacies during treatment for a single issue. The job of ensuring that each doctor is aware of what the others are doing often falls on the patient. Having full, open, and easy access to your records make this job much more bearable.
This app itself allows users to download their data from Medicare, insurance providers, or providers’ patient portals. From there, patients can view medication lists, view treatment histories, and share that data with doctors or other interested parties. As the concept interoperability begins to permeate through the world of electronic medical record providers, my hope is apps like this become less necessary. For now, however, I applaud the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs for allowing veterans access to their records through BlueButton and other apps likeit .