Eight New Health Technologies That May Change Your Life
Most of us are familiar with the onslaught of diet tracking and fitness mobile apps, but the fields of mobile health (mhealth) and health information technology (HIT) are so much bigger than that. Here are 8 new health-related technologies that I highly recommend you check out for yourself or someone you love. They really could change your life.
1. Create Your Own Medical Record. Let’s be honest, our health care system sucks. There I said it. We rank 37th in the world, right behind Costa Rica. Here’s an example. Imagine you get in a car accident while out of town. Did you know your medical records are inaccessible at the hospital you end up at? Why? Because medical centers across a city, state or the entire country are in no way connected, making records not easily or quickly accessible across systems. MS Health Vault allows you to centralize you and your family’s health records and medical information in one spot, accessible immediately ANYWHERE, ANY TIME. If you get hit by a poison dart in Zambia, you can use it to find a local doctor and give him/her access your entire medical record. Traveling somewhere with no wireless or computers? Print out your entire or partial record and bring it with you. MS Health Vault is also compatible with an array of health devices that allow you to track your blood pressure, blood glucose, ECG, heart rate, peak flow, weight, pulse oximeter, etc, and quickly upload this info to your health record. You can give your doctor access too, so that he/she can see how you are doing on these indices.
2. The Doctor Is In 24/7. Ever have a question for a doctor but not want the hassle of actually calling yours, playing phone tag, and then feeling silly because it turned out to be nothing? Check out Healthtap, a website that has 6,000 licensed physicians available to answer any health question, even the silly ones. Physicians are incentivized by building “clout” and a possible patient base when they respond to users questions. The website is fairly new on the scene and so expect growth in the number of physicians participating.
3. Connect to Patients Like You. A medical or psychological diagnosis can be depressing, traumatizing, but also really lonely. The website PatientsLikeMe.com allows people to connect to one another based on a shared diagnosis or set of symptoms. Whether you have diabetes, depression, cancer, or even a rare disease, connect with tons of people who are going through exactly what you are going through. Friends and family are great, but it can be hard even for them to understand what it is like to have your diagnosis. Connecting with others who have your same diagnosis can provide information, support, and a sense of kinship.
4. Baby Got Text. Are you pregnant or planning a pregnancy soon? Enroll in Text4Baby and receive regular text messages that deliver evidence-based health information and advice to you on a regular basis throughout your pregnancy for free. All you need is a phone.
5. Diabetes Gone Mobile? If you or a loved one has type 2 diabetes, Bant is a MUST HAVE mobile application. Bant allows you to capture your blood glucose readings in a single swipe, track your diet, store your info in MS Health Vault (above), analyze weekly/monthly trends in your blood glucose, connect with the diabetes community, and customize alerts to remind you to check your glucose, eat, etc. If you have a relative who needs help controlling their diabetes but they aren’t tech savvy, you could save their life by setting them up on this mobile app.
6. Get Paid to Lose Weight? Health Rally is an up and coming website (still in Beta version) which uses crowd-sourced financing for your fitness and weight loss motivation. What the hell is that you ask? Crowd-sourced financing is where anyone, including friends, family, or strangers donate money to accomplish a task. On Health Rally, you post your health goals and then open up the bidding. People can donate money to motivate you to accomplish your goal. You and your donors then watch your progress. If you have a lot of weight to lose, create your own Biggest Loser show without the narcissistic trainers and back stage staff yelling at you. The one thing to keep in mind is long-term success. Once the weight is lost and money is paid, can you keep it off? Will you pay them back if you gain it back?
7. Food Police – Ever feel like it is impossible to tell what is junk food and what is not these days? That clever food industry likes to keep us guessing! Download the Fooducate mobile application and you have become an official food police officer. Bring your weapon to the grocery store and scan any products bar code to instantly get a letter grade for the healthfulness of the product, calories per serving, average customer rating, and suggestions for healthier options. For extra fun, get a gun holster for your phone, scan foods using a shooting gun stance, and occasionally yell, “freeze!” in the grocery aisle.
8. What Do Your Genes Know That You Don’t? 23 and Me is a website in which you order a kit, spit into a tube, send it back, and receive a reading of your genome 6-8 weeks later. Why on earth would you want to do this? You will learn your risk for various diseases as well as drug response information (based on genetic variants). While that may sound scary, keep in mind that the main causes of death today are to a great extent preventable. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, and diabetes are in part genetic but also related to our lifestyles. By knowing your genetic risk, you and your doctor can start mapping out a lifestyle that will help you reduce your risk for the diseases you are at highest risk for. The purpose of this is not novelty, but rather to inform your health care for the rest of your life. If you aren’t convinced, I encourage you to check out the stories of real people who used this information to change and in some cases, save their lives.
If you try or are using any of these new technologies, let me know how it’s going! If you have others that have changed your life, let me know about those too. I would love to hear from you!
By Dr. Sherry Pagoto, a licensed clinical psychologist and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Pagoto blogs at FU Diet