Saturday, May 21, 2016

Can an app really save you from any disease?

The rise of eHealth

Due to the universal use of smart phones and advancement of innovative health apps, they are rapidly becoming widely used and accepted in the healthcare industry. Not only do they raise awareness to inform patients, they also enable user-monitoring and managing for personal health conditions. This, in return, allows healthcare practitioners to track their patients’ health information to detect and identify otherwise missed early signs of disease.

Preventing disease

Health promotion and prevention is an emerging area aimed at tackling many lifestyle-related chronic diseases before they become problematic. These interventions tend to be focused around diet, weight management, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption.
These factors are hugely associated with the triad that constitutes metabolic syndrome - obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Such apps have been found to both enhance user motivation and increase adherence to healthy lifestyle changes.

Alongside preventing disease, apps are now able to identify and evaluate health risks, leading to earlier diagnosis in many diseases. Based on personal information stored on a phone, apps are able to produce a calculated disease risk and notify the user. This has been found to be particularly beneficial in skin cancer, a disease by which prognosis is highly dependent on the stage of diagnosis. If a user notices an unusual marking, a simple photo can lead to early detection and potentially life-saving insight.

Monitoring and managing health status

In addition to prevention and early diagnosis, apps can be used to improve the lives people currently living with a condition. Self-monitoring and managing disease allows patients to feel empowered, increasing both health literacy and motivation to improve health status.

Apps for monitoring type 2-diabetes have received widespread attention. These often use an algorithm to combine self-reported blood glucose levels, lab results and lifestyle factors to produce a real-time personalized risk assessment. In a recent study, patients who had access to this type of app had HbA1c levels 1.15% lower than those who did not have access at 3 months.

Monitoring apps are exceptionally important for healthcare professionals once their patients are released, as it may only be feasible for a patient to attend an annual appointment. An app allows both patients and doctors to distantly convey health status information which can aid in managing many other chronic diseases.


Kim HS and Jeong HS. (2007). A nurse short message service by cellular phone in type-2 diabetic patients for six months. Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Blake H. (2008). Mobile phone technology in chronic disease management. Nursing Standard.

Farmer A et al (2004). A systematic review of telemedicine interventions to support blood glucose self-monitoring in diabetes. Diabetic Medicine.

Free C et al. (2013). The effectiveness of mobile-health technology-based health behavior change or disease management intervention. PLoS Medicine.