Free Smart Phone Healthcare Newsletter Want to receive the latest updates on smart phones, gadgets and technology for healthcare? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to Smart Phone HC for FREE!

The mHealth Move from Direct to Consumer to Employer Health

I’m starting to see a trend that’s happening over and over again in the mobile health space. Many mHealth companies focus initially on direct to consumer. They put their app on the app store and wait for the patients to come rolling in. Unfortunately, Field of Dreams was wrong when it said, “If you build it, they will come.” Mobile health companies quickly realize that marketing a mobile health app direct to consumers is a really tough business. Plus, consumers can be really fickle and so it’s hard to make money even if you do get some traction and following.

In the startup world when something like this happens, they do what they call a “pivot.” Essentially they pivot their product from one business model to a new one. Sometimes that means basically scrapping their product and starting a new one. Other times it’s applying their technology to a new space.

The pivot I’ve seen most often with mHealth companies is the pivot away from a consumer health application to an employer health application. Many employers are looking for ways to improve the health of their employees since their healthcare costs are huge and real. So, a mobile health company can make an ROI case for why the employer should buy their product. I won’t dig into the ROI of employer health here, but I should in a future post.

I had one guy I talked to recently basically say that healthcare startups should focus on the employer health space. He saw that as the real opportunity for a healthcare startup to be successful. While I certainly find the employer health space intriguing, I’m not sure it’s the best space for healthcare startup companies. A lot of it depends on the company and the DNA of the people at that company.

What I do see is a trend of mobile health companies interested in employer health. I’ll be interested to see how many of them give it a go and then pivot back to being consumer health focused companies.

May 7, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

So Many mHealth Apps…So Few Users

This tweet really caught my eye today:

While this tweet and blog post reference diabetes apps, the same could be said for any category of mHealth apps. In fact, it might be able to apply to mHealth as a whole. There are so many apps in every category and not enough users. Is this a problem?

The answer is yes, and no. Certainly, it’s a problem for all of these app developers that they don’t have users. You could make the argument that some of them don’t need that many users, but most of them need some sort of scale to really make an impact on the world and a successful business. So, this is a problem. If they don’t get scale, many of them will close up shop and move on to other things.

While this could be a troubling thing, it can also be seen as a very good thing. There is a flood of companies and people working on creating innovative mHealth applications. The more people working on the problem, the more I like our chances of finding something truly incredible. This is a very good thing.

It will be an interesting next few years as we see the wheat separated from the chaff.

January 27, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Google Gets Into Activity Tracking

Fierce Mobile Healthcare has a great article up talking about Google entering the activity tracking market with an Android app called Google Now. Turns out that Google Now is a lot more than just a fitness activity tracker. I think that Google looks at Google Now as the smart part of your phone that keeps track of what you’re doing and tries to provide real time information based upon all the data about you. It’s the next level Siri if you want to think about it that way. So, it makes sense that Google Now would also try and understand your health in the process.

While it’s interesting to see Google get back into the Health game after the failure of Google Health to get any traction, I think this is a really smart move. Plus, why isn’t the smartphone your activity tracking device? I know very few people who leave their house without their smartphone, but I know very few people who want to wear any other device all day every day.

Sure, your smartphone won’t track your activity level perfectly, but it can get pretty close. The battery won’t last as long as the other activity trackers along with other issues. However, when you look a the core technology in the fitness trackers and your smartphone, they are pretty close. I’ll reach out to some of my mHealth device friends to get their thoughts on the difference. Maybe there are a number of other issues I’m not thinking about.

We’ll see how this evolves, but the more we can make mHealth activity tracking a normal part of people’s routine, the more likely we’ll see results from it.

January 18, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Detecting Parkinson’s with a Phone Call

Smartphones can do just about anything these days.  I will not be at all surprised when they develop a smartphone to clean your house, and I will also be the first one in line to buy it.  One of the new amazing technologies that is being developed by Max Little, Ph.D. at MIT.

The Parkinson’s Voice Initiative is developing a voice based diagnostic to aid in the detection of Parkinson’s Disease.  Dr. Little is also a TEDGlobal 2012 fellow and you can find his TED Talk on the subject on this page.

You can also find a great interview with Dr. Little by the people at MedGadget on their website.

According to MedGadget at least 5% of Americans over 80 have Parkinson’s in some form.  Obviously the first step in helping these people is detection.  This new technology has a detection accuracy of 98.6 overall accuracy.  That is pretty incredible when you consider the relatively simple concept.

Like so many of these technologies, the smartphone can bring these benefits to people who never could have used them before.  A patient wouldn’t even have to visit a lab to make the recordings, they could simply call in on their phone.

Technology like this can’t help but make me wonder what other diseases we could be detecting and curing that we haven’t even thought of yet.  What diseases do you think could be aided by smartphones?

August 21, 2012 I Written By

5 Must Have Mobile Apps for Runners

There are a lot of apps out there for runners. The question is, which ones are worth downloading? I’ve gone through quite a few different map trackers and I think I have a pretty good idea of my favorite ones. However, there are also a lot of other great apps that extend beyond map trackers. So here is a round-up of apps every runner should download:

1. Instant Heart Rate: Keeping your heart rate within an appropriate range for your age, height, and weight is essential in obtaining an optimal workout. Heart rate monitors can be pricey, however, so not many people have one. Luckily, there is a heart rate monitor that is available for your phone! Instant Heart Rate, which has an almost 5-star rating from almost 81,000 reviews. The description in the Google Play Store says that its “accuracy is constantly tested by fitness coaches, nurses, doctors, EMTs, and 5 million users.” It’s very simple to use — the user just puts their finger onto their phone’s camera and the heart rate will display in a few seconds. It’s actually a pretty neat app, and I like using this a whole lot more than trying to find my own pulse. If you are looking to optimize your runs (or other workouts!), this is a great app to have on your phone.

Download for Android phones here for free

Download for the iPhone here for .99

2. MapMyRun: This app is one of my favorites, and is part of the MapMyFitness suite. It simply tracks where you run using real-time GPS. I’ve found it to be very accurate, and I love being able to see exactly where I ran and how far I ran for. It can be connected to your MapMyRun.com account, which is an awesome website in itself. I like being able to search other runners routes that are near you, because it helps me find some variety. If you like bragging about your workouts, you can post directly to Facebook how fast and how far you ran. However, if your MPH is rather embarrassing like mine, you can just leave that information out! There are a lot of GPS running trackers out there, but I’ve found this one to be the easiest to use, and the cleanest interface.  It also tracks calories burned, information on nutrition, and more. Another very popular one is RunKeeper, which boasts of having no advertising.

Download for Android phones here

Download for the iPhone here

3. Adidas miCoach: One of the hardest parts of running, at least in my opinion, is getting the motivation to do it. Quite often the thought goes through my head “Go outside in the hot, sweat a ton, and feel sore the rest of the day or stay home in my air conditioned house and catch up on my reality TV shows”, and I want to pick the latter. However, that’s not a good way to stay in shape. So, for anyone out there who needs an extra boost, the Adidas miCoach is a great app. It uses real-time voice coaching to encourage and educate you on parts of your workout, lets you select a workout plan that is ideal for your personal  goals and body type, and many other interesting features. It even has a “shoe usage” feature that sends you alerts on how worn out your shoes are getting. So if you want your own personal trainer talking you through your runs, this is a great app to have.

Download for Android here

Download for iPhone here

4. Daily Ab Workout: A person can’t be in truly great shape just by running. You have to eat right, get enough sleep, and incorporate other workouts as well. Having a strong core is essential for running, so the Daily Ab Workout app is great to use in accordance with any running regimen. It has three ab work outs that last between 5 and 10 minutes each, and the reviews rave about it. Unlike a lot of apps similar to this on smart phones, there are full-length videos included, not just pictures or written instructions. It’s add free and has different workout modes you can select from. I haven’t used this app extensively yet, but I plan to in the future. Either way, I think it’s another app anyone who is committed to getting in better shape and becoming a better runner should have.

Download for Android here for .99

Download for iPhone here for .99

5. Epic Runner: After all the training and hard work that comes with running, it’s nice to see those efforts pay off. What better way than running in a 5K, half-marathon, or even marathon. While finding a race can be done online, this app makes it easy to find races and get a running plan that is customized for that date. It shows you a map of the races you have found in your area, and also has a fitness couch incorporated. One of the neatest features, in my opinion, is Running Calculator. It basically takes your running stats from previous runs and predict race results according to that, even down to racing categories such as age and sex. This app does cost money, but seems pretty handy.

Download for Android here

Run Tracker:

Keep you well-rounded: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tinymission.dailyabworkoutpaid&feature=related_apps#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEwOSwiY29tLnRpbnltaXNzaW9uLmRhaWx5YWJ3b3Jrb3V0cGFpZCJd

July 30, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Controlling Dreams With Free Dream:On App

As I started to read David’s post about the Remee Sleep Mask last week to my husband, he mentioned that he had heard of app iPhone app that supposedly does the same thing. While it may not be as high-tech (and probably accurate in its job) as the sleep mask, there’s one alluring factor to it that makes me tempted to try it out: it is free.

The app is a “mass-participation experiment” that is trying to determine if it is indeed possible to control what you dream about. It basically does the same thing that the sleep mask does, but for a better description, Dream:On’s website provides this video that explains the premise behind how it works:

Although the music used in this is slightly strange, I think it sounds like a neat idea, if it actually works. As it mentions in the video briefly, it is a social experiemtn as well, because you can post your dreams to Facebook and Twitter, and indicate if any of your friends appeared in the dream. The app also features a “Dream Bank” where users are encouraged to write what the dream was about. I’m guessing that is to help the creators decide if the “soundscape” chosen affected the dream or not.

Another added feature is a “smart alarm” that “gently” sounds before the time you have selected, which apparently wakes the user up at “the optimum moment in order to leave you feeling refreshed and happy.” I don’t know about everyone else, but most of the time when I wake up, I’m feeling groggy, grumpy, and a little bit sick (having a 3-month-old that likes to wake up during the night tends to have that effect at times!), I wouldn’t mind trying that out.

I haven’t had a chance to actually use the app at night yet, but I did download it to my husband’s iPhone and checked it out. In order for the “dream controlling” to work, a “soundscape” must be selected. This are available for purchase, however, there are four (2 regular dream soundscapes, and 2 lucid dream soundscapes) that are included with the download. The app description also states that more free ones will be added every month, and reiterates that no purchase is necessary for the app to work — there is just less versatility available.

I was impressed with the app when I first opened it, as it gave detailed (with pictures!) instructions on how the app works. You have to go through a few steps to either allow or not allow geolocation and what not, and then the “fun” begins. A pretty neat looking screen pops up after the first page, that looks like this:

My first stop was settings, where I selected an alarm sound. You can also enable Facebook and Twitter accounts to be active for the phone at this time, as well as a snooze function. After this, I checked out the “Start Dreaming” area. Here, you are brought to a screen that looks like this:

It’s pretty self-explanatory — select a time you want to wake up, the alarm volume, alarm tone, and the soundscape. The ones included with the app are  Random, Peaceful Garden, and Into the City. At this point, I was instructed to go to sleep (which, I did not do, hence why I’m still writing this blog) and gives the following instructions:

  1. Switch your device to silent
  2. Connect your device to its charger
  3. Place your device facing down on the corner of your bed
  4. Do not lock your phone
  5. Enjoy your dreams!

The app also features a DreamStore, where you can purchase more soundscapes, and a dream diary. This is where you are supposed to be able to record your dreams, see graphs of sleep patterns, and jot down notes about dreams. The notes are used for the “Dream Catcher” experiment. When I tried to access the dream diary, it just said “you haven’t recorded any dreams yet”, and I couldn’t go any further.

On its page in the Apple app store, it says that about 50% of users see results who use it for several nights in a row and to “approach the experiment with an open mind . . . and remember controlled dreaming is not like turning on a tap, for some users it works the first night, others can take longer.”

The reviews seem a little divided. Recently, many people have been complaining that it crashes a lot. However, some say it actually works, and others have found the sleep cycle chart to be very informative and accurate. On the other side, some people claim the app has given them the most horrifying nightmares they have ever had. If that’s true, I definitely won’t be using it! Here are two opposing comments on the app; take them for what they are worth, but I feel like they are important to read before using the app:

from Raye Palmer
Warning: I downloaded this app and chose “peaceful garden.” I had the worst nightmare of my life that I can remember. I work in research and know that in order to know if the app really works there has to be some type of anti-placebo quality. Therefore, my conclusion is that the soundscape will not always play what you choose in order to rest if the soundscape is really the reason you have your dream. I checked and there really was a “horror” choice. I KNOW that’s what they played instead of the “peaceful garden”…There’s no way I dreamt that Freddy Kreuger type mess on my own! I advise you to do the same and not let other people remotely play with your brain through a phone.

from Debra King
I saw this on 20/20 the other night and decided to try it out. I am impressed. I had the best night of sleep I can remember in a long time. I awoke easily, rested with a pleasant feeling to begin my day. I can’t wait to see what tonight brings.

Either way, it’s an interesting experiment. I’ll be curious to see if anything comes from it. Dreams have always fascinated me, and it would be great to see if there is anyway to control dreams. Who knows, maybe dreams could somehow be connected to health — REM sleep is some of the best sleep a person can get, and good sleep typically means better health.The app can be downloaded for free here for the iPhone. It is not available for any other platform.

July 3, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Another Great Food Diary App To Consider

One thing I love about posting on Smart Phone Health Care is that when I’m researching for my posts, I come across pretty neat apps or ideas. Awhile back, I posted about some great food diary apps. Tonight, I want to talk about the latest one I have come across, called LoseIt! My interest was sparked after I read this article. The author said he lost 11 pounds in 6 weeks using this free app. After looking at the website and the mobile app I downloaded to my Android phone, I’m pretty impressed and going to start using it in conjunction with Couch-to-5k.

When registering, you are asked your age, gender, and how much you would like to lose a weight. You have to select between .5 and 2 pounds, and, depending on what you select, a daily calorie allotment is adjusted to your specific needs and gives a projected weight goal date. For someone who likes to see something full circle before I begin something, this is great, even though it’s not guarantee.

The process is simple enough. When logged-in, the home page is your log, and you simply just click on “Add Food” or “Add Exercise”, and assign a food to the correct meal. The food database isn’t too bad, but isn’t nearly as comprehensive as I found MyFitnessPal.com to be. The food section is fairly organized, allowing users to select from not only the database, but a selection of restaurants and supermarkets. I think that would be nice if you couldn’t remember the specific name of a food from a restaurant but could recognize it from a list.

There are quite a few different options on the website. Personal goals can be set (or adjusted). A variety of reports can be generated, such as weekly summaries, BMI, or a “MyPlate Report”. The “MyPlate Report” basically analyzes the food from your daily reports and shows you if it matches up with the recommendations from ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Users are encourage to use the app with friends, as the website claims “that users with 3 or more friends lose 3lbs more than users with no friends on Lose It!” There are also quite a few forums available for support, tips, or just chatting with fellow-users. I liked the “Teams, Contests, and Fun” forum the best, because who doesn’t like a little competition for motivation?

One of the best parts, in my opinion, about this website is the “motivators”. You can set reminders at certain times of the day to remind you to record meals if something hasn’t been recorded by a certain point. This reminds me a little bit of a smoking cessation program that has been created to help people quit smoking by sending motivational reminders throughout the day. I could see these reminders being helpful if a person knows when weak times are.

The app is easy to use but nothing too fancy. It’s simple to see how many calories are left for the day, as well as view a weekly report.

Overall, it seems like another great option for a food diary, but I think for the time being, I will stick with the MyFitnessPal platform. Fortunately, this is a free app that is available both for Android and iOS.

July 2, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

New Technology Being Designed to Better Diagnose Mental Health Problems by Observing Emotions

Sometimes, when a patient suffering from a mental illness talks with their doctor, they may say that everything is going well, even if it’s not. How does a doctor know if this information is correct or not? Without talking with a family member or close friend, it might be hard. According to mhimss.com, “the premise behind a new wave of startups and entrepreneurs looking to make an impact in healthcare” is mobile technology that will, essentially, be able to analyze emotions through a variety of factors, such as vocal, visual, and psychological cues. The hope is for this analysis of emotions will be administered a long side other vital signs.

The article at mhimss.com said that upwards of 85 percent of people who are “diagnosed with a chronic condition aren’t correctly diagnosed with depression.” And of those that are experiencing depression, less than 1/4 are getting the correct treatment for their condition. This technology that is being developed will hopefully help with this problem.

There have been several companies developing different things. One company, Cogito, is focusing on “vocal clues in phone conversations or visual signals in face-to-face meetings.” Another company, Affdex, are using webcams to read facial expressions. Other systems that will be available will involve mobile sensors that will sense physiological responses to different situations.

While these innovations will hopefully help better diagnose people and monitor their condition, it is important to remember that the technology is not a lie detector or mind reader, said Joshua Feast, CEO of Cogito:

What this technology can do is replicate the observations of an observer. You’re focusing on how people speak and interact, not what people say.

Love this idea. I could see how it could be extremely useful. I mean, if it’s mobile and can monitor someone for a long period of time, that would probably a lot more accurate in determining a person’s mental status than just visiting with them for a few minutes, as some doctors might. I couldn’t believe that so many people are mis-diagnosed and given the wrong treatments for mental illnesses. Having known many people with mental illnesses, I have observed  how people act when they have the correct treatment versus one that might not be quite right. It’s drastic. The companies that are developing these sensors and monitors could help increase the quality of life for patient’s dramatically if the technology actually works. With so many developments coming forth with medical technology, I agree with what Dr. Joseph Kvedar, the founder and director of the Center for Connected Health, said.

It’s the dawn of time for that particular technology. There’s so much sensitivity to the role that mental health plays in our healthcare.

The possibilities are endless. Feast said that he could see it being used to diagnose PTSD and mental disorders, to spotting stress in employers and preventing work-burnout before it begins. I’m very excited to see where this goes in the near future and makes me grateful that we live in a time where so many developments for the bettering of life are being made.

June 28, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

WebMD.com Goes Mobile With Well-Developed App

One of my favorite health-related websites is WebMD.com, so of course I had to download the app when it became available. While I was disappointed that the WebMD Baby app isn’t available for Android, there is a WebMD app for both Apple and Android platforms. Here is the description provided on Google Play Store:

WebMD for Android helps you with your decision-making and health improvement efforts by providing mobile access 24/7 to mobile-optimized health information and decision-support tools including WebMD’s Symptom Check, Drugs & Treatments, First Aid Information and Local Health Listings. WebMD the App also gives you access to first aid information without having to be connected wirelessly — critical if you don’t have Internet access in the time of need.

For the most part, I really like the app. It is easy to navigate and has a lot of different features. You can sign up for an account with WebMD if you don’t have one, or link an already existing account. Either way, it doesn’t take too long to get into the app.

There are five main sections to the app, which were mentioned in the description above. They can be accessed from the front page of the app, which looks like this:

When selecting the “Symptom Checker” for the first time, I was asked my age, zip code, and gender. I’m not sure if it would ask this if any of the other sections were accessed first. I’m guessing this information is asked just so results can be more customized to your demographic.

I really like the symptoms checker. A digital figure of a body (male or female, depending on what you selected originally) where you select the part of your body that is currently of concern. From there, a list of potential diagnoses come up. Unfortunately, this portion for the app rarely works for me. It says it cannot connect without an Internet connection, even though my phone is connected through the Internet and my data plan. Because of this, I can’t really vouch for the usefulness of this, but if I ever can get it to work, I think it would be kind of neat. As such, I typically select the “list” view, where a list of body parts comes up. It’s nice to be able to scroll through and see different illness and read more about them, including the symptoms. However, as I mentioned in my post about the Internet and hypochondriacs, I have spent far too much time browsing the symptoms. That’s not the apps fault though!

Under the conditions tab, there are a few options. First, My Conditions. Here, you can login to a WebMD account and save conditions you are currently diagnosed with, drugs being used, and first aid information. Then there is the top searches tab, which shows just that — the top searched conditions. And finally, there is an A-Z list of all conditions that have available information on WebMD.

Drugs and treatments has the options as My Conditions does, but there is an additional section called Pill ID. I think this is a pretty neat little feature. You can figure out what type of pill something is (like, maybe you have to take several different pills and you’ve put them into a pill box, only to forget later on which pill is which) by selecting the shape, color, or imprint. There are a lot of different shapes and colors to choose from, and the option is available to type in any letters or numbers on a pill.

The First Aid section gives detailed information on how to treat various things, from asthma attacks to heart attacks to jellyfish stings. These are, of course, only supposed to be used as guidelines, and if there is a true emergency, it says to call 911 immediately. This is a great reference guide though, even if its an emergency, because I believe that its important to try and do something while waiting for medical assistance to arrive. I like this feature a lot.

Finally there is the local health listings. Here, you can search for a physician, pharmacy, or hospital near you. You must have a name or speciality in mind when selecting either of these, but from there, it will bring up a list of names, hospitals, or pharmacies nearby with all the necessary information (phone number, address, map, etc.). Having traveled a good amount in the past few months, and in some cases needed to find a pharmacy in an unfamiliar area, this would have been really helpful to have!

Overall, its a great app. I’d even go as far as saying its a necessary one for everyone to have on their phone. I think it is unfortunate that, beyond the first aid section, an Internet connection is required, but beyond that, I don’t have any complaints!

Download here for Apple devices

Download here for Android

June 27, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Does Access to the Internet at All Times Make Us Hypochondriacs?

In one of my first posts here at Smart Phone Health Care, I talked about how my doctor told me not to look online about medical conditions. As much as I would like to say I took that advice, I’d like to keep myself an honest woman, and admit that I didn’t. I’m sure there are tons of articles out there about how the Internet has made this generation into hypochondriacs. However, sometimes I feel like the ability to access the Internet from a phone, and even have apps to check symptoms, is making that even more true.

For example: Recently, I have been experiencing some different health problems that don’t indicate any clear diagnosis (and since I’m currently out-of-state, and my insurance only really works in my home state, I can’t really go to a doctor without rocket high fees), I’ve been tempted to try and self-diagnosis myself (note: bad idea). Well, the other night, I started having some of my symptoms in the middle of the night. However, because I leave my computer down stairs at night, I couldn’t determine if it was serious or not. So, what do I do? Pull out my smart phone and type the symptoms into an app I had downloaded. Well, after a few minutes, I was convinced that I had Leukemia. There was a list of about 20 different sicknesses I could have, but, of course, my eyes shifted directly toward that one. Upon further investigation, I also decided that I had anemia, gall stones, an ulcer, and a few other things.

Do I have any of these things? No, I’m pretty sure I don’t. However, in my pain-induced panic, with my phone an arm length away, I thought I did. Had I not had access to my symptom identifier app (the free Web MD app — I’ll have to do a review on it later. It’s pretty handy) so quickly, and just waited until the morning to investigate, I probably would have had a more restful night and not jumped to such big conclusions. Even if this happened in the middle of the day, most of the time I’m not right next to my laptop and when I am, I have probably forgotten about it. However, having my phone nearby almost 24/7, I can look up things easily, and fast (most of the time, too fast).

On the flip side of things, the other day my husband mentioned that he thought it was pretty cool how we can get almost immediate feedback on certain topics. I got a painful spider bite while we were walking into the county health building, and, since the pain didn’t subside for about an hour, we decided to see what normal side effects to spider bites were. Since we were out and about, it was nice to be able to quickly look this information up on one of our smart phones and find out what was normal, and what should be watched for.

So having this quick access can be a good thing, because information can be accessed quickly, but also has the definite potential to create worry where worry is unnecessary. I guess it all comes down to knowing limits, and not taking the results from an app or internet search as a diagnosis. No matter how advanced mHealth gets, I don’t think anything can ever replace getting actual results from an actual doctor. I’m just grateful that self-diagnosing through mobile apps or the Internet isn’t always super accurate (especially when I’m the one doing the diagnosing!)

Just something I’ve been thinking about lately. What do you think? Have you looked up symptoms more often since  having a smart phone?

June 21, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.