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SEA Currents

Newsletter of the NN/LM Southeastern/Atlantic Region

SEA Tech: Consumer Health Apps of Interest

Consumer Health Apps of Interest

by Terri Ottosen

Throughout the year, as Consumer Health Coordinator, I gather information from a variety of resources to keep abreast of interesting happenings in the field of consumer health. In this gathering of information, I’ve found one of the most interesting aspects of consumer health is the explosion of health apps for health-conscious consumers.

According to the Health Care Blog, there are about 9000 consumer health apps in the iTunes store that offer an astonishing array of creative tools that help consumers take control of their health and health care. These include apps that calculate calories burned during exercise, create soundtracks to help people fall asleep, and display pictures that can elicit memories from Alzheimer’s patients. If the store doesn’t offer something for what ails you now, it probably will soon. The selections will proliferate within the next year, with an additional 4,000 consumer apps expected by next summer, industry experts say.[1]

The blog post also points to the problems this can create, as consumers have trouble finding what is available and evaluating information for scientific validity. The government is starting to regulate these apps and recently the Federal Trade Commission brought its first cases against the makers of two health apps who claimed to cure acne with colored lights emitted from cell phones.[2]

Just as health sciences librarians help consumers and health professionals to evaluate health websites, we can assist in the evaluation of health apps. To that end, here are five selected apps that are potentially of value to the health consumer:

  1. iTriage
    Users can evaluate symptoms, learn about possible causes, find appropriate medical facilities, and get quality reports and information to make better, more informed health care decisions.
  2. Vitals.com
    This app provides federal, state, provider-supplied, patient-supplied and private data to help web users make intelligent decisions about finding the health care provider that is right for them. Vitals gathers the data, normalizes it, benchmarks it, applies quality metrics and presents it to web users as an aid in deciding which health provider to choose.
  3. Asthmapolis
    (in design process and not yet available)This app helps asthma suffers to track symptoms, triggers, and use of medications to learn more about and manage the condition. Physicians, public health workers and scientists can also use the app for various remote monitoring and better control uses.
  4. Fooducate
    As someone who continually strives to eat healthier, I think using this app will make it easier for me. This app lets users scan the barcodes of food products and receive more information about it, including how much sugar is added, any ingredients or preservatives to watch for, and a letter grade that rates the nutritional value. Healthier alternatives and the ability to compare products are also provided.
  5. Glucose Buddy
    This application is ranked #1 Diabetes iPhone Application by the founder of TuDiabetes.com and has been featured in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Forecast magazine, as well as Wired magazine. Diabetes patients can keep logs on the foods they’re eating and track activities, which are integrated with calorie and nutrition information. There are over 100,000 food items and 200 exercise activities.

What’s your favorite consumer health app?

4 Responses to “SEA Tech: Consumer Health Apps of Interest”

  1. Amy SIx-Means Says:

    It is dizzying to begin sorting through them. I started, and just became overwhelmed. I like the sound of Fooducate and will be looking into that one too. Thanks Terri for posting some evaluations. Really appreciate that you are doing this!!

  2. Lin Says:

    Have you ever tested those apps and the links before recommending in your post?

  3. Dale Says:

    Lin, I can’t speak for testing–I’ll have to let Terri do that–but the links work fine. Some go to the ITunes store, but that’s where they are located.

  4. Terri Ottosen Says:

    Hi Lin and thank you for your question.
    I did test the Fooducate app because I wanted to be able to get help to make healthier choices when I’m at the grocery store. I also tested the iTriage app just for fun. However, I didn’t test the others. I’d be interested in hearing from those of you that try them out. I hope that I didn’t imply that these were recommended, just that I found them interesting and of potential value.

    Terri

Last updated on Friday, 22 November, 2013

Funded by the National Library of Medicine under contract HHS-N-276-2011-00004-C with the Health Sciences and Human Services Library of the University of Maryland