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Smart Health | Insights Care

Mobile phones, especially smartphones, are doing more than what they were intended to do. Thanks to all the apps that developers around the world are busy making to simplify the lives. These mobile apps come in all shapes and sizes and do a myriad of things for smartphone users. While gaming, social media, and retail apps continue to rule the charts, health apps are surely catching up. With people becoming more health conscious than ever, these apps are also making their mark.

Good health is attributed to many factors.  One needs to have a proper diet, exercise, routine checkups, and the likes. What most people tend to neglect intentionally or unintentionally is the medication routine. Medicines, be it a lifesaving drug or just a vitamin pill, is also essential for good health. Unfortunately, most people tend to forget taking their pills on time. Some blame it on their schedule, some don’t find the time, some are too busy to remember, and some, like the elderly, just forget to take it. According to a report published in Annals of Internal Medicine, September 2012, America loses $100 – $289 billion in a year due to medication non-adherence. The situation is graver in case of chronic illnesses. Treatment of such disease requires long-term use of medicines. But patients are seen not adhering to it due to various reasons. A study from Mayo Clinic states “approximately 50% of patients do not take their medications as prescribed.”  This amounts to not only monetary loss but also health issues. Some patients end up in emergency rooms because they did take medicines on time.  Even small issues turn into serious ones if not treated properly. Doctors have long been advising people to take their medicines as prescribed. But the results just don’t match up.

Keeping a digital eye on health

Mobile apps are now being used to fight this underrated health concern. A huge population of these patients uses smartphones. Mobile apps are now being recommended by doctors and other patients alike to tackle this menace. These apps are easy to use, mostly free, and are designed to perform a lot of things for the patients. These apps have a number of features to assist patients with drug adherence. The process is simple and starts with the patient uploading their prescription or filling in the drugs that they are on. They can then customize alarms, set up emergency numbers, put a tracker, and other such features. Some apps even use games to help patients understand the importance of taking medication on time.

Apps full of features

Different apps offer different features and sometimes address only a particular concern. Some apps are free of cost while some are premium and offer much-advanced features. But most apps do the following:

Set up reminders — Easiest way to get your dose on time is to set up alarms. The apps set off alarms at a definitive time and some even light up the screen with particular colors to remind the patients of their pending dose. Some even auto-adjust to the time zones, so that the patients do not mess up their dosage when traveling to different parts of the world.

Send messages to caregiver — Some apps send messages to the patient’s caregiver (mostly family member) and doctor when they miss a dose. They can then remind the patient to take their medicine.

Manage family health — Some apps can help patients deal with multiple profiles. This allows one member track the medicine habits of the entire family.

Drug Interaction – Few apps have the feature to let patients know about drug interactions i.e. if any two or more of one’s medicines can react and cause issues to his/her wellbeing. This feature can really help if one takes over-the-counter drugs with prescribed medicine.

Medical Jargons – Mobile apps can let patients understand medical terms too. Terms like CR (Controlled Release) printed on the medicine can often be confusing for patients. These apps help them crack such codes.

Refill reminders – These mobile apps remind patients in advance when they are about to run out of their prescribed medicines.

Contacting Pharmacy — A few apps let patients upload their prescription with the pharmacy and get their medicines door-step delivered when they need it. They even allow the pharmacy to cross-check with the patient’s doctor to make sure that the prescribed medicines need to be continued.

Generic Report – Some medicine mobile apps also let patients record their blood pressure, sugar levels and send them to their doctors at a fixed time interval (say once in a month).

These mobile apps are really proving to be a boon especially for the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses or illnesses like Parkinson where the patient genuinely forgets to take the pills. Timely reminders, interactive interface, easy-to-use and manage features, sounds and lights, all make them suitable for patients across the world. Some paid and advanced apps even let patients take a video consultation with their doctors. The world is getting smarter and better. The world of medicine apps is slowly recognizing the opportunity and what this market can be in the future. Such apps are surely going to make this world a healthier place!

By Sneha Sinha