Healthcare News & Insights

Health apps prove to be powerful motivators during rehab

GettyImages-483427018For years, healthcare institutions have been investing in the development of mobile health applications that would assist the treatment process. In this guest post, Michael Grebennikov, co-founder and managing partner of a digital technology agency, explains how mobile technology has the potential to overcome barriers toward rehabilitation – providing just-in-time information that can literally save lives.

__________________________________________________________

Thousands of patients put in a great deal of effort to battle diseases. Integrated as part of the rehabilitation process, health applications have been shown to increase motivation and physical activity of patients throughout this arduous time.

In a recent Mayo Clinic study, researchers looked at two groups of cardiac rehabilitation patients: those who used a health app and those who did not. The results show the group using a health app lost more weight and exercised more than those who didn’t. The participants not using an app lost an average of 2 pounds, while those using apps lost an average of 9 pounds and exercised on average for 40 minutes more per week.

In the study mentioned above, patients and researchers used an application developed with the help of Mayo Clinic’s Information Technology department. That said, this nor any mobile application is a one-size-fits-all solution for all rehabilitation patients. Therefore, patients should heed their doctors’ recommendations on which application will best help them in their individual situation.

A big reason for this is not all health apps measure important things like heart rate – information that’s invaluable for physicians evaluating each patient’s case. Proving this point, Dr. Alfred Sacchetti says, “Dizziness with a heart rate of 180 would be approached very differently from the same complaint with a heart rate of 30.”

More than tracking steps, calories

While fitness gadgets aren’t regulated and can never take the place of approved medical devices, there have been cases that show they have the potential to be helpful in ways beyond tracking steps and calories. Sometimes, fitness apps can help to diagnose life-threatening conditions. Take, for example, the case of an anonymous 42-year-old man who was the subject of a recent case study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. With access to the patient’s phone, medical staff were able to look at his Fitbit app and discover an episode of atrial fibrillation. To date, however, instances like this are rare.

As with doctors, it’s in the patient’s best interest to rely on proven technologies. Quite often, health apps are provided by artificial intelligence companies. For example, IBM has developed a cognitive system – Watson. It provides people and computers with new opportunities for cooperation. Healthcare uses of such a system are obvious: patient health insight, analysis data from wearable devices, monitoring physical loads, remote patients’ health monitoring, etc.

Manage lives, track symptoms

Another recently develop app was for patients suffering from chronic lymphoma. The goal was to deliver a tool that would help people with lymphoma manage their everyday lives, track symptoms, communicate with their doctors, follow prescriptions and get the most recent information about their type of lymphoma. The application has become not only a powerful monitoring tool, but also an additional information source. Staying up-to-date and having instant access to the doctor, patients became more engaged, which positively influences treatment and care continuity.

This is just the beginning. We’re still learning and improving upon the successful cooperation of technology, providers and healthcare institutions to change history, but more importantly, improve people’s lives.

The use of health apps for patients’ treatment and rehabilitation is a real break-through. For patients, the apps become powerful assistants and an incentive that helps them to overcome the many challenges that accompany rehabilitation. For doctors, these apps provide an additional informational resource that allows them to deliver even higher quality treatment. It’s definitely a win-win situation for both sides.

Michael Grebennikov is a co-founder and managing partner of Digiteum, a digital technology agency.

 

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest healthcare news and insights delivered to your inbox.