About 21% of people who actively track their health use some form of technology to help them with their tracking efforts. There are devices available that collect personal health data automatically, compiling it into easy to read records for the participants. There were more than 500 companies making or developing health self-management tools by the end of last year, up 35% from January 2012.
More smartphone apps are appearing that can help individuals track certain health measures. There are now nearly 13,000 health and fitness apps available for smartphones. Susannah Fox, an associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, said, “The explosion of mobile devices means that more Americans have an opportunity to start tracking health data in an organized way.”
There are apps to help individuals manage chronic ailments like diabetes. There are also apps available for people that want to watch their weight or lose a few pounds. A patient can use an electronic monitor to check their heart rate when they feel stressed and watch the monitor as their heart slows down as they breathe deeply for a few minutes. Some of the most popular apps are used to track an individual’s mood, weight, mental sharpness, sleep, and memory.
The Collaborative Chronic Care Network Project tests new ways to diagnose and treat diseases. Principal investigator Dr. Peter A. Margolis, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, has connected 20 young patients who have Crohn’s disease with tracking software that allows data from their phones to be reported to a website that charts the behavior patterns of the patients. Some phones have software that automatically reports the data.
The charts are watched by patients, their parents, and their doctors for indicators and early warning signs of flare-up symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In some cases, the indications can be detected before the flare-ups occur and the treatment can be adjusted minimize the symptoms. Dr. Margolis said, “One of the main findings was that many patients were unaware of the amount of variation in their symptoms that they were having every day.”
Self-tracking products and services companies formed the fastest growing category among 2,100 health technology companies charted. Patients have reported that tracking their health has led them to ask a doctor new questions, to seek a second opinion, or had influenced their treatment decisions. There has been a noticeable increase in consumer interest in wellness and health tracking and the trend is expected to continue in the future.