We all know prevention is better than cure, so with the expansion of mobile apps and the rapidly evolving functionalities that they offer, our chances of improved health are looking stronger. But what are the pitfalls, and how can manufacturers iron out the creases and make them even safer, more secure and packed with healthy goodness?
Calories consumed, calories burned, blood pressure or blood sugar, steps walked or metres climbed… there’s seemingly no end to what we can measure from the comfort of our wrists. As we are increasingly used to having everything we need at the swipe of a finger, the developers of apps are meeting this desire and helping to fuel the trend, with estimates showing that the number of health and fitness apps has risen from around 325 000 in 2017 to somewhere between 400 000 to 500 000 in 2019, according to specialist research consultancy R2G.
The evolution of this technology is moving as fast as our thirst for such information is growing. And so is the recognition of its usefulness. Germany, for example, is expected to pass a law sometime this year that will allow doctors to prescribe health apps, and other countries are expected to follow suit.
So, what exactly is health and wellness? The World Health Organization defines it as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Todd Cooper, an international expert in standards-based health informatics and medical device technology, and Chair of the US Technical Advisory Group (US/TAG), believes the surge in apps related to health and wellness has been driven by this desire for a more holistic approach to health.
Health and wellness are largely based on nutrition and lifestyle factors – things that are outside the traditional medical setting. “This fits perfectly into the world of apps,” says Cooper, “and there is a greater use of health apps as people become more aware of their health, more intrigued by technology, and look for alternatives to have more control over their destiny.”