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7 minutes read

How Wearable Apps Are Disrupting the Healthcare Industry

By Robert Kazmi
How Wearable Apps Are Disrupting the Healthcare Industry
By Robert Kazmi
7 minutes read

As the saying goes, “There’s an app for that.TM”. And while apps entertain, inform, and make work and socializing easier for us, few can claim that they can actually save a life. Wearable health and fitness apps certainly can, and have improved over a relatively short amount of time to encompass almost every facet of staying healthy.

People of all ages and walks of life are using this MedTech technology to safely exercise, monitor their vital signs, and get the motivation and encouragement to keep up their healthy habits. These apps can even help mitigate stress, quit smoking, monitor sleep, and improve a poor diet; these are factors that dramatically affect health, yet ones that doctors have historically had difficulty enforcing. From guided meditation for novices to precise O2 monitoring for elite athletes, wearable apps are changing the healthcare landscape. Let’s take a look how.

State of the Country

Here’s the thing: We’re not in very good shape. Heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are at all-time highs in the United States, and it’s costing lives. Not to mention money…in 2017, diabetes alone incurred $327 billion in healthcare costs. Doctors know what needs to be done, and prescribe changes in diet, increased physical activity, and stress reduction, in addition to the various medications. But, as many of us know, those pieces of advice only last so long. Patients slip back into old habits, and doctor appointments only happen so often. This is where wearables and their accompanying apps come in.

What Everyone is Wearing

Wearables today come in all different forms. We are all familiar with the basic pedometer, arguably the first fitness wearable, but now there are necklaces, clothing, earbuds…and, the most common, the smart watch. They all have one thing in common: they all have some sort of embedded sensor to monitor one or several vital signs. The most basic wearables typically keep track of steps taken, and possibly heart rate, but emerging technology lets these tiny sensors measure so much more.

Blood sugar rates, oxygen saturation, sleep cycles, and blood pressure readings give the patient the ability to keep track of all sorts of health behavior. What’s more, these readings can be stored and either shown or sent to the patient’s doctor for medical analysis. We tend to think of these devices in terms of fitness for average people to track, but everyone from high-risk infants to the elderly are benefitting from this tracking technology. Let’s see which MedTech apps (and devices) are the most popular and powerful.

Apps for Fitness

The current leader in the wearable fitness device/app world is Fitbit. Their versatile line of devices cover all budgets and requirements, and their integrated apps and user-friendly dashboards give the user almost unlimited options and control over how and what they monitor. One of their newest devices, the Charge 3, won the Digital Trends Best Product of the Year, and it’s easy to see why. Versatile, affordable, and lightweight with an unusually long battery life, this smart watch keeps you connected with your app and your friends while walking, running, or swimming. Experts say one of the most crucial factors with these wearables is reminders and motivational content, and the best devices and apps both have automatic reminders to move and the ability to join work or social groups for support and encouragement. Shareability is certainly a feature you’ll want when selecting a fitness app/device, as well as an intuitive dashboard that makes your experience easy to learn and digest.

As for popular apps, Endomondo is one of the biggest. This comprehensive app can be featured on a number of devices, and starts with a fitness assessment test. It then devises a fitness training program which can incorporate almost any sport or activity you can imagine (badminton, anyone?), gives you statistics on your personal goals and the achievements of millions of users worldwide, and helps you join countless groups or well-known routes to run on.

Last, we know that motivation comes in all sorts of different forms, and gamification is very popular in otherwise straightforward apps. Zombies, Run! Is especially clever: merging an immersive story of a zombie apocalypse with prompts to pick up GPS-located “supplies” and urgent warnings to speed up when your “zombies’ are getting too close…all through your earbuds. It tracks your progress, best times, and how other players are faring, all while keeping you running with hundreds of different story lines.

Apps for Health

As we mentioned earlier, diabetes is a growing issue in America, and blood sugar monitoring is one of the most challenging aspects of managing this disease. The Dexcom G5 CGM  System combines a wearable patch and an app that integrates with your smart watch to give you blood glucose levels every five minutes. This gives you updates and the way your blood sugar trend is headed, and can also notify followers if you are nearing dangerous levels. In addition to smart maintenance practices, this could quite literally save your life.

Keeping up with a healthy diet is one of our biggest challenges as a nation. Powerful apps like Lifesum can be your saving grace. Easily integrated with a wearable like an Apple Watch, this nutrition app efficiently analyzes the food you eat, gives you recommendations on which foods to eat and how much to meet your nutrition goals, and even helps you stick to a specific diet like keto or gluten-free. It can also track your water intake, sync up with other health apps, and offer thousands of healthy recipes that align with your nutrition goals. Lifesum’s massive database and its easy interface with other like-minded apps make it particularly attractive to users.

For an all-around health monitoring app, the Health Mate app from Withings is a great choice. In addition to the usual fitness tracking capabilities, Health Mate also offers sleep tracking, blood pressure readings, weight management…even pregnancy tracking and guided meditations. If you don’t want to download multiple apps for all these different features, this all-in-one app might be your best choice.

HIPPA Compliance

Keep in mind that in the US market, medical apps fall under the purview of HIPPA regulations pertaining to patient privacy and security of medical data, Because of the red tape, developing medtech apps isn’t as simple as developing any other types of apps. Applicable HIPPA regulations must be understood and taken into account prior to the start of healthcare app development.

Whether or not an app is subject to HIPPA compliance depends on if the data obtained from the app will be shared with a third party like a doctor or insurance company. If the data is only seen by the person using the app, then HIPPA compliance factors don’t enter into the equations.

If the data from the app is shared with a doctor or an insurance company, then, the app must be HIPPA compliant. For example, if a doctor asks a patient to wear an app for medical reasons, then HIPPA applies.As an app owner or developer, you could be subject to a penalty if the app isn’t HIPPA compliant.  

Got an Idea for a MedTech Wearable App?

If you’re still reading this post, you are probably interested in developing a health and fitness app yourself. This is a rapidly growing industry that potentially saves billions in healthcare costs while helping to combat chronic disease and allow users to live healthier, longer lives. There’s a lot of opportunity for innovative apps, and hopefully we’ve suggested a few directions to explore in our examples above.

Social connections, gamification, state-of-the-art monitoring for specific conditions…these are all great ideas in what is rapidly becoming a saturated field. So, get your ideas written down, do a little market research, and find a dynamic mobile app development partner who can help guide you through the ups and downs of this lucrative industry. Now, get moving!

Do you have an idea for a wearable health care app? Check out our work to see if Koombea is the right partner to get your app developed!

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