Just a couple of decades ago, we couldn’t conceive of carrying a computer around in our pockets. What a difference a millennium makes.
With powerful technology and connectivity at everyone’s fingertips, it’s not surprising that a lot of consumer health companies have entered the mobile app arena. If you search Apple’s App Store or Google Play for medical apps, you are greeted with a dizzying array of fitness, health and wellness apps.
You can monitor your water intake, track your heart rhythm, even work out with Chris Hemsworth, aka “Thor,” on an app called Centr. (It’s true! You can look it up.)
To help you make sense of it all, here are five of my favorite medical apps aimed at health care consumers. As a professional patient advocate, I’m a big proponent of people taking charge of their own health, and these apps help you do just that.
First, let’s define our terms. While many apps make up the “health” category, not all are considered “health care” apps. Those that teach you how to meditate, do yoga or count calories, for example, are more in the category of “wellness.”
For this article, we focus on apps you can use in conjunction with your provider-based health regimen. They offer health tracking and reporting, medical reminders, and communication with your provider, and some actually serve as the platform for virtual visits.
All are available for Apple and Android devices.
I have found this is the easiest way to look up drug information, identify pills, check interactions and set up your own personal medication records. In addition to an A-to-Z listing of prescription medications, you can enter an imprint, shape or color to identify a medicine (helpful for those who keep their meds in a try and not in the bottle).
There’s also a Q&A feature and a prescription discount program.
Free. The medication identifier is 99 cents.
Having been founded in 1996 as Healthscape, WebMD is the granddaddy of online health information. I have found it to be a reliable symptom checker and source of drug and treatment information.
Set medication reminders, get daily allergy alerts, learn about conditions and drugs, find doctors and specialists and save on prescriptions. WebMD has a suite of specialty apps as well, for prescriptions, pregnancy, baby health and allergies.
mySugr’s goal, as they put it, is “to make diabetes suck less.” But there’s nothing flippant about what this app can do.
To help you tame your “diabetes monster,” the mySugr app stores all your important diabetes data from connected blood sugar monitors and manual entries in one place. In the mySugr app you can log important therapy data such as blood sugar, meals, activity and insulin — no more need to keep a log book. You can also be connected with diabetes coaches.
Free. Pro version $2.99 a month (free with some AccuCheck devices)
As we’ve come to realize, taking care of our mental well-being is an essential part of health care. Sometimes it’s a struggle to find a therapist who’s not only available but also someone you’re comfortable talking to.
Along comes BetterHelp, a convenient and easy-to-use provider of personal counseling from more than 20,000 trained, experienced and accredited therapists. They cover a wide range of areas — from depression and anxiety to family and couples therapy. Weekly video appointments are supplemented with anytime text messages and chats.
BetterHelp doesn’t take insurance; instead, it charges a monthly subscription of $320, which works out to $80 per weekly session. If you need help now, it’s a good option.
$320 per month
Remember house calls? Heal has brought them back with primary care, virtual telemedicine visits via phone or video chat 365 days a year and remote monitoring.
The five year-old company provides an Uber-like, doctors-on-call service in specific geographic areas. It rode the telemedicine wave during the pandemic, when the insurance company Humana invested $100 million.
Doctor services are delivered to a patient’s home on demand through the app. Users input their personal medical details and credit card information and request a doctor in their local area.
Obviously, they don’t treat emergencies.
Heal is in-network with Medicare and most major Medicare Advantage plans, including Humana, Wellcare, Aetna, VillageCare, Clover, Healthfirst, United Healthcare and EmblemHealth. It’s available in Chicago and the rest of Cook County and DuPage County.
Free, Fees and copays apply
As I’ve written before, technology is integral to health care, and its role is only going to grow. When you’re looking for apps, read the reviews and ask your doctor for recommendations.
• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for 30+ years, she is founder of NShore Patient Advocates (www.NorthShoreRN.com). She is offering a free phone consultation to Daily Herald readers; call her at (847) 612-6684.