Smartphones are reshaping nearly every type of industry, and in ways we never thought possible. Healthcare is no exception. From innovative apps that let us self-monitor our health, to remote doctor appointments, to immediate access to health records, mobile devices continue to deepen their footprint in traditional healthcare systems. As long as you don’t mistake WebMD for a real doctor’s diagnosis, this expanding smartphone-based healthcare movement could provide a vital push to leading a healthier life.
Interestingly, smartphones and other mobile devices have long been the focus of having a negative impact on a person’s health. Between the bright retina-damaging LED screens, bacteria-laden phone cases, the stress-inducing factors of constant connectivity, and ailments like “thumb fatigue” and “text neck,” smartphones have not always been viewed as a part of a healthy lifestyle. But like the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
In the overly sedentary, digitally driven world we now live in, that’s exactly what health-conscious companies, providers and facilities are doing.
There’s an App for Everything – Including Your Health
When Apple introduced their famed “There’s an app for that” campaign nearly a decade ago, they meant it. You could find apps to do just about any singular function imaginable – and then some. Between apps like PhoneSaber that turned a phone into a lightsaber-sounding device, games like Angry Birds and Farmville, news, weather, and beyond, it’s no surprise that companies focused on healthy lifestyles have also joined the app revolution.
Nowadays, smartphones like Apple’s iPhone 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy S7 come pre-loaded with a health app that tracks steps and other fitness data. But these basic built-ins leave a lot of possibilities on the table that other health-conscious companies have been swift to pick up. MYB, for example, has taken the initiative to help diabetics, borderline diabetics, and other fitness-challenged groups take control of their health through a step-count competition. Over the course of twenty-one days, users can compete with friends via the app to see who takes the most steps, receiving notifications and encouragement along the way to boost participation.
Companies like Jawbone and FitBit have experienced huge success in the fitness world, thanks (at least in part) to mobile devices. The apps for their wearable bands make it easy for users to track their daily fitness metrics on the go, with nearly no manual work involved.
Then there are apps like Shopwell and Fooducate that can help users make better choices in the grocery store. These apps let you scan a product’s barcode, then gives you the lowdown on everything you need to know about what you are buying. For people with special diets, like dairy-free, gluten-free, or low sugar, this app alone could lead directly to a higher level of health.
One thing all of these apps have in common is the fact that they are both readily accessible, and easy to use. Studies have shown many times over that people thrive on convenience, and will even pay more if it means an easier experience. And when managing a person’s health care can deliver that same convenience, users are more likely to make their health a priority.
The Impact of Social Media on Health Care
Individual health-specific apps are not the only way smartphones have changed the healthcare landscape. Considering that nearly 1 out of every 5 minutes spent online is on social media, and 80% of social media minutes come from mobile devices, it’s no surprise that companies have found social platforms like Facebook and Pinterest effective in health care solutions. How can you tell? Just do a Facebook search for your local hospital or doctor’s office, and more than likely you will find their business page and contact information, along with posts like helpful, flu shot reminders, blog articles on diet and exercise, and other healthy tips.
HR departments have also joined the social health movement by implementing company wellness programs via social media channels. Through facilitating their health programs via a Facebook group, for instance, HR managers can better monitor participation in the program, keep participants up-to-date on important program details, or give shout-outs of encouragement to those who are making good progress.
Companies like Arbonne promote their clean eating program via private Facebook groups. Purchasers of their products are added to a secret group, where they can discover recipes and clean eating tips for the duration of the program, as well as receive daily coaching and inspiration to help stay on track.
But it’s not just companies who are using social media to make a healthy impact. Individuals are taking their own initiative to make better choices. Scroll through any Pinterest news feed, and you won’t be able to avoid the many Pins of healthy meals and snack recipes, workout demonstrations, fitness gear, and Eat This Not That infographics. Not only are people using Pinterest to find healthy solutions, they are also saving their findings for easier future reference.
Social media platforms like Pinterest and Facebook have also made it easy for professional chefs and dietitians, personal trainers, medical professionals, and even normal folks to share health advice, tips, tricks, and opinions with a mass audience in ways that actually get people engaged.
Truthfully, for most folks, good health is something that’s taken for granted, not something to be nurtured and developed. An illness will make our health a priority, but the moment we feel normal again it’s back to business as usual, and health resumes its normal spot on the back burner. But smartphones are finally changing that mentality.
With the number of smartphone users climbing with each passing year, healthcare experts and facilities will continue to find new ways to get us on our feet and moving toward a healthier life – even if it means doing so with our eyes glued to the screen.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.