Toolkits

mHealth App Selection - Software

Epidemiology & Public Health

Several functions of mobile devices lend themselves to epidemiology and public health applications. Software can track a mobile phone user's movements, and then cross-reference those patterns with reports of various infectious disease outbreaks. This makes it possible for consumers to track their risk of exposure, and for epidemiologists to monitor how diseases spread and are occurring in key areas.

Texting is being used for personal wellness in many regions of the world, especially those with a lack of infrastructure supporting smart phones. These systems allow key information to be sent to patients or clinicians via basic text messages. Examples include messages encouraging patient efforts in smoking cessation, texting expectant mothers with key appointments or behavior changes to improve prenatal care, or sending clinical lab values in places with unreliable courier networks or results delivery systems.

Personal Wellness & Fitness

A huge number of applications in mobile app stores focus on personal health and wellness. Systems offer ways to gather, monitor, and send or store data related to blood pressure, glucose levels, caloric intake, and exercise output. This software may either gather the data directly though a wireless-enabled device, or may require manual entry on the part of the patient.

‘Gamification’ of Personal Health Monitoring

Taking the personal wellness and fitness apps a step further, programmers have been turning to psychology and game design to increase compliance. Gamification “is the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.” (Gamification.org 2013, Nathan Lands and J.R. Bedard January 9, 2013).  Gaming programmers and psychologists, working together, are finding that apps that engage players and reward them for their actions can be used to encourage, motivate, and reward healthier behavior.

We all know, for example, that daily exercise offers health benefits, though many people haven’t incorporated exercise into their routines.  Making a game of it, however, can turn the chore of exercise into a fun and anticipated experience. Some apps sync with pedometers, and award points or achievements in the affiliated game for every 10,000 steps taken by the player/user. As the player moves forward in the game, the fitness objectives become more challenging and rewarding.

Social Media and Personal Health Monitoring

Social Media is another component of mHealth for chronic-condition management. In this context, social media is a web-based application creating an online community for patients with similar conditions.  Children with cystic fibrosis, for example, may feel isolated and have trouble explaining their condition to their peers. Online support communities, where kids share their experiences with new medicines, daily challenges, or just chat about their day, allow patients to engage with others familiar with their struggles in meaningful and supportive ways.