Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Medical Apps

(WEAU) - More people own smartphones and tablets than ever before and statistics show that people look at their smart phones, on average, more than one hundred times per day.

Dr. Alicia Arnold is here to discuss medical apps and how they can help patients.

CE: Why are medical apps getting so much attention?

AA: From texting to checking email, many of us use our smartphones almost constantly. Mobile applications, or apps, are software programs that can be used on smartphones or other mobile communication devices. They are a great way to make these devices even more useful.

CE: How can apps help us?

AA: There are tens of thousands of apps that relate to health, medicine, and well-being. People can use apps to take a more active role in their healthcare. The difficulty may be sifting through all the options to find what works best for you.

CE: What kind of medical apps are out there?

AA: Some provide information, some record data, and some advanced apps may even suggest a course of treatment or diagnose conditions, such as heart rhythm abnormalities. Some can help you fill prescriptions or find a doctor.

CE: Are apps regulated?

AA: Just as we need to be cautious about finding medical information on the internet, since not all of it is accurate, we need to be careful about apps as well. The FDA has stated that it will regulate apps functioning as "devices" or as accessories to regulated devices. Examples may include an app that could use sensors to measure the electrical signal produced in the heart or an app that could change the settings in a medical device that had been implanted in a patient's body. The important thing to remember is that not all medically related apps are regulated, so if you have a question about information you get from an app, it's important to check with your healthcare provider.

CE: Can you tell us about a few apps that are highly rated?

AA: There was a recent report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. It rated apps based on function and ease of use. There were several that were highly rated that caught my eye. Quit it 3.0-stop smoking motivates you to help you quit smoking by keeping track of cigarettes that weren't smoked and the amount of money saved. For people who are adjusting to taking new medications, or having difficulty remembering to take current ones, there are programs like Dosecast. This type of program can help track your medications and remind you to take them. For moms, there are also some helpful apps to track baby information. An example is Total Baby, where you can track aspects of care like feeding, sleeping, and medical care. There are many apps for nutrition, but one neat one is Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal HD. You can even scan bar codes from food boxes and it will store the nutritional information.

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