Heal Thyself: How Biometrics Apps Will Improve Public Health

i-heartWhen it comes to health, there are two main categories (broadly speaking): there are things you can do to be healthier and there are things you have to do when something goes wrong. For instance, you should walk or run as much as possible. You should watch your calories and try to eat healthy foods. You should monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and try to live a lifestyle that keeps all three in check. There are apps and mobile wearable devices for those things, which fall into the first category. We see commercials for them every day and they are slowly becoming an intrinsic, and even important, part of our lives.

The second category is the one we try not to think about as much – getting better when things go wrong. It’s a normal human thing. No one wants to envision catastrophe. I know I imagine myself finally taking up running way more than I imagine accidentally slicing my hand with a knife while chopping an onion. But it’s still odd that we don’t hear much about apps that help you get healthy when you’re sick or help you heal when you’re hurt. They’re around, though, and while mobile tech for healing might not make for uplifting commercials with young, good-looking people running, they are arguably just as important and could even do more to change people’s lives moving forward.

The Rise of Pharmacists And Biometric Apps

Doctors are extremely busy these days. Even with great mobile medical video services like Doctors on Demand, people don’t see doctors as much as they used to, and doctors don’t have as much time for their patients. It is a weird fact of our modern medical era that when it comes to interactions with health professionals, for many, their primary source is their pharmacist. They rely on the pharmacist to give advice, to teach them how to take their medications, and to walk them through the process when they are sick or in need.

This is certainly no knock on pharmacists, who do a great job. But they don’t have the background on the patient to really understand the idiosyncratic health history of every customer, and simply can’t be your primary care physician. That’s where mobile tech and health apps come in.

There are two types of improvements here. The first involves apps that take some of that pressure off the pharmacist. There are many apps for your smartphone or tablet that will allow you to keep track of your medicine, compare prices, understand what pills do, and remind you what to take and when.

Essentially, say you have several prescriptions. You can download apps that help you keep track of when you are supposed to take each, such as iMedication, Pill Tracker, and Rxmind Me. There won’t be any messing around with calendars, making sure you mark it, or remembering if you took the one from this bottle or the other one. Other apps like Dosecast, Pill Monitor, and Pocket Pharmacist will remind you when it is time to refill and, moving forward, send a message to your pharmacist so that it is ready before you even go there. All this will relieve some of the burden on the patient, the pharmacist, and any family members or caretakers involved, providing more independence.

The Future: Smart Devices and Biomedical Communication

There’s another level to this, though. Right now, we have plenty of apps that can communicate with you about what you need and communicate the basics of your healing process, but as biometrics improve and wearable tech gets smaller and smaller, it’s becoming possible for devices to not just read your vitals, but to transmit them.

Smart bandages, which can actively affect the healing process even as they bind, are a great example of this. These bandages can adjust themselves and change colors if they sense the presence of bacteria in the wound. This can give a pharmacist an automatic diagnosis if you bring it in and they can automatically prescribe the right antibiotics.

It can go further, though. We are entering an era when biometric technology can go into your body and transmit your information to a doctor. It isn’t impossible to think things like bandages – or casts, slings, stitches, sutures, anything – will be able to read how you are healing, modify themselves, and let you and your doctor or pharmacist know if something is going wrong. An infection can be diagnosed, prescribed, and treated in the time it takes now for any of us to think that maybe something isn’t going right.

We all know the importance of running, exercising, and eating right. We know how fitness apps can help us modify our behavior. But we could be entering a time when apps, biometrics, and smart devices can help us take the next step: where we can help ourselves heal and use our smartphones and tablets to take us from sickness into health.

According to the Oracles, in the Temple at Delphi, the first lesson was to know thyself, and everything else would follow. With biometric apps, we can come closer to that than ever.

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