Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants have transformed the way humans communicate, shop, socialize, and work. Health-tracking apps have exploded over the last few years, with tech companies wanting a bigger piece of the $3 trillion spent annually on healthcare in the U.S. Apple has even ventured into clinical research, financing a Stanford University research study on irregular heart rhythms utilizing an app on the Apple Watch. If the app detects irregular heart rhythms, participants will receive a notification and be offered a free video consultation with a doctor.
With thousands of available health-related apps, disease-specific web forums, and other DYI resources, it’s highly challenging for consumers to select those best suited to their unique healthcare needs. For those who don’t have smartphones, plenty of other healthcare tools are available for monitoring and/or improving one’s health. Here are a few innovative apps, online platforms, free and reasonably priced tests to help you get started.
No Need for Apps with These DIY Tests
Palm reading: Don’t’ worry – this DYI test is not akin to visiting your neighborhood psychic! Turn your hands facing upwards in front of you and stretch out your fingers. If the creases in your palms look pale, regardless of your skin tone, this may indicate poor blood vessel circulation caused by low iron levels. Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of the body. Low iron can lead to anemia, which may result in pale skin (also check nail-beds and inside of the lower eyelids), as well as shortness of breath or the sensation of your heart racing in your chest. If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your doctor and ask for a complete blood count (CBC) test.
Cushion test: Lie down on a bed on your back, propping your legs up at 45 degrees with cushions underneath both. Remain in this position for one minute and take note of the color your legs are turning. Have they become paler or retained their color? When the minute is up, lower your legs as fast as possible so they’re hanging off one side of your bed or sofa, at a 90 degree angle. If they are paler or white, this could be a sign of blocked arteries (peripheral arterial disease).
Urinary tract infection (UTI): You can purchase brand name and generic UTI strips over the counter. You simply urinate on a test strip, wait 2 minutes and compare the colors with the chart included in the kit. Each strip measures nitrites and white blood cells, both of which are produced by the body when a bacterial infection is present. If either or both are positive, you may have a UTI and should see your doctor ASAP. The good news is this DYI test accuracy is estimated at 94-98% and is far more cost effective than getting this done at your doctor’s office. The bad news is your doctor may not prescribe antibiotics over the phone and you could incur the cost of another test and office visit.
Five Innovative Websites and Apps
Headspace: In this hectic, stressful world, mental health often takes a backseat. Headspace helps people lean to meditate and live mindfully. Signing up on their website is free, however, a paid subscription is required to access hundreds of available sessions. The bite-sized meditations presented by recognized expert Andy Puddicombe, feature a wide array of topics designed to alleviate stress and anxiety and improve sleep.
Calorific: This app divides the foods you eat into three categories (red, yellow, and green), and then into portion sizes for easy two-click tracking. This eliminates the need to consult multiple databases or write down every detail of your meals. Using your data, Calorific generates pie charts showing the healthy to unhealthy ratio of your food choices and the time of day you make your best nutrition choices. (Free on iTunes)
Health Lab Diabetes Management: Designed to inform, engage, and educate, this app includes personalized, clinically sound advice, specialist-curated content, and social support. The goal is to help people with diabetes make better-informed lifestyle choices, adopt healthier habits to stabilize blood sugar levels, and prevent their condition from getting worse. Given 30.3 million people or 9.4% of the US population have diabetes and many cases are poorly controlled, this app could be a simple way to better manage the disease and prevent complications. (Free on iTunes)
Roman: Currently available in 14 states, this is a discreet online platform in which men can post concerns and questions about erectile dysfunction, which impacts 30 million men. Other health conditions covered include prostate cancer, high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. The other important aspect of this platform is low-cost access to telemedicine. If requested, a physician employed by Roman will review a person’s data, then schedule a virtual visit for $15 to discuss treatment options. If a prescription is required, a pharmacist employed by Roman ships the medication directly to the patient.
EyeQue Personal Vision Tracker: This award-winning device enables consumers to take a series of pixel-powered tests to determine refraction error. It is a safe, affordable, and fun way to test vision any time anywhere, as long as one has a smartphone connected to the Internet. Patented EyeQue Cloud technology immediately processes results, delivering spherical, cylindrical, and axis figures – the same numbers needed to order eyeglasses.
For children, fun to use EyeQue Insight goggles easily attach to more than 800 smartphones and utilize randomized characters to eliminate memorization. If results show a child needs a refraction correction, this simple intervention can prevent vision problems from getting worse and impeding their learning.