Fitness Technology and Patient Wellness

EdwardKeiperWhat It Means For Your Practice

By Edward Keiper, President and CEO of Velocity

The marriage of technology and medicine may soon redefine the doctor/patient relationship. Online appointment scheduling and other administrative functions are only the beginning. There is now a myriad of apps and gadgets designed to help people manage their health.

The good news: Practices that embrace the technology revolution in wellness may find that they not only have more effective interactions with their patients, but that their clients are healthier.

Here’s a look at some new ways doctors can partner with patients to improve care.

Movement Trackers

Pedometers have come a long way. Good news: The next generation of movement trackers do so much more than count the number of steps a person has walked. Many of these devices automatically track and log users’ movement, so people can build a long-term record of exercise.

Practitioners may want to suggest some of the following to their patients:

The FitBit is leading the pack at the moment. While it counts steps and track mileage, it also uses sophisticated technology to calculate calories burned based on individual factors. In addition, it allows users to “friend” other people using the device to compare activity levels.

Similar trackers are UP by Jawbone, Nike+ Fuelband, and Basis Health Tracker. Like the Fitbit, these devices track measurements such as steps taken, distance walked/run, and calories burned. Many movement trackers also allow users to keep track of the information long-term via web and smartphone apps.

Other useful exercise apps are RunKeeper, Map My Walk, Map My Run, and Map My Ride – all of which use a smartphone’s GPS to show the route and distance traveled during a workout.

Many of these tools can be worn on the body or clipped to clothing.

Going Social

The social aspect involved in many of these fitness devices can be very motivating. In some cases, users can “friend” other users so they can cheer each other on as they work toward fitness goals. In other cases, the devices will provide positive reinforcement (“atta-boys” show up in the apps to keep users going or to give them a virtual nudge if they’ve been sedentary for a while). And patients can tailor some of these devices to set up goals that are attainable for them based on their physical condition.

Doctors might also want to recommend social networks designed specifically for health and fitness. MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, and Fitocracy are good examples. MyFitnessPal and LoseIt keep track of food intake and exercise, and allow users to join networks of friends to stay motivated. Some of these also link to Fitbit or other movement trackers for seamless logging of exercise. MyFitnessPal and Fitocracy also provide opportunities to ask questions and get health and exercise advice. Additionally, MyFitnessPal allows users to look at the nutritional value of their diets and spot deficiencies such as poor iron intake.

Condition-Specific Technology

If patients have chronic conditions, there may be apps to help them manage those as well. Blood Pressure Companion allows users to track blood pressure readings, which they can then bring to medical appointments. AsthmaMD tracks peak flow meter readings, medication used, and asthma attacks.

Keep in mind, it’s only a matter of time until users will have the option to share their health and wellness information directly with their care providers via the Internet. Be sure that your IT partner is looking ahead and ready to embrace these new technological advances when they become available.

This article was originally published in the Velocity blog and is republished here with permission.