Fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, digital food diaries, guided meditations, ‘time to move’ notifications and more – there’s certainly no shortage of smart device applications that help people to manage all aspects of their health and lifestyle on a daily basis.
But what about those who live with chronic, life-threatening or debilitating diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, cystic fibrosis or kidney failure – is it possible that their lives can be improved through a digital application? Thankfully, the answer is yes. And while these technologies were already advancing through the growth of AI (artificial intelligence) capabilities, the global pandemic has also played a part – with there needing to be much more reliance on remote monitoring and treatment.
Check out some of the ones making a difference in the lives of people all over the world.
Project Breathe is an app which was developed by a father whose son suffers from cystic fibrosis. The app aims to allow those with cystic fibrosis better control over their health, minimise the requirement for hospital appointments and could potentially help prolong their lives. Patients can measure a number of key indicators at home – like lung function, blood oxygen levels and activity. The data is stored in the cloud and specialists and doctors can access all the health information to watch for trends and, in some cases, be able to predict when the patient is at risk of becoming ill – allowing for earlier intervention and prevention serious lung infections
The H2O Overload app allows people to track their fluid intake, weight and blood pressure, so is ideal for those with kidney failure, heart disease or low sodium levels. Users are able to set limits for each of these measurements and the app will warn them when they exceed their levels and they need to contact their doctor.
Another app for those with chronic kidney disease, eKidneycare was developed to help patients manage their daily prescribed medications, helping to minimise the risk of drug reactions and assist with greater compliance and accuracy when taking those medications. A one year trial of the app resulted in a number of positive outcomes for users – including less medication discrepancies which have the potential to put a patient’s health at serious risk.
The Manage My Pain app is aimed at those suffering from chronic pain and allows users to track their pain, create reports for their healthcare team and via a virtual portal, means doctors and specialists can remotely monitor patients by using captured data to pinpoint trends and detect negative periods in advance.
And a recent study of the app proved there was a significant decrease in symptoms for users, with a ‘clinically significant reduction in anxiety and pain catastrophising’ – which are two key areas that increase the need for medication, as well as potential abuse of opioid prescriptions.
FreeStyle Libre is a device created for those with insulin-requiring diabetes where a sensor or ‘patch’ is applied to the skin and thin fibre is inserted just under the skin. This then allows the patient to scan the FreeStyle LibreLink app over the sensor and take a glucose reading. The technology removes the need for routine finger pricks and provides trends of whether glucose is going up or down – either of which pose an extreme risk when there are dramatic changes in levels.
This app has been developed for those living with Long Covid, assisting patients after they have left hospital but still require close monitoring by a variety of healthcare workers. From tailored advice to treatment plans and suggested exercises, Living with Covid Recovery aims to treat symptoms such as breathlessness, fatigue, ‘brain fog’, anxiety and depression – experienced by those with Long Covid (nb. it’s currently only available in the UK).
My IBD Care was created by experts to help patients with Chron’s and Colitis – inflammatory bowel diseases – by allowing users to track symptoms, maintain a personal health record, get reminders about medication and appointments, record bowel movements and learn from a library of specialist articles and videos. It also offers courses on managing sleep, medication, wellbeing, physical activity and life in lockdown – and 87% of those with IBD who used the courses for a week said they felt an improvement in their wellbeing and mental health.
Of course the above list is by no means exhaustive, there’s so many more apps available out there, with new ones coming to the fore on a weekly basis. Technology has long been seen as a way to improve our lives by having knowledge, communication and entertainment at our fingertips – but to allow people to have a greater sense of control over their often debilitating health conditions, well that’s certainly something to celebrate.