How to use your smartphone to improve your health

How to use your smartphone to improve your health
This content is produced by Motiv8 Agency on behalf of Evergreen Health. The newsroom or editorial department of Tribune Publishing was not involved in its production.

Technology is allowing Americans to get more hands-on than ever with their healthcare. Literally.

According to a PwC health study, about half of Americans own a smartphone, and among those, the number with at least one medical-, health- or fitness-related application on their mobile device doubled between 2013 and 2015. These applications help an individual manage habits, interface with medical professionals or even diagnose a condition, essentially making the personal care process more personal.


"Smartphones, in particular, have revolutionized the healthcare industry," says Chad Basham, chief information officer at Evergreen Health, a Maryland-based healthcare company. "People have access to medical devices on their phone that previously cost thousands of dollars and were not available for purchase. Not only do you have the technology, you have the software behind it to provide you with information in terms of what the data means for your health."

Managing cost through apps

The days of the $10 co-pay are long gone. Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased 27 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. As the burden of cost shifts to consumers, applications that enable patients to find the most affordable options are becoming a necessity.

"Times have changed rapidly and dramatically," says Kristen Valdes, CEO and founder of b.well, a mobile healthcare management platform. "Consumers do want to participate and have a choice in their healthcare. Today's consumer wants to have access to their medical records, have the convenience of medical services instantly and they want to have the ability to manage their expenses."

She adds that b.well empowers consumers by giving them access to their data and information. "They can start to become an economic driver in the healthcare crisis that we have in the U.S. More importantly, consumers can finally have the healthcare experience they deserve."

One-stop shopping

Scheduled to launch by January 2017, the Evergreen Health mobile app, powered by b.well, is an example of patient-empowering technology. Much like the Mint app is a popular hub of all things financial, Evergreen's mobile app will serve as a one-stop healthcare resource.

The app will allow patients to access personal health records, automatically track habits such as diet, sleep and fitness, search for providers, fill prescriptions by price, manage and view insurance information and keep tabs on family members' medical needs.

Basham notes that the only way an information app can be successful is if it provides information in an easy-to-use format. "Evergreen's app, unlike anything out there that I've seen, reduces the burden on the end user," he says.

Preventive healthcare

Mobile apps like Evergreen's also help patients be proactive. That could mean monitoring sleep and diet — their app will sync with most wearable devices such as those made by Fitbit — or reminding patients they are due for a checkup or screening.

"Our mission is to help consumers avoid preventable chronic conditions," Valdes says. "We are spending 86 percent of all healthcare dollars in this country on conditions that are completely preventable. Unfortunately, most consumers find out they are at risk for one of these diseases only after they have been diagnosed. Our platform helps consumers manage their health real time and take preventive measures to avoid these conditions. "

In many ways, the development of a full-service app is the perfect next step in Evergreen's comprehensive approach to medicine: The insurer, the provider and the consumer all working together to improve health outcomes.

—Brendan Murphy for Evergreen Health