New apps for managing your health

What’s the New Prescription for Managing Your Health?

Hint: Sensors, smartphones and apps, which are connecting patients to their doctors like never before.

New apps for managing your health

More often than not, the motivation behind the world’s most important innovations comes from a place close to home. For a Young Innovator from Tel Aviv, Israel, motivation came by way of his siblings. Aziz Kaddan co-founded Myndlift to make an alternative for conventional attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug treatments — long prescribed to his brother and sister — more accessible. “I saw how ADHD treatments were harming my siblings,” he says in An Entrepreneur’s Perspective: Today’s World Through the Eyes of the Young Innovator, an Economist Intelligence Unit report sponsored by FedEx. “That’s why I wanted to bring forward an alternative treatment.”

Myndlift’s app-based system uses digital technology to ease symptoms through neurofeedback. Its form of brain training has traditionally only been available in clinics, and it shows high rates of success. “Yet, you see parents giving their children ADHD medications instead of giving them neurofeedback training, and the reason for this is neurofeedback is expensive and not accessible,” Kaddan says. Although Myndlift requires a $250 headband made by Toronto-based Muse, its app is free, and the premium version of the app is $15. “We brought neurofeedback from the clinic to the home,” Kaddan says. “You can train anywhere, anytime.”

New apps for managing your health

Beyond ADHD

The Myndlift app is just one example of a digital tool that’s putting more control in the hands of patients and showing promise for effective treatment. Other tools are addressing chronic diseases such as heart and lung disease. In a study published in the Journal of Aging and Health, 501 Humana Medicare Advantage participants who were digitally connected to a personal health coach developed by San Francisco–based Omada Health lost an average of 7.5 percent of their initial weight after one year. They also lowered their cholesterol and improved blood-sugar levels.

Although “telemedicine” touchpoints connecting doctors’ office teams and patients are nothing new — nurse hotlines have been around for years, and Skype and FaceTime have gained popularity for remote consultations — today’s newer digital connections are better at addressing conditions and empowering patients. Most programs are delivered via sensors, smartphones and other wireless devices, engaging with patients for encouragement, answers to questions and interventions as needed. Tueo Health, a respiratory tech company based in Redwood City, California, is one example. Using a sensor attached to a child’s bed, it helps treat asthma by monitoring the child’s heartbeat and respiratory rate, and sending data to a mobile app. The app provides alerts for when an inhaler can be used to prevent an episode.

By maximizing efficiency for the medical team, digital tools such as the Tueo sensors and app are helping lower costs. They also send doctors data about patients’ actions and symptoms. It’s that data — along with involvement from the patients themselves — that has the biggest impact on an improved prognosis. In a New England Journal of Medicine survey of 595 healthcare executives and clinicians, 51 percent of respondents said that a top benefit of connecting with patients digitally was creating an ecosystem that allows for timely intervention and better predictive analytics around patient health. And 29 percent said such tech gives patients extra motivation because they know clinicians will see the data. Access to that kind of accountability alone — even if it means your doctor knows what you had for dessert — is poised to play an particularly important role in improving health outcomes.

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