The use of health management apps is on the rise for those with chronic diseases.
“Chronic diseases…are conditions that require ongoing follow up, and usually, patients are taking medicines to help manage that,” Dr. Scott Joy, Internal Medicine Physician at Swedish Medical Center, explained. “Diabetes is a chronic condition, hypertension, heart disease, emphysema, or COPD and asthma.”
Dr. Joy works with patients dealing with a number of chronic illnesses and he’s seen how – especially following the pandemic – more and more people are using health management apps to monitor their conditions.
“I say hey you should eat better, you should exercise more, you should stop smoking. So if there's an app that takes those recommendations and allows patients to meet that goal, that's good,” Dr. Joy said.
Currently, six in 10 adults have a chronic disease. Four in 10 have two or more, according to the CDC.
A recent report from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science shows the number of apps focused on health condition management is increasing, accounting for 47 percent of all apps in 2020, up from 28 percent in 2015.
“I think we underestimate how much both mindshare that people spend on managing chronic disease, but also day to day, how much time in the day they’re spending managing it,” Stephanie Tilenius, the CEO and founder of Vida Health, said.
Vida Health has seen how the industry has flourished.
“Vida Health is a platform for virtual chronic physical and mental health,” she said. “We've seen tremendous growth, we doubled in 2020 and then again in 2021.”
But before you download just any health management app, there are some points to consider.
“Sometimes the data is being collected on patients and being used to supplement research studies that are being then subsequently used to change healthcare policy. And people don't realize their own data is being used in such a manner,” Lauren Deluca, the president of the Chronic Illness Advocacy and Awareness Group, said.
Deluca said it's important to pay attention to the data agreements and how your data is shared.
“See if you're comfortable with it. If you're not, don't download it. It's no different than any other app out there,” she said.
“One of the barriers to uptake in this is going to be that a lot of these apps don't interact with the electronic health record,” Dr. Joy said.
Dr. Joy said this can make it more difficult when important health information is stored in two different places – some with your doctor and some on an app, which doctors don’t get paid for interpreting.
“The challenge for a long term success of these apps will be how is the time of a provider to interpret that data getting reimbursed,” Dr. Joy said.
Even with the hurdles, the industry is continuing to see growth.
“We’re going to see a movement towards chronic care being managed in a day to day continuous manner the way we’re doing it and others in the industry are pushing. It's just more efficient, it's more effective,” Tilenius said.