The opportunity for women to take control of their health
People have been trying to increase their lifespans since the beginning of time, but the advent of technology has changed the game entirely.
Technology is enabling people to take their health into their own hands more than ever before. And it’s an opportunity that has been seized by millions. You would be hard-pressed to go a day without seeing at least one fitness tracker – in fact one in five Americans use a smart watch or fitness tracker one in five Americans use a smart watch or fitness tracker, and more than a quarter of UK adults owns an exercise tracker.
App usage in particular is at an all-time high globally. The average American has 80 apps on their phone, European consumers spent an estimated $18.3 billion across the App Store and Google Play in 2021, and Middle Eastern consumers are on average 1.6 more engaged with apps than those in Europe and North America.
Health-monitoring apps can supplement the already-huge wealth of knowledge that we can gain about our wellbeing due to the strides in modern medicine. People will often have several different apps to monitor different aspects of their health, from those that enable people to input their dietary habits or workouts, to those that connect to wearable devices to monitor their heart rates and sleeping habits in real-time. Apps are even being used to store medical records such as vaccinations or blood test results.
For women’s health in particular, they can offer the opportunity to learn more about their physiology where science is still catching up. There are apps that enable women to track their fertility, or menopause symptoms and are providing advice accordingly. It’s widely known that conditions that affect women do not receive as much funding as conditions that impact men, and while this gap is on the path to being bridged, women having access more personalized health information than ever before is empowering them in their daily lives.
The risk of a fragmented picture
While having apps that monitor your health can be incredibly useful to support actions and habits to increase longevity, there is a flaw to approaching health in the same way as other aspects of your life.
Using several different apps to across planning household admin or workloads can be disjointed, but using a suite of different apps to assess and make decisions about your health can be problematic.
If you need to go into one for your workout, another for your diet, and so forth, it can be difficult to keep track and always have a holistic view of your health, so you never have a true ‘full’ picture.
For example, someone could be taking Metformin, a medicine to treat type 2 diabetes, but also be using an app to follow a vegan weight loss meal plan. The app could be advising on a meal plan without considering that the person is diabetic, or the B12 deficiency that can be a side effect of taking Metformin. They could also have high blood pressure which isn’t taken into account in the meal plan or in another workout app they are using. The weight loss plan in turn isn’t adjusted to suit the workouts the person is being advised to do.
Without each siloed app having visibility and ‘understanding’ of the other aspects of a person’s health or the advice they are being given, the information from which they will draw conclusions and form habits will be, at best, inaccurate or, at worst, dangerous.
Making health technology efforts meaningful
The potential of technology to support wellness and health is limitless, but only if we look at things holistically. From apps that consider all aspects of your health, and the relationships between them to help provide an accurate picture from which better decisions can be made, to doctors’ offices providing options to submit information from wearables so they have a better picture of your overall health, and from which a more robust diagnosis and treatment plan can be made.
There needs to be a bigger effort for those using technology to support healthcare and wellness initiatives to remember that their developments are only as effective as the quality and the breadth of the data they draw from, and – critically – how closely their outputs translate to accurate and actionable health insights.