Part of the goal of testing all these wearables for We Wear It is to best understand how apps and devices help us live healthier lifestyles. That includes monitoring heart rate, tracking hydration, diet, exercise, etc. Our challenge this week is about using apps that allow us to integrate the data they collect (like calorie or exercise information) with the data our wearbles are collecting to get a more complete picture of our health and fitness routine.
A lot of people use apps like Lifesum, AddApp, and My Fitness Pal to count calories or track exercise in conjunction with a wearable, often looking at it as a tool to improve fitness level and lose weight (myself included). What we don’t always realize is that these types of tracking apps can have a more significant impact on healthcare. Namely, they give patients with chronic conditions a way to track prescribed diets and exercise plans, and then share that information with their care team.
There are two parts to this.
1) Apps and wearables make it easier for patients to follow prescribed diets and/or exercise plans, and recommended exercise level
While there are several rare diseases that have very rigid diets or exercise plans, there are also common chronic conditions like Type 2 Diabetes where diet and exercise plans differ from patient to patient. Typically, when someone is diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, their care provider talks to them about the plate method of diet management, and probably adds a couple of specific points (like avoid starchy foods, eat certain fruits for the nutrients and sugar, etc.). They also recommend that the patient be active for a certain amount of time everyday.
It’s often a challenge for these patients to figure out exactly what they can eat, and if their activity level meets what is prescribed. Enter devices and apps:
- Inlivo focuses on the idea of a well-composed plate. It helps users make sure they’re getting the right amount of all the major food groups, and helps them track the overall “success” of meals. Bonus: the company partners with amwell, one of the leaders in telemedicine. The data collected through their app can be accessed by amwell physicians during video visits. The app also integrates with Apple Health so the patient can get a complete picture of their diet and activity level from the phone or a wearable device.
- Shopwell allows patients to enter diet goals or chronic conditions and then scan foods while they’re shopping to see how they rate within diet “goals.”
- Rise is similar, except users get paired with a coach. After sending the coach snaps of what you eat throughout the day, they make recommendations based on goals and conditions. Rise will also use activity information collected to make sure you’re burning enough calories. If not, the app helps users figure out how to make the appropriate changes.
- Digifit does a little bit of everything. The app helps users create a diet and exercise plan based on a variety of markers (like conditions and goals) and then helps them track it, and alter or adapt the plan as needed.
- Most wearables like Fitbit and Jawbone have calorie counting features. This can be helpful if part of a prescribed diet includes meeting a certain number of calories per day. Just like entering a step goal, most wearables have users enter a caloric goal and then help you meet it with reminders, etc. Being able to track both simultaneously makes it significantly easier for patients to understand their information.
2) Patients can share their tracked meals, calories, and activity with care providers
This seems obvious, but there are a couple important things to note here: the providers could look at the actual food tracked and see if the calories are the “right” calories (meaning, do they match specific diet markers like non-starchy vegetables, grains, fruits, etc.), and they can look at the foods a patient eats to make additional recommendations based on symptoms and general health information they collect during a visit.
Similarly, care teams can make sure that the exercise a patient is doing is adequately addressing their problem areas. They can see if the patient’s heart rate is being elevated to a good level, if they are straining, if they are building muscle where they need to, etc.
The benefit of integrated data (steps, additional exercise metrics, plus diet info, etc.) puts all the information in one place, so physicians can look at one set of data (instead of several), and can compare all the data points at once.
Giving physicians that complete picture of how patients eat and exercise between visits can help them make better decisions when a patient has new or different symptoms. It also helps them create better care plans for the long-term management of chronic conditions.
These apps and wearables are one step towards making chronic condition management easier for patients and providers.