There are a growing number of free or inexpensive smartphone apps available for aging or ailing patients with chronic health conditions. These apps help patients and their caregivers keep track of medication dosages, nutritional requirements, and other daily healthcare needs. The apps also tap in to the growing trend of using mobile technology to communicate, organize our lives, and improve our health.
A good way to assess the quality and functionality of healthcare apps is to read app reviews on the Web sites of reputable medical facilities, such as the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School, and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Look for apps with high-quality video and audio capabilities.
According to some health and technology experts, the following are useful apps that caregivers may want to consider discussing with their elderly patients.
Designed by a pharmacist, this handy app helps organize multiple medications and keeps track of when each one is supposed to be taken. Patients simply add each medication they need to take and set alarms and reminders to help ensure all necessary pills are taken at the exact scheduled time throughout the day.
This handy app features over 60 high-quality videos with explanations for a number of different physical therapy–style exercises and stretches to perform to help relieve aches or pains. A feature enables the user to customize their physical therapy routines by filtering exercises by body part, profession, sport, or activity. Patients can bookmark their favorite exercises and bring them to show their doctor. An additional feature allows the user to search their local area for nearby physical therapists. The app is not intended to replace the services of a physical therapist; rather, it aims to teach patients how to properly maintain their bodies and help prevent injuries. It’s suitable as an extension of a patient’s home exercise program and can also be used by a physical therapist as a reference tool, showing patients how to properly perform physical therapy exercises at home.
HeartWise Blood Pressure Tracker
Once a patient’s blood pressure is taken and the measurements are entered, this app monitors systolic and diastolic blood pressure throughout the day. The app also records and calculates statistics for mean arterial pressure, resting heart rate, weight (pounds or kilograms), and body mass index. Detailed statistics reporting and hourly averages charts provide visualization of how a patient’s blood pressure and other measurements fluctuate over the course of an average day and over time. Candlestick chart–style range lines show maximums and minimums in addition to simple averages, and color coding clearly shows elevated risk levels. The app also features an export option that allows the patient to e-mail all of their personal data, which is compiled into one handy spreadsheet, directly to their doctor.
This personal health record app allows healthcare providers, including emergency responders, to access a person’s medical history via a smartphone. A GPS locator enables caregivers who also have the app loaded onto their smartphone to track the whereabouts of their patient should an emergency occur. The app was originally conceived for seniors exhibiting signs of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s also practical for patients with autism, mental illness, or other ailments that can cause confusion, such as diabetics with low blood sugar levels. It includes a feature that allows the user to call someone by touching a photo icon of them, rather than remembering a name.
One of a growing subcategory of medical apps that track medications, this app allows the user to schedule and track the medications of up to 3 people. For an additional fee, it allows users to receive recall alerts from the Food and Drug Administration and more detailed medication information.
Coordinating care can be a challenge, especially when multiple family members are in various time zones, and when friends, neighbors, volunteer programs, and paid services are involved. It takes precise coordination to figure out what needs to be done and who should be doing it. This app helps organize a patient’s individual care-giving community, allowing users to communicate in a private, secure online community; create, manage, and view upcoming care-giving tasks using a shared to-do list; assign tasks to individuals or ask for volunteers; and sync tasks that members are responsible for, which they can load onto their smartphone calendars and receive reminders.
This app won a Project HealthDesign award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the California HealthCare Foundation. It translates the pain scale into an electronic journal where a patient can indicate pain levels by touching frowning or smiling faces, as well as record pain location, duration, and characteristics, the patient’s mood, and pain triggers. As a patient stores a record of their pain, the app will help determine the cause of the pain. That data can then be shared instantly with a physician, who can adjust medications and treatments accordingly.
- Evan J. Top 6 iPhone & iPad apps for the elderly. Geeky Stuffs Web site. http://www.shaanhaider.com/2012/02/top-6-iphone-ipad-apps-for-elderly.html.
- Martin A. Apps to help track seniors’ medical needs. The Wall Street Journal Web site. January 4, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576060041940701926.html.