Mobile health poised to empower Canadians to get healthier

Back in the day, getting healthy meant popping a VHS tape of Richard Simmons’ “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” in the VCR and literally sweating it out in the living room. We spent our precious time The Runner Still Imagemeticulously counting steps and calories in a journal or strapping on a clunky Walkman for The Runner - Still 02 Facebookmusical motivation during our morning runs.

Today, connected mobile devices and wearable health technology are completely transforming the way we monitor our health – from chronic illnesses to our performance at the gym to our pace during our daily run. It is estimated that by 2017, the world’s total mobile health market revenue will reach $26 Billon and it shows. Almost daily, new smartphone-enabled accessories like wristbands that track physical activity or wearable sensors to monitor glucose levels arrive on the scene. But even skeptics of consumer health technology agree that some of these new technologies show promise.

Health and fitness wearables explosion

Since 2012, the market for fitness trackers has exploded. It is estimated there are more than 97,000 mobile apps related to health and fitness on the market today. Fitness and health trackers like Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, Samsung Gear Fit and a slew of others are highly evolved relatives of the pedometers of yesteryear. Also called appcessories, they’re much smarter and do way more than simply measure how much you walk. By pairing these wearables with mobile apps, they give you better insight into habits that make up your healthy lifestyle, including steps, sleep, calorie consumption, heart rate, blood pressure and more.

In the future, wearables will literally be woven into the fabric of our clothes. Imagine a shirt that detects irregular blood sugar levels, contact lenses that monitor changes in your retina, intelligent fibres in your clothes that keep track of your pulse and heart rate or even shoe insoles that connect to your smartphone to help with posture and even let you adjust the temperature of your shoes (those would sure come in handy for our Canadian winters)!

Virtual personal fitness and nutrition coaching

While wearable fitness trackers and health monitors allow consumers to take control of their personalSS_TBF-Fitness_Blog01 health on their own, we know that some people need a little extra help getting motivated and staying healthy. Today, we rely on professionals like personal trainers and nutritionists to keep us on track, but that’s about to change.

Virtual personal training is starting to catch fire – and fast – with apps like Coach Alba. Coach Alba is a text-messaging app that helps you through those moments of truth while dieting. Users can customize the app to reach out to them when they need a reminder to stick to their diet or they can text their coach at the spur of the moment, like when they’re contemplating demolishing a cookie at their 3pm meeting. Another example is GAIN Fitness, a workout coaching app and website that lets users set and schedule routines for exercising at the gym, at home or on the go. Adidas is also dabbling in this space with miCoach.

Achieving your health goals through gamification

If you’re more of the group fitness type, the future looks bright for you too!

Online fitness start-up Wello recently launched group workouts enabling users to take group classes with trainers and connect with friends, family or other users who wish to participate in the same classes. All they need is a web connection, webcam and their fitness gear to begin scheduling and taking personal fitness classes.

In addition to virtual group fitness, with the rise of the Internet of Things and big data, we will start to see gamification make strides in the health and fitness tech space – a real-life health game if you will. The “game” can involve things like weight loss, workout regimens, and other aspects of your life. And we are already seeing some good examples of how gamification makes life interesting. For instance, Fitocracy rewards users with for losing weight, while HabitRPG punishes you for eating that extra slice of pizza.

Keeping tabs on your health with high-tech assessment tools

Health assessment tools are also rapidly advancing. Mobile health apps focused on health and wellness for patients with chronic diseases are on the rise and physicians are starting to see their value. A Manhattan Research survey recently noted that more than one-third of physicians have recommended the use of mobile health apps to their patients.

TELUS Health is already making headway in this area with remote health monitoring. People living with chronic diseases (like COPD or congestive heart failure) are able to easily monitor their biometrics – like insulin levels, weight, and blood pressure – themselves, from the comfort of their own home or on the go using their smartphone or tablet. The information is instantly sent to the patient’s health care team for analysis, allowing them to easily adjust medications, identify warning signs early on, and reduce the number of days spent in the hospital. In Ontario, home health monitoring solutions have proven to reduce hospital admissions by 71 per cent and decrease ER visits by 43 per cent[1].

There’s no doubt about it, mobile health technology is poised to revolutionize the way we look at our health, and can empower us to get healthier and stay connected while we do it. What are your thoughts on the future of mobile health?

[1] OTN Telehomecare Phase 1 results: http://rxtelehomecare.ca