Got a computer, smart phone, iPad or tablet? Then you can track and manage your health using health Apps. An App (application) is a small software program that offers a very specific function, e.g. the Facebook App allows you to post photos and information onto “your Facebook page”, a weather App gets information from a weather site and sends it to your phone as an “update.” Apps are handy, as you are not constantly filling up your phone or computer memory with information you don’t need. If you have icons (graphics) on your phone then you have a device, which is “App enabled.” A “mobile or phone App” works on phones, a “web App” on computers. Just because you have an App on your computer doesn’t mean you automatically have one on your phone. To make things more complicated an App that works on an Apple phone or iPad will not work on an Android phone or Windows tablet. There are thousands of health Apps available for the general public. Some offer information such as what is the nutritional value of what you eat or drink - are there any vitamins in beer you may ask? Others provide a diary system to help track weight or exercise routines; and others provide self-help advice such as healthy recipes and exercises to do at home. For people with health problems there are Apps to record daily blood pressure readings, glucose levels, bowel & bladder routines, as well as Apps to help with emergency situations or provide information on your specific health problem. In the USA and UK there are Apps that help you find anything from the closest “pee stop” to the nearest emergency health worker.

How does a Health App work?

You may be asked to put in some personal details e.g. male/female, height, weight, and date of birth to compare your profile to an “average profile for gender and age.” This means you can see whether your health is similar to the “average person” of your age, better than the average person, or whether you have a potential health problem. Remember that males and females can have different averages - a 75kg man is considered “normal,” but a 75kg woman is probably overweight.

Most have a diary for you to enter information according to date and time, so you could take a blood pressure (BP) reading in the morning and one after exercise; or list the food you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The more advanced Apps let you add notes to go with the reading so you have more than the time logged, e.g. glucose reading at 13.00 before or after you ate lunch? If you own a digital health measuring device e.g. BP or Glucose tester, then you may be able to buy a hardware link between that device and your phone or computer.

Once you spent a few days or weeks logging your personal health profile then talk to your health professional to see if you need to change your activity routine or eating pattern. Use the App to measure any changes in your health. Remember that these Apps do not replace your regular visit to the clinic or the doctor, but to help you track changes in your health so that you can give the nurse, doctor or therapist better information at your next appointment, or so you can spot an emergency situation and get help quickly.

There are many free Apps, but the more advanced the App, the more likely you will have to pay for it. Free Apps are a good way to start to see if you can keep a basic health diary before you go for a more complicated version. The advantage of using a phone App is that your health information is always with you whether you are at the clinic, doctor, or at home. Remember to check that the diary on the App can be transferred if you change phones. Phone Apps can be linked to your computer for storing or printing the information, or you can send the information to your doctor via the email program on the phone. Some doctors have questioned the accuracy of certain Apps, but if you establish your own range then look for variations - you should be OK.