A database of health technology companies shows that there has been significant growth in the investment in health and wellness data tracking technology. The number of companies that offer or are working on self-management tools for individuals rose by 35 percent in 2012. Cell phone applications and other technology may help patients track their own health conditions and avoid medical mistakes caused by a lack of information. Individuals primarily used technology to track the weight or monitor chronic health conditions such as Crohn’s disease or diabetes.
The Pew Research Center conducted a survey as part of their Internet and American Life Project. The survey revealed that 21 percent of people who track some aspect of their health used technology to do so. With nearly 13,000 health and fitness applications available to consumers, the number of people turning to smartphones to monitor their health will likely continue to rise. According to the survey, the people who used technology to monitor their health had changed their overall approach as a result.
While technology still has a ways to go to replace memory and paper records as methods to track health data, it offers several distinct advantages. Many people do not realize how frequently and dramatically their symptoms vary. Spotting patterns and providing answers in a form doctors would find palatable could be improved by software. The Pew survey revealed that those who used devices to track several chronic conditions asked their doctors new questions or sought second opinions based on their experience.
Safety experts encourage patients to ask questions and be informed consumers when it comes to medical care. Regular tracking may help an individual ask intelligent questions or even question a treatment recommendation made by their doctor. Technology could empower individuals to make their safety a priority in receiving medical care.
Source: The New York Times, “More Using Electronics to Track Their Health,” by Milt Freudenheim, 27 January 2013