The search for health information online is now part of everyday life (we are living in a nation of cyberchondriacs after all). Yet the technology we’re using to find this information is changing as software giants try to keep up with our fast-paced lifestyles. Rather than Google-searching on a PC, Aussies are increasingly downloading the latest and funkiest health-related applications on their iPhones.
More than 70 per cent of us access information services from our mobile phones and with a rapidly increasing market share in Australia, the iPhone is predicted to surpass the BlackBerry as the dominant smartphone by this time in 2012. Stats show iPhone users in Australia consume a massive six times more data than the average mobile user – consuming almost 2MB more data per session and spending a lot longer browsing, even ahead of desktop users.
Capitalising on this consumer trend, Apple have hit the jackpot with the creation of their applications (or ‘apps’ for short) – third-party software programs developed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch that can be downloaded directly by the phone or downloaded onto a computer and transferred to the phone. And the good news is you can literally get an app for anything!
Out of approximately 140,000 apps, there are around 3,100 within the ‘Health & Fitness’ category. Whether they are free or paid-for, global or local, the range of health apps is vast. From a lifestyle perspective you can track your personal food intake and the nutritional value of what you’re are eating with CalorieTrack, or for just $0.99 you can download SmokeCount to help boost your willpower in the battle against cigarettes.
From a healthcare perspective, examples include the AutismTest – developed by KOLs as an accurate guideline for self-screening; Drugs&Medications – a quick reference guide to FDA drug information aimed at pharmacists, nurses, physicians and students; iAnemia – a ‘diagnostic medical tool’ for those managing blood diseases; and VaxTrack – a personal vaccination planner which links to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) schedule of recommended vaccinations.
Other useful examples include iDoc – a free US-based service through which users can get in touch with real physicians to ask medically-related questions (specialists available to answer questions include surgeons, medical specialists and mental health doctors), an app that has received great feedback from users; and Sleep Cycle – download the app, place your iphone under your mattress and the bio-alarm clock analyses your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase. The app uses the accelerometer in your iPhone to monitor your movement to determine which sleep phase you are in. This interactivity between the user’s physical environment and the software in their phone is where the potential for truly innovative, value-add apps really lies.
You’re also less likely to download a futile app as users can rate them individually, so you quickly get a sense of whether an app will offer any real value. The apps also link through to websites for further information.
So could the iPhone app be the future of the online health search? More and more companies are incorporating the development of apps into their e-marketing strategies and we will no doubt see a major increase in the number of apps available to download this year.
And for those you use that don’t yet have an iPhone, don’t worry – the majority of apps also have versions available on BlackBerry and mobile phones running Google’s Android software.