The buzz is all about tele-health. Apps allow patients to achieve a new level of self-monitoring and self-care. Through virtual care, patients can conveniently consult with a physician from home and at a lower price. With online portals, people can access medical advice on websites. Although they should be advised it’s not going to be as accurate as a one-on-one with a physician. However, health still comes down to a patient’s self-control and volition. That’s why advancements that make it easier and more convenient to be healthy are going to make all the difference as we continue advancing into the future of healthcare.
What On-Demand Means for Healthcare
The reason why on-demand ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are successful boils down to convenience. You simply open an app, push a few buttons, and a driver is there faster than you can say “taxi.” People want everything to be quick and easy, and the same applies for health.
No coincidence, then, that unhealthy eating is normal in America. It’s easier to eat processed foods than it is to prepare a meal. The nearest fast food dive or convenience store is less than a mile away. You can insert all the tele-health you want, but you’re treating the symptoms, not the problem.
As long as convenience and poverty coexist, many people will choose the cheapest food options. People who are overweight due to environmental factors may find it hard to follow prescribed diets because of the time, money, and self-control it takes to do so. In other words, it takes a while to cook a decent meal.
There’s also the very real issue of co-existing disorders. According to Verywell Mind, between 17 to 46 percent of people who have eating disorders have a reoccurring substance abuse problem, while 35 percent of substance abusers have an eating disorder.
On-demand services could be part of the solution to co-existing disorders. Here are just a few on-demand health services that make it easier and more convenient to take care of yourself.
A newer entry in the dieting space, “prepared meals” can meet the requirements of physician-prescribed diets. There are numerous “prepared meal” companies out there to satisfy nearly any medically necessary diet, including:
- Heart-healthy diet: Consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat proteins, and low-sodium foods, the heart-healthy diet helps treat cardiovascular disease.
- Low-inflammation diet: With foods high in fiber and healthy carbs, a low-inflammation diet can help patients suffering from diabetes.
- Gluten-free diet: For patients suffering from celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is absolutely essential.
Additionally, consumers can order healthy on-demand meals before they ever develop a medical condition. With an estimated worth of $1.5 billion, the healthy prepared meals industry is taking off, in part because of the convenience, in part because of the health appeal.
Research shows that yoga has a number of health benefits:
- Weight loss, as well as less weight gain during middle adulthood
- Increased muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardio-respiratory fitness
- Lower blood pressure
- It can lower blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes
Now you can learn yoga on demand and do it anywhere there’s space, where before you used to have to go to a yoga studio or watch a video, both of which cost money and are not nearly as “on-demand” as an app.
The great thing about many yoga apps is they’re free. VeryWell Fit reviewed major yoga apps and found that the best ones come from “people with solid yoga backgrounds instead of app developers trying to capitalize on yoga’s popularity.”
There’s even high-tech apparel that gives you feedback on your yoga poses. Wearable X, a company based out of Sydney, AU, and NYC, is selling a pair of yoga pants that pulse when your yoga pose is incorrect. The pants have an embedded sensor that sends data about your pose to a smartphone app. The app uses algorithms to determine what pose you’re doing, as well as whether you’re doing it right, at which point it sends a signal back to the pants. Wearable X’s CEO says the company worked with 50 different yogis to “understand the importance of alignment in time and space.” This information informs the app’s algorithms.
For people with co-existing disorders, a relapse into drug use can trigger binge eating or other eating disorders. In addition, the severity of the opioid crisis is a good reason to search for new solutions in the form of on-demand services.
The number one key to staying sober is motivation, and plenty of people are socially motivated, which is why Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are forms of group therapy. Triggr Health, a data-based addiction recovery app, predicates its service on the gaps NA and AA don’t fill: about 75 percent of people who attend these programs relapse within the first year. Triggr employs user data and machine learning to predict the likelihood of a relapse. If it looks like someone’s on the verge, a member of Triggr’s team contacts the user’s care team so that a counselor or community-based specialist can intervene.
Other apps incorporate the social aspect, and some include bio-sensors. Sober Grid connects recovering addicts with each other to form a support network. The app reminds members to check in, report whether they’re sober, and make a daily sobriety pledge. If someone is having a hard time, the app asks them questions to promote recovery. Members contact each other with motivational messages.
A-CHESS, an app built by the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, uses GPS to warn users when they’re near a trigger zone. This is a place where they’re tempted to use or drink, and if they remain there, the app warns their support team.
Another interesting work in progress is a sensor that will be able to detect opioid use. A team from UC San Diego Health is working on a sensor the size of a grain of rice. Physicians would inject the sensor under a patient’s skin. If the patient relapses, the sensor will send a notification to an app immediately. Then, the patient’s treatment team can spring into action.
The Importance of On-Demand Health
At its core, apps and other innovations that live in the on-demand niche make proactive, preventative healthcare more convenient. Preventative healthcare saves people money by eliminating costly hospital visits. In the case of sobriety apps, a quick notification to a care team can save someone’s life.
With opioid abuse and obesity issues raging strong in America, on-demand health solutions are going to be increasingly in demand. The more we can prevent issues before they get really bad, the less burden on the healthcare system — and on people’s lives.