Health apps: Picking the good from the dud

ExpenseOnDemand has devoted lots of time to the heath of your wealth with prudent expense management, but this money we’re stepping away from our specialist area of money. That’s why our latest app of the month column comes with a health warning: just as you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the paper, you shouldn’t necessarily believe everything a health app tells you…

You could be forgiven for thinking that there are as many apps as there are people with smartphones. A trawl though an app store is proof enough of that. Creating an app is child’s play for someone with a little skill. But when it comes to health, it’s worth taking a deep breath and having a think before hitting the ‘download’ button.

That’s because, when it comes to health apps, they might not be telling you the right story.

In a recent episode of ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’ presenter Zoe Williams – who’s also a General Practitioner working in London, so she ought to know a thing or two – compared the performance of the same app used on different devices. Her specialist interests include preventative medicine, sports medicine and tackling chronic health through lifestyle measures such as healthy eating and physical activity.

Heart-rate monitoring
She picked a heart-rate monitoring app, which operates through the smartphone’s camera, and found that the results varied from device to device. Her conclusion? That not every health-related app was to be trusted. So, what do you do? How can you pick the good from the dud?

Dr Zoe’s advice was to seek third party confirmation that the app would do what it said. In this case she recommended picking one that had been tested by the National Health Service. A number are available free on the web from the NHS Choices site.

Between them these apps are designed to tackle the major issues facing individuals today – smoking, drinking to excess, obesity, improving fitness and failing to eat healthily.

Health checks
These are all issues that are covered in NHS health checks scheme, so can be a shortcut to finding the problems – and answers – that one of those problems might be causing you. Let’s face it, we probably all know if we’re eating or drinking too much, or have become couch potatoes, or haven’t been to the gym since we called in to sign up for membership… Whichever category you fall into there you must be aware that there’s an issue or you wouldn’t be thinking of getting an app, and much less of reading this blog. And if that’s the case, anyway you need to take action, picking the right app could be the first step on an important life-changing road. (Though as with all of these things, before you commit to any drastic changes in lifestyle, you’d be as well talking to your doctor first, just to be on the safe side.) Well, why wouldn’t you start to improve your fitness – you have nothing to gain but your life.

Picture: Lacheev | Dreamstime