How Apps Promote Health and Wellness
In 2015, I was one of the more than 100 million U.S. smartphone owners for whom devices and apps had changed how I manage my health and fitness. This year I’m joining more than 16 million others planning to use apps to help fulfill their New Year’s resolutions.
I expect these numbers to grow, because the fact is that we’re on to something.
Smartphones, fitness devices, apps, and the APIs that enable them to work together as a connected ecosystem might improve the abysmal success rate of New Year’s resolutions: nine out of 10 people are likely to fail to keep theirs, a statistic sadly consistent with my own track record (check out this infographic to learn more).
But beyond that, digital may literally help people live longer. More than one in three (37 percent) of adult smartphone owners report that they are healthier thanks to their smartphones and apps. A study by Walgreens puts some hard numbers behind this perception.
People can connect a health or fitness device online or through the Walgreens app to the company’s Balance Rewards program. By setting and achieving goals such as walking, blood glucose tracking, or blood pressure tracking, users can then earn points redeemable in stores. In 2015, there were 800,000 participants who had connected 250,000 devices.
Studies found a statistically significant uplift in medication adherence among participants:
- New participants taking diabetes medications who also tracked blood glucose levels demonstrated 5.4 percentage points higher adherence, while participants who logged steps for walking and running demonstrated 7.9 percentage points higher adherence.
- New participants taking anti-hypertension medications who also tracked blood pressure levels demonstrated 2.6 percentage points higher adherence, while participants who logged steps for walking and running demonstrated 2.4 percentage points higher adherence.
This doesn’t surprise me. Overall, a majority of smartphone owners think their phones and apps give them more rather than less control over their lives. But nearly eight in 10 (77 percent) of those who are planning to set New Year’s resolutions versus a bare majority (53 percent) of those who aren’t feel this way.
Those setting New Year’s resolutions are more than three times as likely to buy a new smart, connected device in 2016 than those who aren’t (24 percent to 7 percent). Likewise, they’re more than three times as likely to have started shopping at a new store in the past year because of its app (34 percent versus 10 percent).
This suggests to me that the former have discovered the virtuous cycle powered by the increasing role of apps and smartphones in how they manage their lives, and the continuing innovation of companies that see great opportunity in offering new ways to complement or integrate with these experiences.
As more people and companies come to the same realization, this is a virtuous cycle in which everyone wins. We individually get a leg up sticking to those New Year’s resolutions. Companies who deliver helpful innovation are rewarded with loyalty and market share. And improvement in the health of millions or even tens of millions of people may materially affect our medical system and the economy.
That’s a great note on which to start the new year.
For more on how apps, smartphones, and digital transformation have affected not only health, but commerce and financial services, download the Apigee Institute report, "Digital is Destiny: The Apigee Digital Impact Survey 2015."