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Health Trackers & Apps are Dangerous… Scientists Say What?

With over 165,000 health-related apps in the App Store and Millions of wearables in the hands of the general public, scientists are wondering if they are “doing more harm than good”? One expert commented that the field can be “likened to the snake oil salesmen of the 1860s.” Is this true?

Question: What is the danger of health-related technologies in the hands of the general public?

Answer: Because health-related technology is often “one size fits all” with the data it provides mistakenly seen as the “holy grail” that leads to improved health, it can lead individuals down a path that does not correlate with improved behaviors. This should not be a shock to health professionals as it is certainly unfair to expect the average technology user to be a “health expert” who is able to accurately analyze health data and implement the proper behavior change.

Therefore, the real question should be . . . How can the power of health-related technologies that is already in the hands of the pubic, be appropriately leveraged? Well my friends, that answer lies square in the hands of the Health Professional who fills the significant gap between the individual and technology they use. I call this the Technology-Behavior Change Triad© (Details in the next article in this series).

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: While working with clients and patients for over 5 years we have successfully integrated health-related technologies with our patients and clients. During this time we have found them to be the key tool for providing patient-matched, actionable feedback related to long-term behavior change. Think about it, how else can we get “real-time”, individualized information from clients or patients when they are not with us? What’s more, smartphones and wearables are already in the hands in just about ALL of our current and potential clients and patients so as professionals we are remiss if we disregarded the use of this technology.

The Take Home Message: Health-Related technology provides valuable information to the end user. Can this be harmful? Well, the question really should be . . . How can this technology be most impactful for improved health? Simply put, the Health Professional can harness the power of Health-Related technology when it is integrated within the client or patient relationship. In the end, not only do these tools allow the creation of the best individualized motivational environment for each person, but they also take your business to the next level as you optimize your service offering with more efficient and effective engagement!

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Steve Feyrer-Melk.

Steve Feyrer-Melk, MEd, PhD, is a powerful, passionate, and trusted authority in Lifestyle Medicine who is bringing an innovative, refreshing, and successful approach to proactive health care. Dr. Steve co-founded the Optimal Heart Attack & Stroke Prevention Center where he crafts and hones real-world programs for immediate impact. Dr. Steve also serves as the Chief Science Officer of Nudge, LLC, a lifestyle medical technology company.

MFN Industry Expert