We’ve all seen those ubiquous wristbands that monitor our steps and try to help keep us on target with our daily fitness goals. Many others use calorie and food tracking apps on our smartphones to help us maintain a healthy diet. More recently, app developers have begun to recognize the unique health needs of women., In 2014, according to Crunchbase, a tech tracking company, women’s healthcare apps generated more income than all other health apps combined and it is expected that the market is only going to continue to grow.
For the uninitiated, apps are self-contained programs or software that are downloaded to smartphones. Many are simply tracking journals or calendars, but lately app developers have worked to have apps become more interactive, and several developers are recognizing that women are a large segment of app users. In fact, when Apple neglected to include a period tracker on its first launch of Health app, many women complained, and Apple added the tracker on its later version.
Over the last couple of years, apps have been developed and brought to market to cover everything from period tracking to women’s health medical opinions. A recent issue of Business Insider highlighted a few of the apps that are helping women stay on track with specific health needs.
A Danish developer, Ida Tin, created an app named Clue that is designed to help women track their fertility in order to achieve a pregnancy. This app can also be used as a period tracker. It includes features that allow the user to record premenstrual symptoms, pain and energy, and bleeding levels during her cycle. The reviewers in Business Insider liked that it was sans the typical pink or floral motifs common among many “feminine” apps.
Kindara is another fertility tracking device that helps women track and view signs of fertility including basal body temperature and cervical fluid with user-friendly radio buttons. Kindara includes a community feature that allows users to interface with other users. Data is converted into easy-to-read graphs and charts and makes healthcare provider visits easy because all your data is at your fingertips.
Another popular app myPill helps women follow the schedule of their contraceptive medications and devices including patches and rings. Auditory reminders let you know when to take your pill or change a device. The app also tracks your history and lets you know about your protection level based on history. It also includes a journal feature that allows you to record history and to include notes and symptoms that can be especially handy when you bring it along to your healthcare provider.
Some newer apps go beyond the typical calendar or reminder features and integrate health information. For instance Keep A Breast Foundation has developed Check Yourself, which includes tutorials on how to accurately conduct self-examination. This app also includes monthly reminders to do your exam and reminders for breast health exams with your healthcare provider.
A former health reporter, Katharine Richardson developed an app to make physicians and other healthcare providers readily accessible to women to address their health concerns. Maven takes the health app one step further by allowing women to get immediate healthcare advice via immediate video appointments with accredited healthcare providers specially geared to women’s health. These include specialists in general health, family medicine, mental health, nutrition, and pre- and postpartum care. These virtual “visits” are limited to consultations and non-emergency questions. The app also includes a forum feature that allows women to interact with other women and discuss health questions and concerns in a discussion format. The app is free for the discussion forum, and charges vary for video appointments from between $18-$35.
Progyny is another healthcare provider resource app that specializes in the fertility industry that helps women find infertility specialists in their area and includes appointment bookings and even financing providers.
Most of these apps are available to both iPhone and Android users and vary in cost from free to under $40 for the more interactive video appointments. As with most technologies available to us today, the data output is only as good as the data input. Most are extremely user friendly and have frequently asked questions or help options to answer questions you may have about the apps.
The fertility apps, in particular, will let you know about the limitations of the apps, and most will recommend that you consult with your healthcare provider if you have any particular medical problems or concerns. These apps are in no way a replacement for sound medical advice from a trained professional but can certainly enhance your ability to keep track of pertinent medical information.
Dr. Hardy practices obstetrics and gynecology at Atlantic Ob/Gyn located in Va. Beach and Chesapeake. Please visit www.atlanticobgyn.com.