live it active

Smartphone Apps – Could they be life saving?

Are you the proud owner of a Smartphone? If so, you are part of the Canadian majority with approximately 54% Canadians owning one of these ego-boosting, ever-useful, shiny hand gadgets. We’ve come along way in a short period of time. In 1995, my family was exposed to the world wide web – a very exciting time for my grade 3 self…well, not really. It was exciting, but I had a very limited understanding of what it all meant. In just 17 years we have advanced to the technological world we live in today, spending an average of 2.8 hours per day on our Smartphones. I’m excited/nervous to see what the future holds for us.

Many of you will have a number of applications (apps) on your respective Smartphones. I assume the majority are collecting metaphorical dust, especially any of the health related ones (if you do in fact use one, please tell me which one). It seems, however, that health apps may be changing. That’s right, people may actually start to use them.

Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital-University Network have been investigating a new and interactive app for Blackberry. The Smartphone app is connected to a blood pressure cuff. When reminded, by their Smartphones no less, participants take their blood pressure and the cuff sends the reading to the phone, providing information for the participant and the researcher. If a reading is dangerously high, their doctor will be notified.

Over the course of a year, researchers have documented a significant drop in participants blood pressure relative to those in the control group. To quote Cafazzo (one of the researchers), “in real terms, it means their risk of cardiovascular mortality has dropped by 20 per cent”. That’s a significant drop.

While one participant found the constant reminders and readings somewhat anxiety inducing, another commented that this has been one of the best experiences of her life.  With the reminders and the instant feedback, this participant began to clearly understand the relationship between her eating/lifestyle habits and blood pressure.

In theory, I like this idea, but I’m uncertain about the longevity. It definitely has more staying power than most other devices and products due to the fact that we take our Smartphones everywhere. They are our small, rectangular babies after all. Yet, people get bored. They become agitated with reminders and alarms. Well, I do. How long will it take someone to turn off the app or delete it altogether?

Perhaps this extrinsic motivator leads to the development of intrinsic motivation. Perhaps users, initially motivated by the sound of the alarm and the pleas of the researcher, develop a better understanding of their body and the necessity to take care of it. They may even begin to like the feelings associated with improved self-care – improved mood, more energy, better sleep, weight loss.  Thus, perhaps this tool will help to foster the necessary internal motivation to stick with it. If that’s the case (which I sincerely hope they are measuring) than there is definite hope for this type of app.

What do you think? Would you use the app?



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