With the latest technology, patients now have more control of their healthcare than ever before.

There’s an app for everything these days. In fact, when it comes to healthcare, there’s more than 100,000 apps that track your physical activity, monitor your sleep, and measure your heartbeat. Thanks to the powerful technology we carry around in our pocket every day, it’s never been easier to track and manage our health.

“We know that when patients have more control over their healthcare, they experience better outcomes,” said Dr. Russell Cameron, Chief Medical Officer of Penn Highlands Healthcare and Chief Informatics Officer at Penn Highlands DuBois. “Apps and online tools can help you change health-related behaviors, manage chronic conditions, and give you a level of control over your health that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.”

A pandemic surge.

Research shows that about one in five adults in 2019 used a health app on their phone or tablet to track their personal health. When the pandemic hit, app use surged 40%, according to recent reporting, with the average user spending a whopping 4 hours and 20 minutes per day on their smartphone. Penn Highlands Healthcare reports that downloads of its telemedicine app, “MyHealthNow”, increased by 6,000 percent in 2020. The pandemic forced many of us out of necessity to turn to online and app-based methods to manage our health and to see our physicians virtually. But as pandemic restrictions recede, it’s likely that these new tools will become a permanent part of healthcare.

What kind of data can smartphones capture?

Thanks to all the sensors and technology within your smartphone or smartwatch, you can capture detailed health data with very little effort on your part. Apps like Map My Run use your phone’s GPS functionality to track how far you run, walk, hike or bike. Apps like Sleep Cycle and SleepScore utilize your phone’s speaker and microphone to track your sleep using sonar. Your phone measures changes in your breathing by emitting inaudible sound waves, which bounce off your chest and are picked up by the microphone.

Smartwatches like the Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy Watch can provide even more data. Some smartwatches have electrocardiogram capabilities, which can measure your heartbeat and detect A-fib, an irregular heartbeat that is a major risk factor for stroke. Smartwatches can also measure blood-oxygen levels by using infrared LEDs to determine the color of your blood and calculate blood-oxygen levels, an early indicator for issues like circulatory problems, lung function, neurological problems, and more.

Take control of your healthcare with provider-based apps.

Apps not only help you track your data, they can also help you take control of your healthcare plan too. Provider-based apps, such as the MyPennHighlands app from Penn Highlands Healthcare, lets you access medical records, communicate with your doctor, view upcoming appointments, renew prescriptions, and more.

With an app like MyPennHighlands, you can access all your health information and communicate with your provider’s office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you see multiple providers and specialists, MyPennHighlands lets you manage everything in one convenient place. You can even set up email reminders and alerts to help you remember things like annual checkups and flu shots.

“Effective communication between the patient and the provider has been shown to lead to more accurate diagnosis, a better understanding of treatment options, and, improved health and satisfaction.” said Dr. Cameron. “By giving patients the ability to ask questions about their health and communicate with their provider on their own schedule, an app like MyPennHighlands is putting more power in the hands of patients.”

You can learn more about the MyPennHighlands app, the new patient portal for Penn Highlands Healthcare patients, at www.phhealthcare.org/service/mypennhighlands.