Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The iPhone Diet? Digital Health Finds Its Legs With Mobile Platforms

By Edward F. Moltzen, CRN

Want to dial up a weight loss plan?

Consult your physician. Then, once you get the green light, pull out your Apple (NSDQ:AAPL) iPhone, download a new breed of digital health apps, and start slimming down with the iPhone diet.

iphone diet
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Weight loss, physical fitness, blood pressure monitoring and even sleep management are now an increasingly embraced part of the Apple iPhone ecosystem -- with new products over the past several months gaining significant acceptance.

Leading IT companies such as Intel (NSDQ:INTC) began launching major digital health initiatives a decade ago, outlining the advances for both health-care consumers and providers in deploying PC-based solutions for medical intervention and wellness. But it wasn’t until the past 18 months that digital health solutions began showing momentum, spurred by “apps” that fit in with new platforms like iPhone, iPad and Android.

In research published by consulting firm Parks Associates, data shows some attention-getting numbers:

• Almost 20 percent of consumers have begun to use the Web to track the progress of their health, and as many as 7 percent have used the Web to communicate with their physicians;

• As of last December, there were more than 8,600 mobile apps for medical use or health and fitness just through Apple’s iTunes App Store alone;

• More than 9 out of 10 households in the U.S. have a mobile phone and one out of three in “broadband” households own a smartphone;

• Almost 80 percent of 200,000 physician practices in the U.S. have three or fewer doctors – exactly the type of practice that may benefit greatly from prescribing digital health solutions for patients.

Overall, according to Parks, the entire U.S. digital health-care industry will grow to more than $5.7 billion by 2015, with consumers of digital health solutions jumping from 3.8 million last year to 26 million over five years.

For anyone who has used digital health apps and found how easy and effective they can be, that number seems quite conservative. They work, they are flexible and -- because they fit in with mobile devices -- are at your side on just about a 24-7 basis.

We’ve examined a number of them, and found the best way to test several was simply to use them. Dieting and exercise aren’t fun, but the best-in-breed iPhone apps for weight-loss tasks are effective and can have impact. Here’s what we experienced:

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