Apps and wearable social devices are the new frontier in healthier living.
Just a few years ago it might have been difficult for scientists to believe that social media would eventually play a role in modern medicine — but the skeptics would be wrong.
Researchers at Ochsner Clinical School in New Orleans are suggesting that apps and wearable devices with social connectivity could play a key role in treating the rapidly increasing number of people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart and kidney disease.
Drs. Richard V. Milani and Carl J. Lavie with Ochsner recently published an article in The American Journal of Medicine, “Healthcare 2020: Re-engineering Healthcare Delivery to Combat Chronic Disease” in which they offer new insight for managing chronic diseases using social platforms. The research is rooted in the idea that people are influenced by the behavior of their friends, including the desire to exercise or live a healthier lifestyle.
According to the article: “The importance of social network influences on behavior is now well established, having demonstrated considerable impact on smoking, diet, exercise, depression, medication adherence, and obesity. Decisions to quit smoking, begin an exercise program, and other health-related behaviors are not made completely by isolated persons, but rather, reflect choices made by groups connected to each other. This influence can be extensive, often reaching up to 3 degrees of separation. The fact that patients are embedded within social networks suggests that both good and bad behaviors could spread over a range of social ties, and that network involvement in health improvement or disease management could lead to positive and sustainable effects over time.”
Even better, there are new technologies emerging every day that can help us engage in healthier living — ultimately with the end goal of reducing chronic diseases.
The Nike+ Running App lets you share your runs and let your friends keep you going with cheers along the way. It also allows you to compete with your friends for the top leaderboard spot by setting the distance, inviting friends, and racing to the finish.
Wearable social devices like the FitBit Surge track the steps you take, calories you burn, and other measurements of activity. It also displays heart rate, which can be helpful for those who want to monitor their exertion level. Most importantly, two people who have FitBits can track each other’s progress and encourage each other to compete.
We emulate those around us who are taking care of themselves. It’s inspiring to see a bunch of your Facebook friends going CrossFit. Or nearly everyone on your Instagram feed hitting the gym after work. And healthcare organizations could look to social healthcare technology for new ways to reach new patients.