Toronto is offering a high quality of life for 2.8 million residents(and over 6 million in the Greater Toronto Area) who choose to live and work here. Our families are a part of the urban community that lives an active life and makes no compromises when it comes to health. Toronto is one of the most liveable and competitive cities in the world as demonstrated by a number of international rankings and reports. We take care of our health and the health of our loved ones the best way we can, and if there’s anything that might help us do that, we pursue it. This article will introduce top health apps that will help you diagnose your medical condition, fight anxiety, help you stop smoking, help organize your medication, keep your diet in order, and even consult on cancer or epilepsy issues for you, your children, your partner, and all the loved ones who deserve to get the best care available.
I asked Peter Mira, a programmer and apps developer who currently leads an international team including German, French, Czech and American programmers in apps research and development, to explain what to look for in an app in order to find the ones that won’t disappoint us and will keep our families safe and healthy.
- Apps should be easy to use
- Apps have to be credible
- Apps need to be interactive
- Apps need to be quick
The intuitive character of the health apps is paramount because they need to be accessible to a wide range of customers, diverse in age and apps skills.
Apps need to be either state approved or they need to be backed by big names from the field of medicine, otherwise they are not going to receive enough funding and the content is simply going to be very vague and not useful at all.
An app needs to be interactive on two levels. The app needs to be able to work on any type of device and interact with other related apps. The other level is the interactivity with the user. High levels of the customization are a must!
These apps have to be as quick as possible in fulfilling their function and have to provide a lot of feedback to users. And by users I mean parents. Of course, I’d advise parents to keep their phones with these apps locked, we don’t wanna scare our beloved offspring should the app indicate they might have some health issues.
MedHelper is a comprehensive prescription and medication compliance and tracking app designed to help you manage the challenges of staying on time, up to date and on schedule with very simple short term situations to complex chronic condition regimes. Med Helper also tracks your vital signs (all exportable and printable) and PRN / take-as-needed medication if you need it. You can log and export reports to your doctor, nurse or caregiver and multiple profiles let you manage others in your care. Jacqueline, a young mom from Waterloo, Ontario seems content:
This has just what I needed to keep my meds and meds of my whole family in order. I was looking for something simple without excessive functionality. I understand when people want to have everything in one app, but this simply works for me, everything neatly separated in individual apps. If I had to pick one thing that I liked the most on this app, it would be the possibility to share app info with my doctors if necessary.
One of the biggest advantages of the app is that it’s extremely flexible. Thanks to its simple design, you don’t feel like you are overdoing anything even if you choose it to track just one pill a day, and you are going to have even more time to spend with your family. Julian from the US would perhaps disagree with me on this:
The app needs to be a bit more user friendly. The menus are somewhat difficult to navigate. I would appreciate a bit of fine tuning in the registry.
However, if you really suffer from a serious condition, and you need to keep track of multiple procedures and get reminded of your appointments and dosages, it makes you feel very secure.
2. First Aid by the Canadian Red Cross
The official Canadian Red Cross First Aid app puts lifesaving advice in your hands. The app contains first aid videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice to keep you up to date with your basic first aid skills.
The Red Cross app doesn’t replace an in-class first aid course but serves as a good refresher for those that already have taken one or as an incentive for those that have yet to take a course. The best part is that this free app does not push garbage ads in your face like other apps,
says David, a regional sales representative from North York. I agree with David.
The app doesn’t replace a full FA training, however, I still believe that it should be a must on each smart device. It is also a great start and introduction to the world of first aid for kids. I believe that the interactive and self-paced capability of the app might even help you teach your beloved little ones some basics of first aid, which are always helpful at any age.
The app is fully integrated with 911, so you can call EMS at any time. What I really like about the app is that it has a broad scope when it comes to preloaded content, so you can access life-saving information even when you are offline. Substantial preloaded content is not a standard with first aid apps, and very often you’ll find that other apps do not have enough of it. This feature comes in handy, especially in areas without internet reception coverage.
3. Immunize CA
The ImmunizeCanada (ImmunizeCA) app provides you with the ability to manage your families’ vaccination records. The app allows you to keep track of your vaccinations, receive automatic reminders to schedule their routine vaccinations based on relevant provincial or territorial schedules and provide access to timely and trusted information about recommended vaccinations for children, adults and travellers.
I just spent the better part of two days tracking down my old immunization book, so something like this is definitely going to come in handy. This app is phenomenal, makes tracking current and future vaccinations simple and the user interface is clean and accessible,
says Cory, who also appreciates the feature of the app that allows you to back everything to drive.
The great advantage of ImmunizeCA is that they respond to all concerns about the app extremely fast, and usually your problem gets addressed in the very next update in a matter of a week or two, which is very fast considering the type of the app.
4. Baby Connect (Activity Logger)
Price: $4.99 (App Store, Play Store), $3.99 (Windows Store)
Baby Connect is said to be one of the most comprehensive baby tracking apps available to all of the tired, sleep deprived parents in Canada. Its features include graphical reports and trending charts, weekly averages, medicine, vaccines, timers, notifications, emails, .csv export, an easy-to-navigate user interface and unlimited data (I recommend you check the amount of data available when choosing similar applications. In some cases they might be severely limited for free versions and others can be very costly). It also allows you to share and exchange information in real time with your spouse, babysitter, nanny or daycare wherever they are.
You can draw comparisons with previous days and week averages or view the data on graphs to easily spot trends and adjust your family’s dynamics to what you see. You can view when the last medication or vaccine was administered. You can also track the baby’s weight, height and head size, and compare with the US or international percentiles.
One of the biggest advantages of the Baby Connect app is that it is not only available on iPhone and iPad, but also on Android, Windows Phone and on the web. It will synchronize information with other authorized Baby Connect applications on each of the devices. If you change or lose your phone, your precious family information won’t be lost. You can simply reconnect to your account at www.baby-connect.com with a browser or with another phone or connected device. The website popsugar.com also approves of the app and appreciated how easy it is to navigate:
This app is truly the most comprehensive way to log a child’s daily activities.
You can keep a record of a staggering number of things that are so important to your child’s everyday life, such as feedings, nursing, naps, diapers, milestones and pumping, but also the baby’s mood, temperature, what kind of game they’re playing and their GPS location. You can even attach pictures. A web interface is also accessible for free at www.baby-connect.com from any browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc.), so you don’t need to ask your nanny or daycare to put the app on their phone to view and enter information about your baby. They also don’t keep the information after their shift ends, protecting your child from any potential misuse.
5. Pregnancy + App
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Pregnancy + App has been created by Health & Parenting together with leading healthcare professionals. It contains detailed and reliable information to help you and your baby have a safe and healthy pregnancy. This application is designed to cater to expecting parents, giving them a comprehensive, easy-to-digest and simple guide through all stages of pregnancy. It will make your journey of this exciting time even more special.
The app contains detailed daily pregnancy info, colour and scan images, your own pregnancy personal diary and a weight log (it also works for your husband’s sympathy pregnancy belly so you can make fun of him afterwards!). You can also mark down and log doctor appointments, dieting and exercise info.
The app also has a kick counter, contraction timer and tens of thousands of baby names! Josh shares a funny story:
My former neighbours were expecting but could not for the love of god come up with the name for their child. After hours of desperate search they decided to use one provided by the app. After seeing which name the random selection provided, they decided that they have to come to the consensus by themselves and they could not give a random name to their most priced treasure in the world. One month late, tiny Laura was born.
6. My Epilepsy Diary
My Epilepsy Diary is funded by the Epilepsy Therapy Project supported by an educational grant from UCB.
Great for free! Covers all the bases to record and report my daughter’s seizures. Good level of customisation available so as to not be too locked down. Icons in a diary format are exactly what I wanted from a visual standpoint and Microsoft health vault integration also is a nice bonus,
Says John from the UK, and I couldn’t agree more. The app lets you record real-time details about seizures, medications, side effects, moods, triggers, and you can even include detailed notes. Recorded events can be exported from the online diary, making it very handy for your doctor’s visits. It not only keeps the recent events at hand, but also draws up the long term data.
There are, however, some issues to be dealt with, such as custom medication adding, since some people might take a different one than what the app offers to put in the records. It also needs to be made a little more user friendly. I have a feeling that if a child wanted to use it, it might be a little too complicated. Or, here’s a suggestion to the developers: make a version for children as well!
7. Get Enough Helper
The free Get Enough Helper tool is offered by the Registered Dietitians of Dairy Farmers of Canada to help you eat healthier. The greatness of this app is in the way it guides you through your day. It does not count the calories but your servings instead and you can very easily compare it to recommended daily Canada’s Food Guide servings. Based on your age (it’s also great for your young ones!) and a few other basics, it tells you how many PORTIONS of each food group to eat per day, then you record the number of portions. It’s that simple. Lynn was very happy to find a different type of dieting app:
It took me awhile to find this app and I’m very glad I did. I am sick and tired of all the cumbersome, time-consuming calorie-counting apps that make you record the food you eat by searching through long lookup tables and waste huge amounts of time.
What I really like about this approach is that you can really visualize what you’re eating during your day. When I tried this app, after recording each portion, I realized that I stopped over-eating on my own, since I was much more conscious about what I’m eating and it made me more content with what I was eating.
Even more amazing are the daily tips for the meals you can cook for yourself. I found some very tasty ones and, more importantly, more balanced meals just thanks to this app. Jake, a consultant out of Belleville, Ontario, told us about his little experiment:
My youngest asked me and my wife if he could cook for us a couple of times a week. (Strong inspiration from Master Chef…) I reluctantly agreed, only to find that he opened my Get Enough Helper app and with a little help from my beautiful wife and me, he managed to make a very decent and nutritious meal.
On top of everything, every time you track your daily servings, you’ll help raise up to $50,000 for one of these great causes: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Osteoporosis Canada or the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.
8. My Quit Coach
Price: Free with in-app purchases
The MyQuit Coach application allows you to design a personalized plan to help you quit smoking. The app lets you evaluate your current status, set attainable goals and adjust preferences according to your needs. Personalized inspirational photos, motivational tips and progress charts are designed to keep you on track while achievement badges will reward you for progress. I personally think that badges are not the best motivational tool you could use in the application, but the general reviews from people using the app are positive so it would seem that they work for a lot of people after all.
I’m a student and have been smoking 10 cigarettes a day for over seven years. I have spent a substantial amount of money and time trying to quit before but I found this app. I find it helpful mainly because of the forum. It gives you a support system and an excellent sense of community which being a smoker you don’t really find very often on the sites like this one. I feel like I am always getting help and all these people are going through it with me,
says Jacob, a student at York.
The app has a very professional look and a very user-friendly touch. It is really great to see that the specialists in the field have worked on it. The app has been reviewed by smoking cessation specialist Dr. Jonathan Foulds, nicotine addiction specialist Dr. Dorothy Hatsukami, psychologist Dr. Belisa Vranich and cardiologist and internist Dr. Leslie Saxon.
This app is my personal favourite from your list,
said Irene, a former Google employee, now a private consultant in the field of apps development and social networking. She has more than a decade of experience with the development of highly customized programmes and apps for various target groups.
The reason I like it so much is that it does not pretend to be more than it really is. The app aims to be a guide, not the solution, and it is incredibly user-friendly. I have seen quite a number of similarly designed apps, and they are always fun to use and make you feel kind of special and secure. These two things are essential for a good health app, because that’s what customers are looking for so often.
9. Health Tap
HealthTap is the new way of taking care of your health and well-being and those of your family. Christopher, a new parent and a tech enthusiast, gave me a cool suggestion:
Since the app does not have any features that bind it to the specific person it is easy to use by all the members of the family, from multiple or even from the same device without the need to re-login. My wife and I started this communal laptop for our family, where all the useful things for my beloved are to share, and Health Tap has been one of them from the very beginning.
The app has more than 62,000 top doctors to help you with your diagnosis. Get help by talking to a live doctor any time, from anywhere. Learn more by getting personalized answers, tips, news and app recommendations directly from doctors. After you have received them, you can go through the prescribed checklists. Shubhi, a satisfied user, comments:
One thing that I love about it is that the doctors are very quick in responding to our queries. Very helpful.
This app, praised by the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and many more is rightly the leader in the market of the online consulting. However, some users, like Christopher, have their concerns about privacy:
I love the service it provides but this app collects too much personal data from your phone.
The HealthTap team explains what parts of your phone the application accesses and why this is useful for an app user and does not invade privacy:
The app requests access to the address book so we can suggest people to invite without the user re-typing contact info. We never transmit this sensitive contact information, including any call log data, to our servers. This is private and never accessed by HealthTap.
The concerns about privacy will never cease when it comes to apps like HealthTap, however this one came closest to what I think is secure and reliable help with live virtual consult, actionable checklists, curated news, personalized feeds, daily healthy tips and online records management. All in one place.
10. Cancer.Net Mobile
This is an accurate oncologist-approved cancer information app from Cancer.Net, with tools to help plan and manage your cancer treatment and care from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) with information on over 100 types of cancer. The app offers very easy-to-digest information about treatment, advice on how to manage the symptoms and added cost of care. The review from iMedicalApps.com has very succinctly summarized the biggest strengths of the app:
Where the app truly shines is in three key features: ability to store questions, medications and symptoms. The way this app implements these key features is absolutely stunning, and makes the application a must-have for cancer patients and their family members.
You’ll be able to access interactive tools to keep track of questions to ask doctors and record voice answers. The app also saves information about prescribed medications, including photos of labels and bottles, which is a very useful feature, especially for those app users who are more forgetful. What I found really great is the optional pass code lock. The kind of information that you might be keeping here is surely very sensitive, hence the lock is a very nice touch, especially if you have children and you run the risk that one of them might find out what you were looking for in the app by accident. One great suggestion for this app from Josue, one of the supporters of the app:
The ability to migrate data and other settings from one device to another would literally put this app over the top in my opinion.
However, as helpful as the information coming from this app might be, it will never adequately replace a professional doctor’s opinion, so my advice would be to consult it perhaps only with the blessing from your doctor and not to panic before you double check everything with your physician.