One of the “super sessions” at the upcoming 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (January) in Las Vegas has the intriguing title "The Human Body: The Next Digital Revolution."
Moderated by none other than Arianna Huffington herself, this panel of four “groundbreaking leaders in the field of digital health” will attempt to describe the different ways we’ll soon be using our smartphones to give us real-time data about our bodies, presumably in an effort to make (or keep) them fitter and healthier.
The Pew Research Center, in a new report titled "Mobile Health 2012", found smartphone owners in the vanguard, with 52 percent gathering health information on their palm-sized micro-computers. In addition, 19 percent of smartphone owners have at least one health app – with exercise, diet, and calorie-counting programs the most popular.
Overall, the proportion of cellphone owners who use their phones to access health data nearly doubled from 17 percent two years ago to 31 percent today, according to the report.
The medical community is embracing the trend, holding contests to encourage programmers to design disease-specific apps that doctors can "prescribe" to patients with heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
The American Medical Association has launched its own consumer weight app, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services's Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology held a contest in July for the best app to help consumers identify and reduce their risk of heart disease.
Of course, the 2013 CES discussion by high-profile “experts” is simply reflecting a trend that’s been going on for several years now: the 24/7 online search for health answers by individuals wanting more control of their health outcomes (and, presumably, their health costs).
According to an earlier Pew Research Center study, 80% of adults online are looking for health information – learning from their peers about symptoms, solutions, and costs, and what works and what doesn’t.
Researchers have also noticed a growing trend in what the public is willing to spend – out of pocket – in so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or therapies that are outside traditional, drug-based medicine.