Patient Engagement? There’s an App for That

Content From: HIV.govPublished: May 08, 20184 min read


Close up image of a page of apps on a phone.

The phrase ‘health technologyExit Disclaimer’ may bring to mind images of advanced x-ray machines or robots conducting surgery, but for many of us, health technology is actually in our pocket! If you’ve ever used a wearable device or used your smartphone or a website to track your health, exercise or food intake, you’ve engaged with health technology.

“The widespread adoption and use of interoperable health information technology (health IT) will enable individuals, providers, and entities to capture, exchange, and use valuable health information to improve decision-making; deliver more effective, patient-centered care; and implement systems and processes to measure and improve health care quality and efficiency.”
     - The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (PDF, 647 KB)

Background: Health Apps

Now, more than ever before, Americans are connected through mobile devices: Pew ResearchExit Disclaimer estimates that approximately 95% of American adults own a mobile phone, and 77% own a smartphone. Nearly 60% of smartphone users report managing their healthExit Disclaimer with their phones. When it comes to health appsExit Disclaimer, any type of information maybe in reach: individuals can use smartphone health apps to track daily activities, nutrition, and allergies; follow treatment regimens or manage medications; and communicate with healthcare providers.

Health Apps in 2018

In the wellness category of smartphone health appsExit Disclaimer, FitBit, MyFitnessPal, and Apple, among many others, continue to be popular among users looking to improve their health, today. In this category, there are many apps that make it possible to engage with patients. There are even several smartphone apps aimed to support people living with HIV/AIDSExit Disclaimer (PLWHA). These apps include:

  • AIDSinfo HIV/AIDS GlossaryExit Disclaimer: created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and provides details about terminology relating to HIV/AIDS and can help providers, PLWHA, and their supporters understand complex health terms.
  • The BodyExit Disclaimer: readers of can get recent news, information, and research findings delivered to their smartphone for easy reading and sharing.
  • Care4TodayExit Disclaimer: it can be tough to juggle more than one prescription. Care4Today allows users to set up customer reminders to help manage their prescriptions throughout the day.
  • GoodRxExit Disclaimer: helps users research the best prices for prescriptions.

To learn more about how apps can support providers and people living with HIV/AIDS, we spoke with Nicole Scott from the National Library of Medicine, Project Officer at AIDSinfo, to learn about their smartphone apps:

“AIDSinfo’s three mobile apps—the HIV/AIDS Guidelines app, the HIV/AIDS Drug Database app, and the HIV/AIDS Glossary app—were developed to provide easy access to HIV-related information for a variety of audiences. With the Guidelines app, healthcare providers can access the federally approved HIV/AIDS medical practice guidelines at the point of care, while patients can use the Drug Database app and the Glossary app to learn about their HIV medications and to navigate the complex terminology of HIV. Each app includes customizable features to meet individual needs. For example, the Drug Database app includes a feature that allows users to set HIV medication reminders, and all apps include a bookmark feature so users can easily access frequently referenced guideline sections, medications, or glossary terms, at any time. AIDSinfo’s apps are free, are available for both iOS and Android devices, and are available online or offline. This ensures AIDSinfo’s information is available to a wide audience, including people who need to access HIV information on the go, even when an internet connection is not available.”

In addition to the apps that address HIV/AIDS, here are a few apps that address other health topics our colleagues have referenced (please note that does not endorse any of products listed below):

  • MediciExit Disclaimer: allows individuals to text with their doctor and ask questions about symptoms, medications, and other concerns without making an in-office appointment. This also allows doctors to handle questions through the app before or between appointments so that face-to-face appointments can be more efficient.
  • TalkspaceExit Disclaimer: a tool for patients to ‘see’ their licensed therapist without traveling to an office. Patients can use the messaging feature to ask questions/seek support or schedule video sessions for in-depth conversations.
  • Digital PharmacistExit Disclaimer: this app aims to make prescriptions less confusing by taking the guessing and fear out of prescriptions and can improve medication adherence.
  • The Reset: made by Pear Therapeutics, this is the first FDA-approved app for treating substance abuse through the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The Future of Apps

Like all things digital – the landscape is always changing. Today, it is important to understand health apps and their possible continued use across smartphone users and how they can best serve our audiences. However, it is important to remember that before diving in to using an app for audience communication, communicators should be mindful about how your audience prefers to receive communication about healthExit Disclaimer. If your audience doesn’t regularly engage with smartphone apps, it might be best to use a different platform. You can learn about other social media platforms by signing up for our Virtual Office Hours sessions or subscribing to our digital tools emails.

Stay tuned later this month, as we’ll be blogging about other patient apps. In the meantime, we’d like to hear from healthcare providers: are apps working for you or your clients? Tweet us @HIVgovExit Disclaimer!