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7 Smartphone Apps Doctors Love

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Health-boosting apps tech-savvy doctors stand behind

7 Smartphone Apps Doctors Love

Yep, there’s an app for that

Health and fitness applications are not magic will not dissolve belly fat, dress a wound, or prepare a breakfast smoothie. But they can provide the tools and motivation you need to streamline the process and do it yourself. The hard part: Finding the really good applications in a vast sea of “craps”.

“We must be careful because the app store is regulated only from the point of view of software reliability,” says William Morris, MD, associate chief information officer at the Cleveland Clinic, whose work includes keeping abreast of the latest applications health to hit the market. “In terms of usefulness and real security, so buyer beware.”

Morris and his colleague Cleveland Clinic (and fellow guru application) David Levin, MD, give these seven applications the green light.

To keep a better food diary

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Try: My Net Diary (free; iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry) Of all the food and exercise apps out there, My Net Diary stands out with its huge food database and easy-to-use barcode scanner so you can avoid manually entering everything. All of your data can be turned into charts, making it easier to notice patterns and progress.

What the docs say: “The key with diet and exercise logs is convenience,” says Morris. “You’re not going to keep up with them if they’re time consuming and require all manual entry, so a barcode scanner is crucial.”

To save money on prescriptions

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Try: GoodRx (free; iPhone and Android) Need to pick up a prescription? GoodRx compares current prescription drug prices at virtually every pharmacy in your area, so you can find the best deal.

What the docs say: “I looked up a medication that I recently paid $15 for and found out I could have just bought it for $4 at a nearby Wal-Mart,” says Levin, chief medical information officer for the Cleveland Clinic. “The catch, of course, is accuracy of information, so you’ll always want to call the pharmacy first to verify the price beforehand.”

To know where to get medical help

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Try: iTriage (free; Android and iPhone) Created by two ER doctors and featuring Harvard Medical School–reviewed content, iTriage can help guide you through a stressful medical situation. When you enter your symptoms, it gives you an idea of what might be going on, and then suggests the best local health care facilities for your condition (along with turn-by-turn directions).

What the docs say: “This app can save you money,” says Morris. “If you have chest pain, yes, this app will tell you to call 911. But if it’s something more minor like a cut on your hand, it will tell you whether urgent care or a regular doctor’s appointment is your best bet—so you can avoid that hefty ER copay.”

To save a life

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Try: Pocket First Aid and CPR ($1.99; iPhone and Android) Pocket First Aid and CPR, featuring the most up-to-date American Heart Association guidelines, includes user-friendly instructions and videos for things like hands-only CPR—the less-intimidating but still effective version that doesn’t require rescue breaths. Even if you’re already CPR and First Aid certified, this app can be good to have if your mind goes blank in an emergency.

What the docs say: “This would be handy to have when traveling or camping,” says Levin. “Of course, you might not have the time to pull out your phone and search ‘Heimlich’ when every second counts, but it can be a good app to browse in your free time so you’re somewhat prepared should an emergency arise.”

To make your workouts as addictive as Facebook

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Try: Strava Run (free; Android and iPhone) and Strava Cycling (free; Android and iPhone) The Strava apps battle workout boredom by tapping into your competitive side. Just turn on the apps at the start of a run or ride and they’ll record where you go, how fast you travel, and your change in elevation. When you’re done, you can see how your time stacks up to other Strava users. Not the competitive type? You can opt to keep your activity private and still use the app for its tracking functions.

What the docs say: “When it comes to sticking with a fitness routine, monotony is the enemy,” says Morris. “Because this app allows you to compete with other users, it feels more like a game than a chore.”

To take your pulse

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Try: Instant Heart Rate (free; iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone) This app is the definition of simplicity: Just place your fingertip on your phone’s camera and the app detects, displays, and records your pulse. All data is saved and can be exported, making it easy to share with your doctor.

What the docs say: “Regular use of this app in conjunction with a doctor can be helpful if you have cardiovascular disease or congestive heart failure—both conditions for which it’s important to maintain a stable resting heart rate,” says Morris. “For the average person, heart rate is a good indicator of general fitness, so this app can be used to track improvement over time.

To track your steps

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Try: Moves ($2.99; iPhone; free; Android) Moves makes hitting your 10,000 daily steps a breeze by using your smartphone’s motion sensors to determine how many steps you’ve taken. The coolest part: You don’t have to think about it—just keep your phone in your pocket or purse and it does the rest. You’ll also get a text each morning from the app stating yesterday’s step count and your record for the month—so you know if you need to (literally) step up your game.

What the docs say: “There are countless pedometers and step tracking apps out there, but we often forget to use them,” says Levin. “But we never forget our phones! That’s why this works so well.”

How to tell if an app’s worth it

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How do you choose an app that won’t give you sketchy health advice? Morris suggests these steps before you start downloading:

  1. Read reviews from other users to see if the app actually does what it’s supposed to do.
  2. Look at when it was last updated so you can avoid potentially dangerous out-of-date information.
  3. Steer clear of apps that diagnose you or advise you to do something specific like take a certain drug. Trust your doctor for that stuff, not…wherever the app writers got their info.

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