While many doctors don’t recommend googling symptoms, it’s a whole different story when it comes to downloading health apps.
‘There are some great apps available these days that we can all benefit from,’ says Dr Kenny Livingstone, a GP who also created the ZoomDoc app (more on that below!)
‘The internet can be a minefield when it comes to health and nothing replaces seeing a doctor for symptoms you’re worried about. But with the right expertise behind them, health apps can help all of us, whether you want to speak to a doctor, get fitter, quit an unhealthy habit or find support for an illness or condition you or someone you know have been diagnosed with,’ he adds.
But with hundreds if not thousands of health-related apps out there, where do you start? Here are some of ZoomDoc’s favourites which are either created by doctors or recommended by them, making them well worth downloading, don’t you think?
This app makes getting prescriptions really easy. You simply nominate Pharmacy2U as your pharmacy and prescriptions get sent straight to your door. Delivery is free but you will need to pay for prescriptions if you normally have to. If you’re eligible for free prescriptions that’s fine, too. It’s a great service for repeat prescriptions, in particular. The app will store details of what you normally get and will remind you when it’s time to order your medication again. And once it’s here the postman will drop it through your letter box, so you literally don’t even need to leave the house.
As mentioned above, ZoomDoc was created by a GP who wanted to make it easier for people to see a doctor when and where it suited them, via their smartphone. Roll on 6 years and the app has evolved into so much more. Not only can you use it to speak to a doctor at a time that suits you, ZoomDoc is also helping take pressure off the NHS in another way. By providing same-day medical letters, this app saves patients having to get an appointment to see their GP, explain what they need and then return to collect the note. Even though it’s a service the NHS provides, you’ll still have to pay for the letter as practices charge for them. ‘Using ZoomDoc for this service frees up GP appointments for sick people who really need them. But it also saves you time and energy in getting the note you need, whether it’s a sick note for your employer, a ‘fit to fly’ certificate for an airline or many other types of medical letters, we can provide it via the app and you’ll get it the same day – without even needing to leave your house,’ explains ZoomDoc’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kenny.
Many of us will already have downloaded the NHS app during the pandemic when it gave us access to COVID vaccine appointments and proof of vaccination. Remember frantically looking for your NHS number? The NHS app is still handy for accessing your COVID Pass should you need one for travelling abroad at any time. It also gives you access to your health records, lets you order repeat prescriptions and you can check or change who your nominated pharmacy is, too. It also takes two seconds to register your organ donation decision via the app, allowing you to agree or not agree to donating organs. You can also book GP appointments and see any upcoming NHS appointments on it and get directed to 111 online if you need medical help but aren’t sure what to do next.
To stay fit and healthy we should all be doing 150 minutes of exercise per week – that’s according to NHS guidelines. But new research shows that even just a brisk 11-minute daily walk can make a big difference to our health, reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. An easy way to get moving more is just by downloading a Steps app. Ok, you still need to do the walking part but having something that records your steps, the distance you’ve walked and motivates you to reach a target is almost like having a free personal trainer. Getting your steps in becomes pretty addictive, but this is one habit that will do you more good than harm. There are lots of Steps apps out there including Fitbit (you don’t need a watch to use the free app), Pacer and Steps, which turns your smartphone into an easy-to-use pedometer.
With an estimated 3 million people living with cancer in the UK right now (source: Macmillan), that’s an even bigger number of patients, families and carers impacted by a devastating diagnosis and illness. To try and help in some way, Careology offers comfort and ‘up days’ for everyone living and dealing with cancer. It’s an app designed specifically to help, support and monitor every step of someone’s journey with cancer. But as well as giving them a friendly and supportive space to record how they’re feeling, physically and mentally, it also allows caregivers the chance to check in without constantly asking their loved one, ‘how are you?’. The app stores data revealing temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, weight and more – and will send notifications should something not look quite right. Designed by a husband whose wife went through cancer, this app is hugely supportive for anyone going through it themselves.
The pandemic certainly took its toll on our health and stress levels and going straight from that into a cost-of-living crisis isn’t helping. Looking after our mental health couldn’t be more important right now, which is where apps like Companion can help. Designed to help support you with workplace pressure, before burnout or stress levels get too high. Because as the app says, by then they’re already having a negative impact on your wellbeing. Companion offers expert-backed audio guides to help you cope with the most demanding days at work as well as daily tips and reminders to help you build health habits and achieve a better work-life balance, if you’re struggling with that.
- Couch to 5k
If you watch the London Marathon every year from your sofa and wonder how they do it, this could be the app for you. It’s basically a running plan for absolute beginners that promises to get you running 5k in about 9 weeks. So, in just a couple of months you could be fitter, stronger and running quite a distance without getting out of breath. The app’s plan was developed to help a new runner’s 50-something mum get off the couch and start running, too. Hugely popular, people swear by it because it’s doable and bite-sized, involving 3 runs a week, with rest days in between and a different schedule for each of the 9 weeks to keep you on your toes.
Sleep and anxiety-focused, the Calm app’s goal is simple – to help you improve your health and happiness, with a focus on better sleep and meditation. You’ll answer simple questions about your state of mind, stress levels and anxiety and, based on your responses, will have a tailor-made programme set up, including soothing sounds, stories, music and content to help you. Although there’s a fee to use Calm, you can have a free trial to see if it’s right for you.
Menopause is making the headlines these days due to the lack of support women have as they go through crippling and debilitating symptoms in their 40s and 50s, sometimes earlier. This app offers personalised information based on your cycle, symptoms and treatment, which can prove valuable for women struggling to get through this hormonal change. Use it to track your symptoms (from brain fog to joint pain) and track your own personal health report that you can talk through with your doctor to help get the best treatment for what you’re experiencing.
If you can’t remember the last time you did your pelvic floor exercises, you need this app. It was designed by chartered physiotherapists specialising in men and women’s pelvic health and is recommended by the NHS. It reminds you when to do your exercises and guides you through them to help strengthen your pelvic floor, reducing the risk or occurrence of leaks. There’s a separate app for men and women and you can even tailor the exercises to fit better with the advice of a specialist, if you’re seeing one.