Wellness Resolutions? There’s An App For That—But It Might Not Help

December 18, 2019

The public’s interest in physical fitness, self-care, and personal well-being continues to boom, with health and wellness industries seeing massive growth each year. That popularity has substantially increased the number of apps and technology resources available for health-conscious consumers. However, they may not be helping individuals achieve the positive outcomes they desire.

According to a recent literature review, many consumer health apps have faulty functionality, poor design, and false and unhelpful information. The authors looked at 74 articles that reviewed apps used for disease management, wellness management, or self-diagnosis.

Researchers identified a whopping 80 unique safety concerns among the apps, with the majority (67) regarding the quality of information. The remaining concerns looked at their technical functionality. Issues included incorrect or incomplete information, inappropriate responses to users’ needs, gaps in features, delayed processing, and faulty alarms.

Alarmingly, there were 52 actual or reported consequences from these apps—five of which had the potential for direct patient harm. In one app, meant as an intervention tool to reduce alcohol consumption, users actually reported an increase in drinking. In another, an insulin dosage calculator produced errors that led to an increase in unnecessary care. Many others produced false diagnostic outputs that led to either unnecessary stress or false reassurement.

Many of these technologies on the market did not consult experts, use evidence-based research, or properly test and validate tools during development. More than ever before, it is important to be wise when selecting and using apps and tools.


Employee Wellness Programs At Risk

An employee wellness program allows companies to be good stewards of their employees’ health. While there are proven, measurable economic benefits for companies with appropriate wellness programs—including lower medical costs, higher productivity, and better recruitment and retention of talent—it’s also the responsible thing to do. Plus, enabling and empowering people to prioritize their well-being can be extremely rewarding for business leaders that aspire to make a difference in their community.

Unfortunately, a market flooded with options to choose from can create information overload. Discerning which ones provide science- and research-backed information, handle personal data responsibly, and function correctly has become a daunting task. Many people grow frustrated over time spent looking through conflicting reviews or online search results. In this case, employers have an opportunity to provide already-vetted tools and provide much-needed direction and feedback to workers.

Apps with safety, functionality, or information concerns do not help workers reach their wellness goals or positively change their behaviors. Thus, a wellness program with flawed and faulty solutions will fail to achieve the improved productivity and economic benefits it should provide companies.


Great Program Vendors = Technology Curators

Employers need to stay vigilant when vetting their wellness programs. Exposing workers to resources that give poor information or technology that doesn’t function well can be damaging to an individual’s wellness, and even have a negative effect on their work quality. Furthermore, it can discourage workers from making an effort to improve their well-being in the future, and it may reflect badly on the company that endorsed or affiliated with the resource in question.

Companies can turn to wellness program vendors for help. A vendor that focuses on curating only quality solutions, rather than going by numbers alone and integrating with every app or tool available, enables businesses to provide more valuable benefits.

When evaluating vendors, ask about which technology integrations they have. Do they benefit financially by promoting one technology over others? Consider the kind of standards they have for what they offer.

Wellable strives to curate technologies that are both trustworthy and effective. By excluding potentially harmful or unproven ones, vendors like Wellable help companies ensure that their employees will identify the most appropriate tools and only use solutions that meet certain standards.

Topics: Mobile Wellness

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