Water Your Body
Ease of use and adoptability were my main criteria when choosing a health app. Most of the smartphone app offerings out there, once installed, require me to type in too much information or to look through option after option before getting any benefit from the app. As a busy and skeptical professional, I needed an app that was ready to pay dividends from the moment of the initial investment – and I found one.
Water Your Body is a playful reminder app for Android devices. The simple introduction to this app on the app store says “Do you drink enough water? Do you always forget to drink water regularly? This App reminds you to drink water every day and tracks your water drinking habits.” I am skeptical about many things, but this simple statement struck a chord in me. It helped that I happened to be thirsty when I read it. In addition, my wife and close friends frequently remind me of the virtues of drinking sufficient water and those reminders were still fresh on my mind. I took the plunge and installed.
I was greeted with a simple question, my weight. It then informed me that I should drink 69 oz. Frequently thereafter, I received reminders to drink water. I took some sips and “silenced” the app by tapping the screen. That easy action placed a colorful cup as a badge on my phone screen. I’m a simple guy, a badge goes a long way – I was hooked. It was the simplicity of it that made it adoptable by this thirsty skeptic. It was the colorful (playful) cup badges that made the experience more like playing a game with quick rewards.
When I met my daily watering goal, a certificate of achievement displayed on the screen and the app asked if I wanted to share my accomplishment with friends on a social network. I have to admit that I got excited about telling the world how I was now a healthier person. I also told myself that this wasn’t one of those, “I just ran 10 miles” boasts but a modest report that could even incite others to do likewise. I would be sharing it for a noble cause.
What I learned
A pain-free getting started phase removes mountains that stand in the way of better health. Furthermore, It is easy to adopt a new healthy habit when the habit is reclassified as a game, as a leisurely activity, and as a social experience. Social networking for most people is classified as leisure. Did I mention that those cute little cup badges come in different shapes, colors, and sizes, depending on the amount you drink? Gamification is a must in any app aiming to help develop healthy habits.
Through my experience with the app, I now realize that my always-with-me smartphone can even deliver healthcare. It does it well via quick and easy iterations. Water Your Body seems to know that I have a short attention span, need frequent bite sized doses, and crave reward and achievement. Surely, the app made drinking water fun. An interesting thing also happened. Through each day of using it, I felt cooler and livelier, maybe something to do with that water I kept drinking.
Application in a Healthcare Setting
My experience with the water app is perfectly transferrable to other healthcare applications. In particular, I see it as a way to achieve regimen compliance among discharged patients. A playful exercise app, for example, can help Physical Therapy patients reach their prescribed exercise targets. Specific water in-take is critical to other patients such as those suffering from congestive heart failure. For these, the Water Your Body app can be used immediately as-is.
In addition to being aids for the very sick, health apps like the one I implemented can impact population health. Population health is about improving and maintaining health and apps like Water Your Body can play a key role. The social aspect of the app, in particular, diffuses healthy habits among entire populations. For this to succeed, that is, for entire populations to be induced to form good habits, health apps must remain simple to use and also provide a level of recreation. Although it will be difficult to exactly attribute improved population health to smartphone apps, I purport that light-hearted testimonies like mine attest to the viability of well-made health apps everywhere.
Link to the Water Your Body app.