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5 Best Health Apps to Save Money

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Healthcare is expensive in the United States. In 2011, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the average American pays nearly $8,000 per year for healthcare – the greatest amount of any of the 34 countries surveyed. Despite the hefty price tag, though, Americans have above average rates of obesity and infant mortality, and a lower life expectancy.

The bad news doesn’t end there. Healthcare costs continue to rise, and there was an estimated 10% increase in visits to emergency rooms in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with an average of 45.1 people out of 100 visiting the country’s emergency departments. Add to that the fact that only an estimated 12% of Americans are what the National Assessment of Adult Literacy calls “health literate,” and it’s easy to see why many consumers feel bewildered when it comes to navigating the healthcare system.

Top Healthcare Apps

But not all is gloom and doom on the American healthcare scene. Information regarding cost, quality, procedures, diseases, medications, and providers is becoming increasingly available to the public via information technology media, including mobile smartphone apps, which are coming to serve as empowering tools to consumers.

Consumers are taking advantage – not only in order to improve their quality of life, but also as a means of reducing healthcare costs. Studies show that consumers who are more knowledgeable about their healthcare often pay less for it. Knowledgeable, healthy consumers tend to work to prevent chronic diseases, and those who already have chronic diseases know more about their options.

So take your health in your hands and check out these awesome healthcare apps that will not only benefit your health, but also your wallet:

1. Lose It!

loseit logoWinner of the Surgeon General’s Healthy Apps Challenge, Lose It! is a must-have for anyone looking to lose weight, whether through dieting, exercise, or both. It’s like having a personal trainer, but one who you don’t have to smile at while sweating on a treadmill.

Lose It! provides an easy way to count calories and stay accountable to your caloric intake goals. When you download the app, you must input your age, your gender, your height, your weight, what weight you’d like to be, and at what rate you’d like to lose it (the options are one-half-pound to two pounds per week). The app then recommends a daily caloric intake.

The program works as a food and exercise journal, which helps you monitor your habits. Stay on track each day by scanning a food product’s barcode or searching for it in the food database. You can also “add exercise” by type and duration from a comprehensive list, which includes everything from badminton to bowling. The app then subtracts the calories burned from the daily calories you’ve consumed. Graphs inform you of the progress you’ve made, while motivators – in the form of alerts – can let you know if you’ve forgotten to log food or exercise. You can also share your progress with others via Facebook and Twitter updates.

What’s great about Lose It! is that logging the food you eat and the exercise you do gives you the same satisfaction as crossing something off a list. Studies have shown that food journaling improves people’s diets, and often can save them money as they avoid buying prepackaged and fast foods.

  • Cost: Free
  • Available For: iPhone and Android
  • Best Feature: The barcode scanner. I’ve been using the app for weeks, and I have yet to encounter a food that it does not recognize.
  • Ideal For: Anyone who wants to lose weight. It’s also great for those who generally neglect to count calories.

loseit screenshot

2. Walgreens

walgreens mobileThe Walgreens mobile app is perfect for anyone who has a regular prescription to fill. With a “Pharmacy” account, you can select your prescriptions to refill. Scan your bottle’s barcode, and your local Walgreens prepares your prescription for pick up and texts you status updates, which include “ready for refill,” “ready for pick-up,” or “not ready due to an issue that needs your attention.”

If you need to pick up from a Walgreens location that is not your usual place of business, you can do that with the app’s “Transfer Prescription by Scan” feature. Simply scan your prescription label, enter the patient info, and the phone number of the desired Walgreens location.

In addition to refilling your own prescriptions, you can refill for family members as well. The app’s “Pill Reminder” feature allows you to keep track of all your medications and when to take them. A gray, red, and black color coding system denotes which doses you’ve missed, which doses you’ve taken, and which doses are scheduled for later.

You can also export your data to HTML and CSV formats to take to your doctor. Additional bonuses of the app are a store locator, coupons, and the “Quick Prints” feature, which allow you to send the photos taken on your phone to a Walgreens printer. A shopping list also enables users to remind themselves to pick up whatever else they might need while they’re getting their prescription.

  • Cost: Free
  • Available For: iPhone and Android
  • Best Feature: “Refill by Scan,” which saves time and eliminates the hassle that often comes with a trip to the pharmacy.
  • Ideal For: Anyone who has a prescription that must be regularly filled.

walgreens pharmacy screenshot

3. iTriage

itriage logoiTriage is a sort of jack-of-all-trades when it comes to helping its users navigate the healthcare system. Founded by two emergency room physicians, iTriage was created to answer two questions: “What could be wrong with me?” and “Where do I go for treatment?”

From the grid home screen, users can find providers in their area based on their symptoms using the “Symptom-to-Provider” pathway. The app offers decision support, directing users to emergency rooms, urgent cares (a much cheaper alternative to ERs in non-emergency situations), community health centers, retail clinics, pharmacies, outpatient clinics, or individual physicians, depending on the perceived medical situation.

In addition to short, easily digestible definitions of symptoms, diseases, and procedures, it also houses a handy list of medications, complete with descriptions, possible side effects, and dosages. Users can also make appointments through the app, as well as keep their detailed medical record through the app or by connecting to HealthVault.

Some diseases and procedures list average cost information. Users can also check into ERs through the app, and ER wait times are prominently displayed. Users can filter providers by distance, consumer ratings, years of experience, gender, and languages spoken to find a good provider match.

  • Cost: Free
  • Available For: iPhone and Android
  • Best Feature: Its Symptom-to-Provider pathway. While other apps give you exhaustive information on diseases, iTriage enables you to take action with the knowledge you have. Its decision support could potentially save you lots of money by directing you to retail clinics and urgent care centers. The option to keep your health record on the app can also help eliminate confusion for you and your provider.
  • Ideal For: Those who could benefit from having constant access to the many directories iTriage houses, which include medications, diseases, procedures, and providers.

itriage screenshot

4. Good Guide

goodguide logoAnother winner of the Surgeon General Healthy Apps Challenge, GoodGuide has a barcode scanner that enables consumers to gauge the honesty of a product’s marketing team. The GoodGuide experts, which include scientists, doctors, and professors, analyze the performance of more than 100,000 products, ranging from laundry detergent, to food, to diapers. The analysis is broken into three categories: health, environment, and society.

Controversial ingredients, energy efficiency, nutrition, and fair trade are only four of the many personal filters you can set up. When you scan a product’s barcode, the app will give you a rating between 1 and 10 on how well the product lines up with the values you’ve specified. The app tells you what’s best for you, but according to your own customized standards.

  • Cost: Free
  • Available For: iPhone and Android
  • Best Feature: The app allows you set your own personal preferences. You might care a lot about who makes your jeans, but not so much about where your avocados come from. The app reflects those priorities and delivers ratings based on what you find important.
  • Ideal For: Anyone who wants to know their consumer impact.

goodguide screenshot

5. Fooducate

fooducate logoFooducate is the WebMD of food, providing you with the true nutritional value of foods you consider buying. Fooducate is all about bringing food to the people, without having to exhaustively research what constitutes a healthy meal or consult a dietician.

Simply scan a food’s barcode or search for it in Fooducate’s database, and the app assigns the food a “health grade,” which can range from a healthy A to a dismal D. If you don’t like a product’s rating, Fooducate offers healthier alternatives.

  • Cost: Free
  • Available For: iPhone and Android
  • Best Feature: Its grading system. Who knew that so many salad dressings are so bad for you?
  • Ideal For: Those who want to eat more healthy foods, but don’t know where to start.

fooducate screenshot

Final Word

Better physical health means better financial health. Even though the American healthcare system is difficult to navigate, consumers have more information than ever before at their fingertips, enabling them to make better health decisions.

Whether you want to lose 10 pounds, eat a healthier diet, or find the nearest place to get vaccinated, healthcare apps are paving the way for consumers to take greater control of their health.

Do you use one of these apps? What other healthcare apps can you recommend?

(photo credit: Bigstock)

Amelia Laing
After graduating from Kalamazoo College in 2010, Amelia worked as a janitor and convenience store clerk to save money to move to Denver, where she now lives. She enjoys blogging for iTriage, a free smartphone healthcare application, and in her spare time she keeps up her French and Spanish skills by reading the classics. Her travels have taken her to five continents, including Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America.

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