FoodSwitch and similar applications are improving clinical research and overall health. We thus decided to interview George Clinical to learn more about this exciting news.

How can smartphone applications that help users monitor their food intake, exercise, and other health metrics help improve the overall health of users?

There has been a lot of focus from technology companies and app developers over the last few years around what is known as mobile health or “mHealth”. A plethora of applications for smartphones and wearables have been developed to service both general and specific health interests of consumers. What began with activity tracking of steps has grown into an industry projected to be worth $50bn by 2020. This new technology has increased consumers awareness and interest in their personal health and allowed them to monitor their activities or more specific health indicators, as well as providing them with tools to make informed real-time decisions that can positively impact their health. 

Do you think there is an increase in the use of health and fitness applications?

Though healthcare apps focused on chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer management are expected to grow the most rapidly, the general healthcare and fitness apps segment (comprising fitness and nutrition apps, health tracking tools, and weight-loss apps) dominate the healthcare apps market and are expected to continue to grow strongly.

In what way should the user use health and fitness applications in order to gain the best outcome?

The use of health and fitness applications and wearables comes down to the individual needs, interests and priorities of the user. However, there is an increasing awareness with consumers that nutrition based apps that help them understand and monitor what’s going into their bodies may be more interesting than the previous focus on activity monitoring and energy expenditure. Indeed, anyone who has tracked their calorie expenditure can testify to how much work is required to burn of excessive calories! Consumers are increasingly understanding the benefit of choosing foods that combine the right balance of energy and nutrients for themselves and their families. And beyond energy, many consumers are also actively avoiding or lowering their intake of certain ingredients such as sugar or gluten, and health and fitness apps are enabling them to achieve this.

How do you think health and fitness applications could enhance clinical trials?

Health and fitness applications and monitoring have the potential to enhance clinical trials in several ways: to help engage the participants into the trial – using the technology to help give them a more active role and also utilising the data to help the participants visualise and track their own progress, potentially relative to a control or subset of the participants; provide a means for the trial coordinators to communicate directly with the participants via push notification in the app; and give the trial coordinators data on participants both to track their engagement and potentially real-time clinical data that offers the possibility for intervention.

Where do you see the health and fitness applications industry in the next 5-years?

There are many analyses and projections available on the growth of the mHealth market. Generally they expect the market to be worth US$50 billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR of around 50% in the 5 years to 2020. The industry will be driven by the continued consumer interest in health and fitness, with the expanding options in technology appealing to new consumer segments. Also, the growing aging population and the rising incidences of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardio vascular disease, and diabetes will drive demand. The development of next generation connected medical devices will enable governments and healthcare providers to offer medical services at lower costs.

What recommendations would you like to give for any company willing to enter this industry?

The advice for those interested in entering the industry is the same for any other sector. Define and understand the opportunity clearly and be crystal clear about your proposition – particularly what’s unique about your offer and who will see the value in it.

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George Clinical, a leading contract research organisation (CRO) in Asia, is The George Institute for Global Health’s first and largest commercial enterprise. Since 2007, George Clinical is headquartered in Sydney, Australia with operational hubs in ten countries. George Clinical delivers the full-range of clinical trial services across all trial phases and in a variety of therapeutic specializations. George Clinical has contributed directly to several landmark clinical trials, the results of which have changed clinical practice.

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