Trucks at Work

Mobile medical apps and truck drivers

Recently, I’ve been up to my ears in truck driver health-related information (the fruits of which you can read in Fleet Owner’s May and June print editions) much of which is rather disheartening.

Take for example just some of the findings from of a survey the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted five years ago with 1,670 long-haul truck drivers at 32 truck stops across the “lower 48” states:

  • Over two-thirds of respondents were obese (69%), as defined by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, while 17% were morbidly obese with a BMI of 40 or higher.
  • In comparison, only one-third of U.S. working adults were reported to be obese and 7% morbidly obese.
  • More than half of long-haul truck drivers currently smoke, which is over twice the rate for the general working population: 51% vs. 19%.
  • The prevalence of diabetes among truck drivers was than twice that of the general population at 14% vs. 7%.
  • Some 22% of long-haul truck drivers were either taking medicine for, or had been told they had, high cholesterol.
  • More than half of the long-haul truck drivers polled reported having two or more of these health conditions or unhealthy behaviors: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, limited physical activity, high cholesterol, or fewer than six hours of sleep.

Obviously, those are not good numbers – especially in terms of the percentage of drivers afflicted with chronic conditions such as diabetes.

However, smart phone technology may be able to step in and provide health-management help to drivers here, based in part on the results of a new survey conducted in the U.K. and the U.S.

Some 1,000 healthcare professionals and 2,000 smart phone owners who use of mobile health apps – evenly split between U.S. and U.K. residents – were part of this “cross-pond poll,” and the findings at least from the British perspective are enlightening in terms of how smart phone medical apps can potentially improve health management efforts.

Now, it needs to be stated that the U.K. operates under a centralized government-controlled healthcare system – the National Health Service (NHS) – so how patients and doctors interact is different compared to how that occurs stateside.

With that understood, here’s the healthcare professionals’ take in the U.K. on “medical” mobile apps:

  • 81% believe that they will increase their knowledge of their patients' conditions.
  • 65% believe that they will encourage patients to take more responsibility for their health.
  • 45% think that they will increase the efficiency of patient treatment.
  • 33% believe that health apps will improve their relationship with their patients.

Healthcare professionals in the U.K. also believe the greatest potential benefit of such apps is for helping patients with chronic diseases:

  • 73% of health professionals believe that they will help patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease.
  • 58% believe that they will help those who are at rising-risk of developing health issues, with 49% believing they will help those who are healthy while 46% believe they have the potential to help patients recently discharged from a hospital.
  • 65% of healthcare professionals believe that health apps will encourage patients to take more responsibility for their health.
  • As a result of all that, 48% of healthcare professionals say that they will introduce mobile apps to their practice in the next five years.

Now, in terms of the “general public” view of such medical apps, here’s how they are currently being used in the U.K.

  • Most people use health apps to help them lose weight and to track their exercise: 55% to monitor activity/workouts, 54% to motivate them to exercise, 45% to record calorie intake, and 34% to monitor weight loss.
  • However, 29% use the apps to monitor existing health conditions and 23%, to remind them to take medication.
  • 93% of health app users think that health apps help to improve their quality of life.

Now, many of you may be asking, “What’s any of this got to do with the health of truck drivers?”

Well think about some of the possibilities for smart phone technology cited by Simon Beedell, division director for EMEA Healthcare at Research Now (which helped craft this survey). He believes such technology offers a much more “mobile method” for managing chronic illnesses – and doing so with better results.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for these apps to transform medical care,” Beedell stressed in a statement.

“Technology is available to allow patients with heart disease to send information about their heart rate straight to their doctors, accessories can allow diabetics to monitor their blood glucose levels and send the results straight to their smartphone… all from a simple app on a tablet or smartphone," he explained.

John Deanfield, a British medical professor also polled for his thoughts in this report, said this:

"Health apps have the potential to empower healthcare professionals and patients alike to identify whether individuals are at risk,” he pointed out. “It's never too early to do something about your lifetime risk and with this knowledge people can take action to protect themselves against potentially fatal conditions like cardiovascular disease."

With truck drivers on the go all over the U.S., such mobile medical apps could help them better manager chronic diseases like diabetes – if they suffer from them – as well as help get them onto healthier footing if they don’t; all via an app on their phones.

We’ll see if such apps catch on over here on this side of the pond.

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