Summer travelers access mobile health apps to stay healthy away from home

Sunscreen? Check. Swimsuit? Check. Health benefits? Check your smartphone.

Before you head out on summer vacation or set off for the neighborhood pool, add another item to your packing list: a mobile health benefits app. Mobile apps are used to organize, communicate and entertain.

Mobile health apps for smartphones and tablets can be an invaluable resource to access healthcare information when you are on the go. Many people already are using smartphones to do exactly that.

According to the Pew Research Internet Project’s Mobile Health Survey in 2012, more than half of smartphone users gather health information on their phones, and Manhattan Research Cybercitizen Health’s survey last year found 38 percent of online smartphone users agree that the device is “essential” for finding health and medical information.

That is why many health insurers and other companies are offering apps, such as UnitedHealthcare Health4Me app, that enable people to access their healthcare information, monitor existing health issues, and even stay focused on fitness goals.

Mobile health apps now make it easier to:

•Contact a registered nurse 24/7 for information regarding any kind of medical topic;

• Download an insurance ID card to a smartphone and email, or fax the card directly from the mobile device to a physician office or hospital;

• Comparison shop for healthcare services based on quality and cost, helping people select quality and efficient care providers;

• Locate nearby physicians, hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care centers using the device’s GPS function, making it easier to find care providers at home or out of town;

• Request a callback from the health insurance carrier on specific questions about claims and benefits, and

• View account balances for health reimbursement, flexible spending and health savings accounts that are available to pay for medical care.

There also are health apps that help people count calories, monitor migraine symptoms, track exercise activity or send a medication reminder. Ultimately, these apps put consumers in charge of when and how they manage their health. Many of these apps are designed to engage people in healthy behaviors in ways that are as convenient as they are fun, educational and effective. In some cases, these apps include social networking components that enable consumers to engage in friendly competition among friends and family that can help spur healthy results.

As you get ready for the next great summer adventure, grab your smartphone or tablet to ensure you have access to health and medical information wherever you go.

Nicholas Zaffiris is CEO of UnitedHealthcare of South Florida.

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