Guide to 10 new made-in-Singapore health apps

Screenshot of Gacha Island.
PHOTO: Guide to 10 new made-in-Singapore health apps

1 THOUGHT BUDDY

iOS only; free

Developed by: Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and the Ministry of Health's Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS)

Launch date: Last December

For: The general public; it is also often introduced to patients with depression or anxiety at KTPH

How it works: The app allows a user to record his daily mood and thoughts.

In the mood tracker, a user first chooses between a smiley face and a face with a frown. He inputs the intensity of his mood, from 0 per cent to 100 per cent. A graph then charts how the user's moods fluctuate over time.

In the thought diary, a user types in the situation that has upset or bothered him, then chooses from a list of 10 emotions - or writes down a new one - of what he was feeling.

He also has to list the intensity of each emotion - for instance, 80 per cent afraid or 60 per cent frustrated.

The user is guided to identify how his thoughts may fall into 10 types of unhelpful thinking styles - such as jumping to conclusions - and is asked to write down the evidence that shows that he may be wrong for thinking in such a manner.

The exercise helps someone challenge his own unhelpful thoughts. Finally, he is asked to re-rate the strength of his belief in that thought and the feelings that are associated with it.

User experience: Freelance writer Nicole K, 32, has recorded her fears about not meeting work deadlines or submitting a poorly written assignment to her clients in the app.

The exercise helped her realise how she saw things in black and white, with her work either being rejected or accepted in its entirety. She learnt to challenge those negative thoughts by recalling previous clients' good feedback about her work.

Ms K, who has had depression for about a decade, hopes the app can be tweaked to allow users to input multiple mood records in a day.

"This could be helpful for people with bipolar disorder, whose moods fluctuate throughout a day," she said.

2 AXIETY

iOS only; free

Developed by: KTPH and IHiS

Launch date: Last December

For: People who are prone to panic attacks, which are marked by breathlessness, dizziness and sweating, among other symptoms

How it works: Users rate the intensity of a panic attack from 0 per cent to 100 per cent, then choose to resolve it using three options - music, photo and video.

He can soothe himself by listening to four music tracks, viewing 20 images that include those of animals, flowers and landscapes, or watching a video that demonstrates deep breathing techniques.

The app also records a person's panic attack history in a calendar, which can be shown to a doctor.

Almost all patients who get panic attacks have agoraphobia, or the fear of situations in which escape is difficult, for instance, in crowded areas or open spaces.

The app allows a user or his doctor to list three goals requiring him to go outdoors, such as visiting the park.

To prove that the goal has been met, the user can take a photo of the park and save it in the app. It also encourages the user to count his blessings by recording three good things that happen in a day.

If he completes both tasks, he gets to add apples and flowers to a garden in an in-app game.

User experience: Dr Christopher Cheok, who heads psychological medicine at KTPH, said a 23-year-old executive with severe panic attacks was introduced to this app as part of his treatment.

The medical team noted that after using the app for three months, his frequency of panic attacks dropped. He was also motivated to complete outdoor tasks to overcome his agoraphobia, said Dr Cheok.

3 GACHA ISLAND

iOS only; free

Developed by: Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and IHiS

Launch date: End of the year, but prototype available for download since end of 2012

For: The general public, especially the youth

How it works: This game features IMH's Community Health Assessment Team's mascot Gacha, a green creature who has enemies to fight.

A user earns ammunition for Gacha by planting plots of soil and flowers. Gacha is then able to fight creatures which symbolise different types of mental illnesses. The underlying message is that people need to build an arsenal of tools, such as social support, to deal with mental health issues.

Once a monster-killing mission has been completed, information on the mental illness that was "killed" in the game pops up, along with encouragement to seek help early.

The app contains information on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Another stage of the app is a "mix and match" game that requires the user to connect three or more similar objects to blast away illnesses.

User experience: Polytechnic students who have tested the app have told IMH staff that the games could be more challenging.

One student suggested that more stages could be added, while another wanted a life health indicator instead of three lives in the game.

4 NTUC Unity Denticare

iOS and Android; free

Developed by: Unity Denticare

Launch date: Earlier this month

For: Anyone

How it works: Users can search for addresses and telephone numbers of the 17 Unity dental clinics islandwide, find them on the map and call or e-mail a clinic for an appointment.

It contains information, such as on dental packages and the Tooth Fairy Club, which enables children under 13 to enjoy special rates for dental treatments, among other benefits.

The app also has dental-related articles, such as tips for parents whose child is going to the dentist for the first time.

User experience: Human resource manager Gina Loh, 40, is keen to share the articles she has read from the app with her two daughters, aged 15 and 11, who are both fearful of dental visits.

Ms Loh, who recently visited one of Unity's dental clinics, hopes to make her future dental appointments through the app. "It is convenient to have all the information in my handphone."

5 IUVO HEALTH NOTES

iOS and Android; free

Developed by: Health technology start-up IUVO Health

Launch date: April

For: Elderly and home-care patients, but also for others who wish to keep a record of their health status in case of emergencies

How it works: A user has to first create an account in the app before he can key in health readings such as blood pressure, blood sugar level, temperature, weight, allergies and medication.

Patients who require urinary catheters can record their urine output and appearance, while those reliant on feeding tubes can keep track of the number and amount of feeds. Less mobile patients who have issues with bowel movements and skin conditions can also record these, even storing photographs and videos. Some of the recorded data can be used to generate health reports in the form of charts and tables, which can be shared with health-care providers or family members through linked accounts.

User experience: Mr Stanley Lee, 53, has a spinal cord injury and is bedridden. He uses the app to record his urine output and would have liked it more if he could also record his fluid intake each day, which he notes on a separate piece of paper now. The unemployed man has to notify his doctor if the difference in his fluid volumes reaches a certain level. Mr Lee has also saved photos of his stools in the app, which he would show a doctor if there was a need to, such as when he experiences constipation.

6 JURONGHEALTH - THE DIGITAL LIBRARY

iOS and Android; free

Developed by: Health-care cluster JurongHealth

Launch date: January

For: Anyone

How it works: This is a digital version of JurongHealth's quarterly publication ONEHealth.

The user can access the same articles in the print version, which is distributed free to households and businesses in the western part of Singapore. But the digital articles have videos embedded within. For example, an article on the accident and emergency department of the upcoming Ng Teng Fong Hospital in Jurong East allows a user to also watch a video that depicts what people will see if they walk through the new facility. Past issues will be made available for download too, along with other publications by the health-care cluster.

User experience: Ms Eileen Chong, a 33-year-old marketing communications executive, said she enjoys browsing the newsletter on her phone and finds its layout "refreshing" because of the interactive elements. She said the app complements her habit of reading on her phone when she travels on public transport.

7 DSC GET THEM TESTED

iOS and Android; free

Developed by: Digital consulting company Active8 and National Skin Centre

Launch date: April last year

For: Anyone, especially those with sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

How it works: Patients seen at the department of STI Control (DSC) clinic at Kelantan Lane can use the app to contact their partners for a sexual health screening.

They have to first be registered by clinic staff before they can send up to three SMSes and three e-mail messages to each unique mobile number or e-mail address - anonymously, if they prefer.

Other features of the app - which anyone can use, without registration - include information about 11 types of STIs, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

One can also calculate one's risk of contracting STIs. This is done by answering 10 questions, such as whether one has engaged in any sexual activity in the last six months. The app shows if a person's risk is low, moderate or high, and urges him to go for a sexual health screening.

User experience: A 26-year-old freelance events planner, who wanted to be known only as Ms Tan, learnt through the app that she was at moderate risk of getting an STI. She was not surprised as she has had more than one sexual partner and has never gone for sexual health assessments, saying that there was a stigma attached to going for such health checks.

She thinks it would be helpful if there are pictures to show how symptoms of STIs look like.

8 ASTHMACARE BUDDY

iOS only; free

Developed by: SingHealth Polyclinics and IHiS

Launch date: April last year

For: Asthma patients

How it works: The user first selects one of three options, ranging from whether he feels well or has very bad asthma symptoms. The patient can also enter his peak flow meter readings (a test to check how open the airways are).

Based on this assessment, the patient is given instructions on the type and amount of prescribed medication he should take.

The app is able to plot graphs - from one week to two years - to tracka person's condition. This can also be shown to a doctor.

Users can refer to the app's instructional videos on how to use different types of inhalers.

User experience: When Madam Hairani, a 49-year-old housewife, experiences asthma attacks, she has to use a different type of inhaler from her usual one.

In the past, she had to call Pasir Ris Polyclinic or make a trip there to consult a nurse on whether she had used the inhaler correctly.

Now, she can simply refer to the app.

"It was sometimes very hard to get through the telephone line and I also felt embarrassed taking up the busy nurse's time. I don't have to do that now."

9 MYEYEGYM

iOS and Android; free

Developed by: Singapore National Eye Centre and IHiS

Launch date: February last year

For: Patients with intermittent divergent squint, which means that one eye sometimes moves outwards while the other eye is looking straight

How it works: Eye exercises are sometimes prescribed by orthoptists to help improve a patient's control of the squint.

The app provides images for patients to follow as they practise these exercises for 10 to 15 minutes a day.

They can choose either colour or black-and-white images of exercises, which are grouped into three levels of difficulty. The higher levels can be accessed only with a password given by the orthoptist.

The app also reminds patients to practise their eye exercises and to go for their next appointment.

User experience: Bank executive Tung Wai Kean, 39, uses the app to do his eye exercises for five minutes on the MRT train every morning, saying that this is "much more handy".

Previously, he would do the exercises at home using a cardboard with cat diagrams given by the orthoptist. But he would sometimes forget about them, especially on days when he came home late.

10 AF DETECT

iOS and Android; $2.58

Developed by: Local medical device company HealthSTATS International

Launch date: Last month in Apple App Store; November last year in Google Play Store

For: Patients with atrial fibrillation and others worried about erratic heartbeats

How it works: The user first places an index finger over the camera lens of his phone.

The app then uses the phone's in-built camera and flash light to detect the user's pulse, which is then analysed for atrial fibrillation.

User experience: Mr Cheong K.W., a logistics executive in his 50s, felt the app was "extremely innovative" and was relieved to know that his results were normal after a few tries.

He was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in April. Recently, his doctor halved the dosage of his medicine, which acts to control the heart's rhythm. He has been advised by his doctor to use the app to analyse his pulse whenever he feels unwell or stressed.


This article was first published on June 12, 2014.
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