When the American Medical Association (AMA) released their weight loss app a few months ago many physicians, including myself, were excited about the organizations attempt at creating a patient centric app physicians would feel comfortable prescribing.
Unfortunately, their app is a prime example of how large organizations are missing opportunities to capitalize in the mHealth market place.
Before going further, the AMA should be applauded for even creating a patient-centric app. The AMA has been in existence since 1847, and although their mission statement does include improvement of patient care, much of their focus has been on their physician members — for obvious reasons.
They wouldn’t be faulted for focusing more on physician centric apps, so a patient centric app is appreciated.
The AMA has been active in the mobile space, creating many physician apps and even sponsoring competitions that encourage physicians to be proactive in the mobile space.
We have reviewed some of their other physician focused apps, such as the CPT Medical Billing app, and have come away impressed. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their weight loss app — Weigh What Matters.
The app is a part of the AMA’s Healthier Life Steps Program. When opening the app, you are greeted by three main areas: Weight, Eating, and Activity. In each area, patients are expected to enter custom information.
Here you can enter your daily weight and weight loss goals, and you can track those goals.
Here you can enter in your daily eating goals, for example, eating fruits and salads during two of your meals.
Here you can enter your physical activity on a daily basis.
From a User interface perspective, the app is clean and easy to use and entering information is done quickly. There are great daily alerts that remind you to enter information into the application.
Reports and E-mail out functionality:
This is the highlight of the application. There are great graphical representations of your daily goals in each category. You can track your weight loss efforts meticulously and your concurrent physical activity.
There is also a great e-mail out feature, enabling you to send your physician or friends your goals and progress. There are key disclaimers (privacy related) that should be heeded before this feature is used, which the app does a great job of explaining.
While the above mentioned features are great, there is so much more this app could do. Basically, the Weigh What Matters app is a great journal of daily activities and living — and thats it. This app’s only differentiator from other similar apps is it comes from the American Medical Association.
So then what’s missing from this app?
Lack of information and direction for patients.
For an example of what this app could have been look no farther than the revered Cancer.net app. It’s an app produced by ACSCO, is patient-centric, and does a great job of informing patients about their cancer therapy.
The app also has much of the similar features present in the Weigh What Matters app — allowing patients to input custom information about their particular therapy. The Cancer.net app goes so much farther than the Weigh What Matters app in regards to information by flooding patients with useful tips and resources.
The Weigh what Matters app expects patients to do too much of the manual information without providing any supplemental information or suggestions.
So what could the AMA have done?
For each section, simple tools would have made the app significantly more useful.
Weight loss and Eating:
- A simple calorie counter with major food groups listed. Think of the “Lose It” app that we have given much praise to in the past. Imagine if patients were able to find their daily foods and enter their daily caloric intake.
- Tool to show how much weight can be lost simply by reducing caloric intake. Imagine if there was a tool that showed patients how much weight they could lose weekly by not drinking one
Pepsi a day.
- Food and diet suggestions
- Ability to add how many calories are burned by different exercises
- Suggestions for various types of exercises, focusing on evidence-based recommendations
If this app wasn’t produced by the AMA, it would be seen as a solid app, delivering solid functionality. However, since it’s produced by the a venerable institution like the AMA, more should be expected. The app mentions multiple times how patients should sit down with their physicians to come up with daily goals.
While this is a great idea, with primary care physicians already squeezing everything they can out their 15-minute visits, adding to their workflow isn’t ideal. Instead, the app could have empowered patients and helped physicians by including more comprehensive information. The power of mobile is to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. With behavioral and lifestyle choices, the right time is when our patients are making choices about what to eat and whether to exercise. We hope that future versions of the AMA’s app empower patients in a way that truly realizes the potential of this tool.