DCs Health 2.0 Meetup: MyDS Takes on Dietary Supplements

Aquilent’s most recent Health2.0 STAT Meetup event on February 10 showcased some of the latest innovations in health 2.0 – with a focus on real world scenarios of how open government is enabling more active citizen communication on key healthcare topics. One of the most interesting presentations came from Jody Engel, MA, RD, a nutritionist with the Communications Program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) – who discussed the new My Dietary Supplements (MyDS) iPhone and iPad app launched in late October.

There is a small but real potential for interactions between dietary supplements and prescription medicines so “it’s very important that healthcare providers know what supplements you are taking,” explained Jody. “But most people can’t always remember what they take.” The new, highly user-friendly app allows users to maintain a mobile list of all the dietary supplements they take, including pictures of the label, quantities, frequency, etc. It’s then as easy as pulling up the list in the doctor’s office or printing it and taking it with you – eliminating the guesswork and possible dangers.

The app also provides easy access to key healthcare information related to supplements that are produced by the government. Case in point – recently, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) came out with new recommendations for calcium and vitamin D levels for all Americans. Although these new recommendations easily updated in the ODS fact sheets online, getting them to be simultaneously updated on the mobile app was another story. This led the innovative team in Jody’s office to come up with a unique remote content feature that allows data to be managed on the back end while auto-populating the app on the mobile side. “This keeps us from submitting a new version of the app for review by Apple every time there’s a change; now we can make all the content edits remotely and easily. Very soon we are going to come out with Spanish language versions of our fact sheets and we’ll be able to add those to our app just as easily using this new feature.”

There are over 2,000 users of the app in the few months since its launch, with downloads from every continent. ODS is also developing a web app version that will work across all smartphones and desktop browsers.

It’s clear that consumers want and need more updated and accurate access to important healthcare information, and with the growing number of Americans taking dietary supplements, the new MyDS app is particularly relevant. ODS at NIH is proving the efficacy of apps that enable healthcare management on the go, while also proving that on the technology end – mobile is nothing to be afraid of. Embracing health 2.0 in this kind of innovative way lays a foundational success story for all government agencies embracing the open mandate and looking for the most efficient ways to do so.

Mike Tock is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Aquilent. Mike is also one of the lead organizers for the Health 2.0 Washington DC Chapter. This post was initially featured on the new Aquilent blog.

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