Step counting can teach something to cough tracking

In the past few years, a considerable emphasis has been placed on step counting in order to achieve optimal health. 10,000 Step Challenges and other related fitness movements have been promoted heavily by those in the health community as research has emerged on the beneficial mental and physical effects we obtain through walking.

Step-counting is an easy way to promote and quantify health data on a large scale. After all, step counting apps come standard on smartphones and smartwatches alike. So there’s no need to purchase the pedometers of old anymore (unless you want to!).

But recently, health researchers and innovators in the tech space have combined forces in an attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. Are there other ways to easily measure important health metrics?
  2. How can we leverage the power of smart devices to better track our health?

In this article, we will examine how COVID 19 has shifted our focus on wellness. Additionally, we will look at how technological wonders can follow the lead of step counting apps and Fitbit devices with regard to our health.

How COVID 19 Changed our Attitude Toward Health

When COVID-19 entered our lives, we all became acutely aware of the common signs and symptoms indicative of respiratory disease. Many of us became more cognizant of staying home when we weren’t feeling well and practicing better sanitation techniques. When it comes to COVID 19 and respiratory disease in general, perhaps the most obvious sign we’ve all become more wary of is that of cough.

Coughs can tell a person so much about the nature of a disease. (For a more detailed explanation of cough data, check out this article.)

And yet when you complain to your health care provider about a cough, meaningful communication stops! The doctor will usually ask “how much are you coughing?” but no one really knows (who really knows how many times they coughed yesterday?). They may then ask “what kind of cough is it, to which you can only reply by reducing an incredibly complex sound to a single word, “wet, dry, hacking…”. What if you could provide your doctor a detailed record of the quantity and an analysis of the sound of your cough in comparison to coughs from different diseases?

What Can the History of Step Counting Teach Us to Bring Cough Tracking into the Mainstream?

Step counting devices have a long history. However, early on, many professionals in the health field considered these devices to be “gimmicky”.

But not long ago, Fitbit came on the scene, and step counting transformed from a silly fad to a cool, mainstream way to stay healthy.

How Fitbit Changed the Health-Tracking Landscape

In 2007, Fitbit entered our world. It didn’t take long for these simple devices to become one of the hottest Christmas, Father’s day, and birthday gifts around. Fitbit started selling devices in different colors and with flashy, interchangeable bands. Naturally, everyone wanted to be a part of the Fitbit movement, and within a few short years, many other companies were following Fitbit’s lead by developing their own step trackers.

Health apps soon became standard fixtures on Apple and Android devices. Around the same time, studies demonstrated the value of walking certain minimum distances throughout the day to maintain and improve health. This compelled doctors to recommend Fitbits and similar devices to their patients. And measurement of walking has become part of many groundbreaking scientific studies. Step counting has since become as common a health suggestion as increasing vegetable intake or drinking more water.

So, what started as a gimmick that many assumed would end with the Fitbit, became an entire movement in fitness.

How Can Cough Tracking Apps Replicate the Success of Step Counting?

Fitbit and other devices have taught us valuable lessons. Companies creating cough tracking devices should consider the following:

  • Consumers want to be part of “cool” trends;
  • Health tracking devices and software need to be easy to use;
  • Challenges and goals for improvement should be considered with all new devices, so that users can see progress.
  • Fundamental research is needed to understand the natural history of cough and how measuring it can improve health. 
  • Ensure that all claimed benefits of tracking are in line with all relevant regulatory standards.

Lifestyle and fitness apps need to consider these elements moving forward. How can these features that the Fitbit so perfectly captured in their device be used to improve tracking of cough and other metrics of health?

To address the “coolness” factor, celebrity and athlete endorsement is usually an excellent step. Everyone remembers when superstar athletes such as Tracy McGrady participated in the “Got Milk?” campaign. As far as Fitbit is concerned, the Minnesota Timberwolves partnered with the company in 2017, bringing awareness of the device to the NBA court. If athletes and celebrities get behind a trend, it’s almost certain to take hold.

As for ease of use, anyone can download the app on their mobile device.

To Sum Up Attempting to Capture the Lightning of Step Counting in a Bottle

Challenges and goals for improvement for cough tracking apps will take some creativity. For step counting, creating a 10,000 step challenge was straightforward: everyone immediately understood the challenge, which provided an intuitive, obvious goal to work towards. But cough is complicated – it is both essential to health and a symptom of disease. An app that tracks our respiratory health, will allow scientists to define what is a normal cough that can be ignored and a serious cough that needs medical attention.

Conclusion

We should all be doing our part to remain healthy in any way we can. Apps and devices that measure steps and track coughs are incredible tools that can help us achieve specific goals. They can also assist us in keeping on top of any issues before they become full-blown diseases. But in the end, it’s up to us to take action and stay as healthy as possible.

For cough-tracking apps to follow the lead of step counting devices such as Fitbits, it will take some creative thinking. Using the latest technology will lead us toward a healthier world, one step and one deep breath at a time.

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