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“Sicko Mode”: Combining the Convenience of Health Apps with the Ease of Delivery Apps

Between factors such as lack of sleep, poor diet, and coming into contact with a variety of people on a daily basis, individuals’ immune systems are frequently compromised. Unfortunately, with an undoubtedly busy schedule, it can be extremely difficult to fit in a “quick” trip to the doctor, resulting in personal health and wellness being overlooked. Today, there are a substantial number of health-related apps such as Symptomate, Ada, YourMD, and AskMD, that offer people a bit of solace by suggesting potential explanations for their illnesses. However, after consulting with medical chatbots and coming to an idea of what is wrong, individuals may be too impaired by their illness to leave the house or too busy with their daily obligations, to pick up the products necessary to alleviate their symptoms. While applications such as Uber Corner Store, Postmates, and InstaCart are known for their quick and seamless delivery of everyday items not limited to just foods, there needs to be an all-in-one application combining features from delivery apps as well as the top-rate health apps. The following paper will further address the issue of today’s mobile health applications lacking a delivery feature, the current solutions available, and propose a digital system that will ideally merge the gap that health-related application users are facing.

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There are two major overarching problems within the current digital media for seeking health information via Internet applications. First, all of the present health applications lack a delivery feature, in which over-the-counter medications can be brought straight to the patient so that they do not have to take time out of their day to go to the drug store, a task that could lead to missing work or other responsibilities. Unfortunately, missing work due to health-related issues proves to be a significant problem for many Americans in the workforce. In fact, researchers argue that “Forgoing medical care can lead to further medical complications or prolonged illness. To the extent that poor health results in lost wages…” (Budetti, Duchon, Schoen, & Shikles, 1999, p. 5). The issue at hand is that when employees are faced with illnesses they are unable to properly treat their condition because they likely lack the opportunity to pick up over-the-counter medications to at least sustain their well-being until they are able to seek further medical help. According to a National Gallup Poll, Americans work an average of 50 hours per week, with some professions even reaching up to 60 hours per week (Ward, 2017). With such demanding hours and high expectations for today’s employees, it is not surprising that individuals put their health second to their occupation. Thus, it is crucial to have access to health products at anytime, anywhere, in order to assure that people are not losing dollars out of their paycheck due to missing work to pick up the necessary products to hold them over while sick.

The second issue is that when individuals work long hours, it limits their access to go see a doctor and receive proper medical care. Notably, research results indicate that working over 48 hours per week is detrimental to health, leading to greater mental and physical health problems (Sparks, Cooper, Fried, & Shirom, 2011). This is problematic because working extended hours is correlated with increased sickness, however then once sick, employees do not have the time to seek sufficient medical attention due to their work schedule. Therefore, it is very important that there be quality online applications that people can turn to when seeking information regarding common illnesses. According to researchers, “The Internet has become one of the most important means to obtain health and medical information. It is often the first step in checking for basic information about a disease and treatment” (Wang et al., 2012, p. 1). This confirms that claim that one of the top three health reasons to get online is to seek information about a specific disease or medical problem. In fact, studies found that patients often do not feel satisfied with traditional venues of medical information, and in turn, they proactively seek information on their own via the Internet as opposed to waiting for the next doctor appointment (Hu & Shyam, 2010). Without reliable applications, individuals are negatively affected by seeking out health-related information online. A study by Wang et al. (2012) argues that the current top-ranked methods of obtaining health information online have many pitfalls and therefore there is significant room for improvement in order for users to find more accurate and relevant solutions to their health problems. Since it is overwhelmingly evident that people seek health information on-the-go instead of waiting to see a doctor, it is essential that there are applications to present them with the most applicable and reliable resources.

By addressing this problem in society, individuals will gain a better work-life balance by being able to properly take care of their health and well-being amidst their busy schedules. The ability to input health symptoms into an application that is uniquely crafted to each individual, and then have the recommended over-the-counter medicine delivered right to their door, seamlessly prevents the issues associated with having to either leave work early or postpone other responsibilities to pick up medications. Having a one-stop-shop for people to diagnosis their illness and also receive medicine to relieve their discomfort will ideally lead to individuals putting their health first, without the guilt of losing work hours or delaying other commitments.

Not surprisingly, there have been a significant number of health applications emerge since the rise of the smartphone. In fact, by 2012 there were an estimated 40,000 health-related smartphone apps, and the number continues to skyrocket (Boulos, Brewer, Karimkhani, Buller, & Dellavalle, 2014). Today, when you search “health app” on an iPhone, you are bombarded with endless high-rated applications, with Symptomate and Ada topping the charts.

Symptomate is an app that allows individuals to check their symptoms and find out what might be causing them, based on the recommendation of a sophisticated medical chatbot. The app’s intelligence learns from medical literature and databases, and its respective recommendations are based on an independent medical team (Orzechowski, 2018). Symptomate is an extremely effective app in the sense that it provides on-the-spot medical information from seemingly reliable sources, and with 3 million people worldwide using it, the success of Symptomate is undeniable (Orzechowski, 2018). Although this application provides patients with possible causes of symptoms and options for what to do next, it lacks a feasible solution for them to physically receive the suggested medications, particularly if their sickness is inhibiting or they do not have time in their schedules to go pick it up from a store.

Similar to Symptomate is Ada, a health app that asks patients an extensive set of questions regarding their ailment, and then provides three possible conditions and suggestions of how to treat them. Ada has been highly rated by users due to its ease of use, perceived accuracy, and detailed responses, resulting in highly positive reviews. However, according to Boulos et al. (2014), many of these new-aged apps lack sufficient medical professionals’ insight involved in the design. Multiple user testimonials confirm this assertion with reviews such as, “needed more information to solve people’s problems” and “I would love if it would give more suggestions for medications” (“Ada – Your Health Guide”, 2019). Design issues such as these highlight the necessity for an extremely accurate health app so that patients can feel confident in their decision to use a smartphone app as a temporary alternative to a doctor’s expertise.

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Finally, it is important to recognize that there are a handful of delivery apps that will bring over-the-counter medications straight to individuals, with some of the most notable being Postmates, InstaCart, and TaskRabbit. These are great services because they combat the issue of people who are sick not being able to leave their homes to go pick up the necessary remedies. In fact, Walgreens even teamed up with TaskRabbit to allow delivery of over-the-counter cold medicine “to consumers who are so walloped with a cold or flu that a trip to the corner drugstore seems an insurmountable obstacle” (Wasserman, 2014, p.1). While the ease of delivery is a great feature for individuals who are suffering from illnesses at home or are too preoccupied with other obligations to find the time to pick up medicine, these apps have nothing to do with the medical field and require bouncing back and forth from between health and delivery apps.

Therefore, it would be much more convenient and efficient for there to be one all-encompassing app that allows people to input their medical ailments, receive recommended solutions, and then organize the delivery of the said solutions. “Sicko Mode” is a digital system that will combine all of the best qualities of the top-rated health applications such as accuracy, reliability, and relevancy, as well as those of the top-rated delivery applications such as speed, real-time tracking, and easy payment options. With Sicko Mode, individuals can easily input their temporary health ailments (i.e., stuffy nose, sore throat, etc.) and a highly trained medical chatbot will come to the rescue with extremely precise possibilities of what is wrong, as well as over-the-counter medicine suggestions. The medical chatbot will be backed by the training of a team of doctors with various specialties so that people’s symptoms can be accurately assessed. In addition, the software will narrow down the possibilities to the most realistic, in order to avoid potentially scaring the patient by putting ideas in their head about an ailment that is not at all likely for them to have. Training from medical professionals improves upon current solutions to-date, because according to researchers Krebs and Duncan (2015), “most health apps have not been designed with input from health care and behavior change professionals” (p. 2). In addition, Sicko Mode will have all of the elements of a literate health application, which much of the current software is lacking. Strategies such as providing actionable content and encouraging user engagement are two factors that can lead to effective apps that have a positive impact on health (Broderick et al., 2014).

There are two main components of Sicko Mode that set it apart from its competitors: the suggestion of foods and drinks to help relieve illnesses, and a convenient delivery feature. After patients receive their diagnosis from the trained medical chatbot and are recommended useful over-the-counter aid, the app will go one step further and also suggest a comfort food (i.e., chicken noodle soup) and/or a health beverage (i.e. a vitamin C smoothie) for the individual to consider consuming for even more of a treatment. However, Sicko Mode won’t just leave patients to fend for themselves now that they have the idea of what to put in their bodies to make them feel better. The app will set up delivery of the suggested items (over-the-counter and food-related) so that the patients are able to get everything they need with the touch of a button within one easy-to-use application. Sicko Mode will be a huge success because it offers patients a one-stop-shop for everything they need for peace of mind regarding their illness, as well as tangible support to make them feel better as soon as possible. Users will no longer have to switch back and forth between health apps and delivery apps in order to get what they need, because, with Sicko Mode, it will all be within the same sophisticated and user-friendly system.

There are many factors that contribute to individuals frequently coming in contact with illnesses. Unfortunately, in busy schedules, it is very difficult to fit in a trip to the doctor, and therefore, too many people end up neglecting their health and wellness. Luckily in today’s society, there are countless health-related apps that provide explanations of illnesses and suggest potential solutions. However, after receiving this information from the medical chatbots, individuals who are either too sick to leave their homes, or too busy with work and other obligations, are left at a standstill when it comes to actually retrieving the over-the-counter medications recommended by the apps. Sicko Mode, a proposed new health app, will combat this issue by combining the features of top-rated health apps with those of delivery apps, in order to create one application that patients can turn to for medical advice as well as delivery of useful medications. This app combines the accuracy and relevancy of health apps, with the speed and convenience of delivery apps, making it a one-stop-shop for patients in need.


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