The world can be dangerous sometimes, and even our own bodies betray us eventually. And while people have always had to deal with threats, two things are different now. First, the modern world has changed the way we look at threats and added a whole host of new problems that we didn’t consider before. Yet the modern world also has provided us with many ways to take charge of our destiny and keep ourselves safer and healthier. It can feel like two sides of the same coin, but progress has allowed us to live longer and happier lives on the whole.
And progress has recently been led by the smartphone, perhaps the most important change in our daily lives in the 21st century. It’s hard to imagine our lives without one now, but we are still discovering new ways to use these amazing devices. And while we often use them for communication and entertainment, they can be so much more. They can save and improve lives, and we want to take time today to tell you how they can do exactly that.
The first thing you likely thought of was that a phone can dial emergency service from practically anywhere, and one doesn’t even need a phone plan to do so. The number of times someone’s life has been saved from having a smartphone on hand (or a witness having one) is incalculable, and it will continue to be a tool to save lives like this.
The process of how emergency call centers work is interesting and gets even more so the more you look into it. It is a larger operation than someone on the other end of the phone, and usually advanced computer technology and tracking options are used. However, with smartphones, your location is not always relayed, which is why you always need to give your location first. If something happens and the connection is lost, personnel are still able to get there. If you don’t know exactly, you might also be able to check via a GPS app to try while staying on the line. And make sure to not hang up the phone if at all possible.
Now might be a good time to familiarize yourself with the emergency settings on your phone and the emergency call option (without accidentally calling emergency services, of course). Sure, you can dial the emergency number, but often there’s a faster way that can save you valuable seconds when they matter most. Perhaps there is something like an “emergency call” button on your phone's lock screen or a button you can easily tap. The exact method will vary by phone and mobile operating system, so check now and check again whenever there is a major change.
Interestingly, some cities and areas are rolling out programs where someone can communicate with emergency services via text. This can be a lifesaver if someone doesn’t want to be found by an intruder or needs to keep quiet (or cannot speak for any reason). We expect such programs to gain traction in the coming years, and ideally, be streamlined for easy access and remembrance. We might even see options for WiFi or online connection to emergency services when a cell signal is unavailable. We would also like to note there that if texts to emergency services are not available, service providers are obligated to provide an automatic message saying it didn’t go through. Messaging services and social media networks are not obligated to provide this service either.
Our health can be tracked by a wide variety of metrics, but it’s not like we can keep track of everyone all the time. Most of us don’t even know how to check our pulse properly, and those of us who can, cannot do so properly. We cannot consciously track how well we sleep, though sleep is vital to our health (poor sleep can be a sign of something else).
While it might not have been true even five years ago, we have gotten much better at accurately tracking health metrics and compiling related data over time. We also are gaining a better understanding of the links between these metrics, and what things such as our blood oxygen level and our resting pulse can tell us.
It should be noted that whatever tracking mechanisms we have, they are still getting regular improvements. A phone from even three years ago might not be as useful as the latest model. Some peripherals and smartphone parts are more accurate than others. In no way should you let your smartphone become your doctor. You should not consider the measurements exact and useful for a medical diagnosis. You can get help with noticing trends. Talk to a medical professional and get professional tests done if you have any serious concerns.
Fortunately, with smartphones, most of the time we can keep track of all the important metrics. This can usually be done with the help of a peripheral or smartwatch. Look at what even a basic Fitbit can track. It includes stress statistics, your calories (if you are inputting the information), how many calories we burned, and so much more. This is a case where the amount of effort you put into tracking results in how much helpful information you get out of your smart devices. It might take a bit of setup and you’ll need to make it a habit, but you will be more mindful of your health and wellness as a result.
And as we take care of ourselves better and learn more about our health, we will add years to our life. And if something is regularly irregular, it might inspire us to talk to our doctor. Such conversations can save lives. They can make dealing with conditions much easier. It’s not as dramatic as an emergency call. However, it is an important way smartphones help us nonetheless.
Just because an emergency isn’t immediately happening doesn’t mean that the health decisions and metrics that we make and keep track of every day are not important. On the contrary, taking care of ourselves with the right choices might be the most important thing we can do in our lives.
Those same apps that help us keep track of our health often have ways to keep track of streaks, daily goals, and much more. Even just a small notification can be the kickstart we need to get off the couch and go on a walk or avoid that fifth donut (even though you think it might be the tastiest one).
As for which app you should use, we’ll leave that up to you, perhaps after you look at other sources on the matter. Your needs are unique, and we cannot hope to guess exactly what would be best for you. What you may want to do is try out what is available on your phone from the start and work from there, or use the related app for your fitness tracker or smartwatch, should you have one.
However, the possibilities are plentiful. Some apps make fitness into something of a more social effort. There are even ones that penalize you monetarily if you don’t keep on track with your goals (though this is a bit more on the extreme side). And if you don’t know what to do or what the proper form is, most apps have tutorial videos. And if there aren’t such resources, you can download another app that does or look them up on YouTube, right from your phone.
And much like tracking our metrics can keep us informed, our smartphones, though the use of such apps, can let us be proactive and take our health more into our own hands. We can do it one tracked step at a time.
Health care and health information are something everyone should have at least some access to, yet not everyone can get to the doctor so easily. They might have a disability that makes getting there difficult. They might live too far away from the doctor they need to see. It could just be an extremely painful process for them that would take up their entire day. And if it is possible to make lives easier for patients with such issues, we should look into it further.
Telehealth has been a development of the last decade that has likely saved many lives and has allowed doctors and patients to communicate more readily, perhaps catching problems and diseases before they become too acute. There is no substitute for a proper exam and testing in some cases, but just being able to talk to a doctor and get something on the record can be a huge help. Smartphones are an important part of the system, especially for those without access to a regular computer or laptop. Programs are improving, and doctors are getting used to administering to patients all around the world.
This increased connection has been especially helpful for people who require mental health care, as often therapy can be done remotely without too many drawbacks. There might be a level of disconnect some people experience, but for others, it is just what the psychiatrist ordered. If people have a stable internet connection and medical professionals are open to new ways of talking to their patients, we will likely continue to see innovation in this space. People with agoraphobia or similar issues might be more able to get the help they need than ever before
That is not to say that telehealth is perfect and not without its drawbacks. Patients might not know their issues, as well as a doctor, would like to, and a doctor cannot conduct a thorough examination. Doing telehealth over a smartphone might not be as stable an option. And finally, there are concerns over information privacy and data security. Health care already has many issues with cyberattacks, and not all telehealth apps are made equally. We hope that over time these concerns get addressed and smartphones can do even more to connect doctors with patients.
Getting lost is scary. And while there is getting lost in a town or a city where we can eventually look at signs or ask for directions, there is nothing like feeling lost in the woods or the countryside where there is little to go off, and most of us don’t know how to read the stars or make a compass from scratch. In these situations a smartphone can be a lifesaver, having access to GPS or the ability to call for help. There are far fewer stories of people getting lost and not getting saved (even if we do hear about it every single time that it does happen) thanks to smartphones leading the way to safety.
A smartphone can be a way to orient ourselves, a flashlight, and access to helpful area information all in one. If we download a map and additional information ahead of time before we go out somewhere, we will be even that much safer in the long run. There is a limited battery time and a signal isn’t always available, so it isn’t a perfect backup, but nothing is and the fact remains that smartphones keep people from getting lost, saving lives in the process.
And in cities and more crowded areas, smartphones can be extremely helpful and keep people safe, if not from life-threatening danger. People can get lost in the crowd, so to speak, and just a group text telling everyone where to meet up can help save a lot of confusion and distress. In the most extreme circumstances, it can keep families together in an unfamiliar location, allowing children to be much safer.
Some apps can allow us to track others’ locations and smartphones, which are generally meant to be used by parents. If someone gets lost, people or authorities can find them via smartphones. There are security and privacy concerns about this, but for the moment the control seems to be in the hands of the users.
Sometimes the emergencies come to you, and fortunately, sometimes we can get a warning. A tornado doesn’t spontaneously form, nor do hurricanes and severe thunderstorms come out of nowhere. With the science we have, we can predict many disasters before they happen, if not with pinpoint accuracy or the ability to completely mitigate them.
With your phone, you can receive alerts regarding severe weather and other dangers and likely receive some automatically when the situation gets worse. Beyond those automatic warnings, you can use apps and settings to customize the other warnings you get, allowing you to look out for someone else or give yourself more time to plan ahead. You know your situation best, and you know what you might need when it comes to keeping safe in your area.
It doesn’t have to be just you. You probably have seen Amber Alerts go off before, and there have been plenty of lives saved from people on the lookout. Even informally, people, pets, and more have been found and made safe from people spreading the news on social media. There were ways of sharing such information in the past, of course, but smartphones provide an element of speed and quick sharing that was never there before.
However, no matter how many warnings and alerts you get, they won’t save your life if you do not listen to them and do not know what they mean. Similarly, preparedness is more than having a smartphone app, especially if you live in an at-risk area. We recommend having an emergency kit in both your home and your car, and also keeping them updated (expired or broken goods do not pair well with emergencies). Information needs to be complemented by action.
Whatever your future plan, just know that your smartphone can be a handy tool for learning about the world around you, whether it is good, bad, or urgent.
There is an epidemic of loneliness in the world. Nearly all of us need human connection, and going without it can have severe health effects. Those of us who are alone live shorter lives and are generally not living a happier life for it. There is no substitute for it, and some people are at higher risk than others, especially those in smaller communities.
Smartphones might not be the perfect solution, but they can help. A Zoom call might not be a meeting with friends, but it is a great way to find some way of seeing people’s faces and talking to them. Being able to talk to others like yourself is important for many marginalized groups, and a smartphone can be a tool to do so for people living in small towns. The elderly population is especially at risk, and ideally, smartphones become more popular among the population to help with it, and smartphones become easier for them to use.
And certainly, there is an argument to be made about this problem being partially caused by an over-reliance on technology, though there are other societal factors at play as well. They can give us a false sense of connection when we do not see real people in our lives enough. A text message does not allow for nearly as much nuance. Things can get lost digitally wherein a person would understand exactly what someone means. It will require a combination of many measures, but we think that smartphones can do more good than harm if used appropriately. And over time, we think it can save people’s lives.
All the above can be a little emotionally heavy and serious problems, and we don’t want you to panic. And there are still plenty of ways that a phone can save a life, if unconventionally. Here are a few stories that hopefully either put a smile on your face or make you think of the lucky things that happen to people:
Your smartphone can do more than you know, and we hope that the above information has made you start to think about how you can incorporate it more into a healthy life as well as note more that it can be a lifeline in a bad situation. There can be a fair bit to learn, so don’t worry about taking it in all at once. Just build one habit at a time, and in a few months, you’ll be making the most of your smartphone to protect your own life and the people around you.