Oregon health company to launch depression tracker with Fitbit integration

By: Jonah Comstock | Jun 26, 2013        

Tags: | | | | | | | | | | | |  |

MoodhackerMichael Mulvihill, CEO of ORCAS, announced that the company will be launching a new, clinically tested iOS app for depression self-management next month.

ORCAS, which originally stood for Oregon Center for Applied Science, was founded in 1989 as a research organization looking into ways people could use technology to improve their own health. The organization has been developing a number of mobile health apps and other interventions with funding from the National Institutes of Health. But with Mulvihill as CEO, the company is transitioning from a government-funded research group to a commercial company, offering their clinically validated apps as B2B products for employers.

“We’ve been very fortunate over the years to secure very significant funding thougth NIH,” Mulvihill said, “but my mission as CEO of the company is to turn us more toward the market in the business-to-business opportunity. We really want to create a sustainable business model. And we’re looking at very large channel partners who will actually distribute our product. So we’ll continue to do research and trials, but have the majority be market-oriented.

ORCAS is developing or clinically testing a number of apps — educational health games for children, a game to help children and parents talk about sex and puberty (Betwixt), and a game under development to help adults deal with ADD (Special Agent 24/7). But the focus of the company’s soon-to-be released MoodHacker app is depression, which Mulvihill said is especially problematic because it’s so frequently comorbid with conditions that many mobile health developers are focusing on, like diabetes.

“When you have co-morbidity of stress, depression, or anxiety along with chronic conditions or other lifestyle factors, both conditions are worse,” he said. “The vast majority of our patients have co-morbid stress and anxiety. In a sense, we have a huge healthcare crisis and these co-morbid issues sit right in the middle.”

The app takes a self-management approach to depression management. Users can track their mood on the app along with other factors like food and activity, to educate themselves about what things correlate to different moods. The app responds to the data with analysis and videos about depression. (Some of those can be found on ORCAS’ website here.) Mulvihill said the app can also connect to a Fitbit to automatically report activity data to the dashboard.

“The intelligence that is created by understanding my activity patterns, my sleep patterns, and how they’re effecting the mood puts the person in charge and knowledgeable about what works for them. Ultimately I think that will provide greater autonomy for the individual.”

Mulvihill said the clinical trial results for MoodHacker are promising: use of the app lead to a decrease in depression symptoms, an increase in behavioral activation, and an increase in worker productivity.

The app has been in beta and version two will launch next month. Mulvihill said the company has several commercial launches planned in the next three to six months, and some clinical trials concluding in the next two months.