Study: Online behavioral intervention improves weight loss outcomes

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 30, 2014        

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ShapeUpWhile adding in-person group support sessions to a weight loss program produces the best results, adding just an online behavioral intervention can produce results nearly as good, at a much lower cost. Those are the findings from a 230-person trial from social wellness platform ShapeUp, recently published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“The findings of this study are significant in that they reveal substantial progress in identifying cost-effective, scalable, online behavioral weight loss interventions that are capable of significantly improving outcomes,” Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and CEO of ShapeUp and one of the co-authors of the study, said in a statement. “At ShapeUp, we believe that combining social support with evidence-based health interventions is a recipe for sustainable behavior change, and this study strengthens our conviction.”

All of the study’s subjects participated in ShapeUp Rhode Island (SURI) 2011, a 3-month competition-driven weight loss program. Participants competed in teams and received a pedometer and access to a website where they could report their daily physical activity, weight loss, or both. One arm of the study was involved only in SURI.  Keep reading>>

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Castlight Health adds Google, Sprint, Kellogg as new customers

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 30, 2014        

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Castlight Mobile iOSCastlight Health, which went public earlier this year, inked deals with 26 more employers during the second quarter, including new deals with six Fortune 500 companies like Google, Sprint, The Kellogg Company, and Texas Instruments. The company’s new customer wins also included a large state university system and a handful of local government entities. Interestingly, the company has also found that its platform can increase usage of telehealth services among employees when they are integrated with Castlight.

At the end of Q1 the company disclosed similar deals with both Comcast and the state Kansas, which it said were both deals worth more than $1 million. During this quarter’s call the Castlight’s management team did not comment on the size of any of its deals. Castlight now counts 130 employers as its customers, which includes 35 Fortune 500 businesses — a focus customer group for the company this year.

Castlight Health offers employees a personalized platform, online and on iOS or Android, to compare prices of healthcare services and keep track of healthcare spending so that employers can reduce that spending over time. The company also integrates prescription drug information into the platform so that they can also track medication cost and has recently added a dentist pricing offering.

During the quarter Castlight also launched its services for 13 of its already signed customers and upsold 12 customers on its relatively new Castlight Pharmacy and Rewards feature. It had 29 customer implementations completed in Q1.  Keep reading>>

EyeNetra raises $4M for eye diagnostic smartphone peripheral

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 30, 2014        

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EyeNetra Netra-GSomerville, Massachusetts-based eye diagnostic tool maker EyeNetra raised $4 million from one investor, according to an SEC filing. This brings EyeNetra’s total funding to at least $7 million.

Previously disclosed EyeNetra investors include Khosla Ventures and Khosla Impact, which invests in companies that are developing products for populations in India, Africa, and Latin America.

The company, which spun off from The MIT Media Lab Camera Culture Group, developed a smartphone peripheral, called Netra-G, that measures nearsightedness, farsightedness, age related blurriness, pupillary distance, and astigmatism. After the test, the companion app connects the user to healthcare providers and vendors depending on his or her eye condition.

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Fitbit launches native app for Windows 8.1 smartphones

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 29, 2014        

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Fitbit for WindowsActivity tracker company Fitbit launched a native app for Windows 8.1 that integrate data from a user’s Fitbit device via Bluetooth. The company said they are the first company to offer an app for Windows 8.1 that directly syncs to a digital health device.

The app has most of the features that are also in the iOS and Android versions of the app including food logging features, statistics and graphs that show the user’s past activity, motivational reminders to stay active, and a social network in which users share fitness updates with the Fitbit community. Fitbit’s iOS app is still the only version of the Fitbit app that offers passive activity tracking features. It does so by using the iPhone’s M7 processor.

“At Fitbit, we know that giving our users instant access to real-time stats right on their smartphone increases motivation to achieve goals and, ultimately, make healthier choices,” Fitbit CEO James Park said in a statement. “Windows Phone is projected to be the fastest-growing smartphone OS platform, so supporting this platform is important so that all of our users have access to their stats, no matter which phone they choose.”

News site Neowin also pointed out that along with this launch, Microsoft and Fitbit are offering a bundle price for the Fitbit Flex and the new Nokia phone, Nokia Lumia 635.

Fitbit is not the only digital health company in recent weeks launch an app specifically for Windows Phone users. Last week, electronic health record company Allscripts launched a native app for Windows 8.1 devices, called Allscripts Wand.

Study: iPad-based HIV prevention game increased adolescents’ knowledge of the disease

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 29, 2014        

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PlayForwardChildren who played iPad-based HIV prevention game PlayForward: Elm City Stories knew more about HIV risk than those that played other video games, according to an oral abstract on a randomized control trial of 198 adolescents presented at the AIDS conference this week. The mean age of children in this trial was 13.

The NIH-funded video game was developed by Yale University Associate Research Scientist Dr. Kim Hieftje and Associate Professor of Medicine Dr. Lynn Fiellin.

“We know there’s this optimal window in which we think we can really inform and engage adolescents before they start having sex,” Hieftje said at Games for Health last year. “So we really wanted to focus on that window right before they start engaging in sexual activity so we are looking at ages 10 to 14. This age is really active in playing video games as well.”  Keep reading>>

Researchers use iPhone tracking app in yearlong microbiome study

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 29, 2014        

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microbiome studyA new longitudinal study of the microbiome from researchers at Harvard and MIT demonstrates how the ubiquity of a smartphone enables research that would have been much more difficult previously. In the study, two patients tracked a number of health factors on an iPhone app for a year and also took stool samples almost every day. Researchers analyzed the bacteria in the stool samples alongside the health tracking data, to see what impact the subjects’ lifestyle had on their microbiome, or the ecosystem of bacteria living in their digestive tract.

Subjects used a modified version of a database app called TapForms to track 13 parameters: ailments, bowel movements, daily notes, diet, exercise, fitness, location change, medication, mood, oral hygiene, sleep, urination, and vitamin intake. The two subjects were selected partially based on a screening process for people who would be meticulous about data entry.

“Our findings suggest that although human-associated microbial communities are generally stable, they can be quickly and profoundly altered by common human actions and experiences,” the researchers wrote.

Most of the data scientists had subjects collect turned out to be irrelevant to the microbiome. That’s still valuable information, as it allows future studies of this kind to be more focused in their tracking.  Keep reading>>