Xiaomi to offer a $13 wristworn activity tracker in China

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 22, 2014        

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Mi BandChinese electronics company Xiaomi has announced a new fitness band that will retail in China for just $13 (79 RMB). The device will track activity, act as a silent alarm, and do something novel for fitness-tracking wristbands: unlock the user’s phone in lieu of a password. PC World covered the launch event where CEO Lei Jun announced the device.

Although Xiaomi is just starting to sell devices outside of China, it has risen quickly to relevance there by selling smartphones and tablets just above cost, and bypassing traditional sales models in favor of online sales and word-of-mouth marketing. This strategy made it China’s third largest smartphone maker this quarter, actually outstripping Apple, according to PC World. The Mi Band, as the tracking device is called, could potentially bring the same disruption to the fitness tracker market in China.  Keep reading>>


Walgreens amps up health tracking rewards program with Fogg’s behavior change method

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 22, 2014        

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Fogg speaking at SXSW last year.

Fogg speaking at SXSW last year

Retail pharmacy company Walgreens is bolstering its rewards program by training some of its pharmacists and online customer reps in Stanford psychologist and mobile health expert Dr. BJ Fogg’s behavior change methodology, called Tiny Habits. Over the years Fogg has had considerable influence in mobile health through his advisory services to industry, published works, and his series of Mobile Health events hosted at Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, which he founded.

This is the third annual revamping for Walgreens Balance Rewards program’s digital health components, which began including simple step counts from an Omron pedometer in late 2011 and added a number of new connected health devices and apps a year later. Now Fogg’s behavior change methods will help Walgreens loyalty card-carrying consumers habitually use digital health tools and support them in making healthier decisions throughout their day. Walgreens counts 81 million active members in its entire loyalty program, which — like most such programs — rewards consumers for a number of different interactions they have with the store, not just for health tracking.  Keep reading>>

Health-sensing sock company Sensoria gets $5M, preps SDK

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 21, 2014        

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Sensoria Fitness socks, which come with a snap-on anklet.

Sensoria Fitness, the wearable sensor company formerly known as Heapsylon, has raised $5 million from Italian investor Reply SpA. In exchange, Reply SpA will acquire a hefty 20 percent interest in the company. Although Sensoria reported the raise in a press release, VentureBeat uncovered the amount.

Reply SpA will also work with Sensoria on marketing and distribution, including building up the Sensoria SDK. The funding will be used for engineering, sales and marketing efforts, according to the company.

“The internet of things is fueling the next wave of technology innovation,” Reply SpA Chairman Mario Rizzante said in a statement. “We are extremely excited to closely partner with Sensoria who has built the first truly open, wearable development platform. We see tremendous potential synergies between their team and our system integration groups in Europe and in the United States. Together we can leverage the power of the Sensoria Developer Kit to reach out to business and technology leaders and deliver unique, meaningful and quantified experiences for our enterprise customers in an increasingly broader range of industries.”  Keep reading>>

National physician group advises docs to discuss health apps with patients

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 21, 2014        

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Brian Dolan - MobiHealthNews Editor-in-ChiefOver the weekend the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), which represents the country’s more than 100,000 osteopathic physicians (D.O.) and medical students, passed a resolution at their annual meeting in Chicago instructing their physician members to “actively educate patients on the importance of seeing a physician when ill or injured and in need of a medical diagnosis, and that patients not allow recommendations from these medical websites or applications to be used as a basis for delaying, or as a substitute for, evaluation and treatment by a physician.”

As part of the resolution, the AOA also encourages its physician members “to recommend the best evidence-based resources available to their patients so that they may continue to encourage patients to be actively engaged in their own health care.”

The concern that online health tools might displace professional health providers is not a new one, but the AOA cites trending adoption of digital health tools as the basis for the resolution and the need to encourage these kinds of conversations now.

How might these tools cause users not to seek care?

The digital health tools listed in the AOA’s resolution include WebMD and iTriage. These apps might encourage smarter utilization of emergency room and finding the proper treatment facility based on a set of symptoms, but they don’t directly discourage users from seeking care altogether. Based on the information a user enters, a symptom navigation may steer them to a seemingly mild affliction as a likely diagnosis, which may cause them not to seek out a medical professional. They don’t make that leap for them though. And a friend or spouse may offer advice that leads a person to similar inaction.  Keep reading>>

Seven startups that want to help employees sit less, stay active at work

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 21, 2014        

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CubiiEarlier this month, Chicago-based startup FitnessCubed launched a Kickstarter for its device, a portable elliptical, called Cubii that fits under a user’s desk. The company designed this device for employees who want to stay active even when they are sitting at their desk.

Although many employers offer wellness programs for employees who want to stay fit and healthy, and some companies are already seeing savings from these programs, many of them focus on creating fitness and nutrition initiatives that employees can take part in outside of the office. FitnessCubed, on the other hand, is one of relatively few startups who are targeting employees at a different time, when the employees are still at work.

Many of these companies are combating what is sometimes called “sitting disease”.

In an interview last year, Jawbone VP of Software Jeremiah Robinson shared data about activity tracker UP users in New York City. One of the findings was that the city has the most steps counted of any city, thus it seems that users in New York were generally more healthy than users living elsewhere. But, he said, another metric shows that New Yorkers also sat the most during the day. Using this information, Jawbone added a feature called Idle Alert that helps users understand when they had been still for too long. While Jawbone’s main focus is on activity — all kinds of movement — there are some startups entirely focused on inactivity, and preventing it.

Here are seven companies outside of the activity tracker space who aim to help employees stay active during their workdays.  Keep reading>>

Report: Unregulated data sometimes just as sensitive as HIPAA-covered data

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 21, 2014        

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Personal Health InformationIn a new report from the California HealthCare Foundation, the report’s author, health economist and consultant Jane Sarasohn-Kahn concludes that while the increasing amount of consumer wellness and fitness data collected today has a lot of value for personalized healthcare, it also presents new risks for consumer privacy.

For one thing, as healthcare moves out of the hospital and onto the wrist, the smartphone, or the Facebook wall, healthcare data moves out of the realm of HIPAA, the law designed to protect patients’ healthcare data. HIPAA can’t protect things like your Fitbit steps, what health search terms you enter into Google, or where you check in on FourSquare.

As Deloitte’s Harry Greenspun puts it in the CHCF report, “It’s one thing to know you’re on a statin. It’s another thing to know that you eat fast food three times a week. What is more predictive?”

HIPAA also doesn’t govern “health scores”, algorithm-generated numbers used by insurers that are similar to credit scores for health. These scores are built entirely from data that rests outside the purview of HIPAA.

“Digital dust can have health implications, even if the actual ‘dust’ is devoid of health information,” Deven McGraw of Mannatt, Phelps and Phillips tells Sarasohn-Kahn in the report. “[The FICO Medication Adherence Score] and other ‘scores’ could have significant implications for consumers — arguably as significant as a score generated using health data.”  Keep reading>>