7 tips for motivating health behavior change via mobile

By: Brian Dolan | May 7, 2012        

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Intel Senior Researcher Margaret Morris PhDClinical psychologist and senior researcher at Intel, Margaret Morris published a helpful paper this week that includes seven guidelines for motivating healthy behavior change with help from mobile devices and apps. Below is a quick redux of the seven tips, be sure to read the full report to better understand the suggestions:

1. Remind people of who they want to be. “To drive lifestyle change, health messaging should remind people of previously expressed self-ideals,” Morris writes. An examples: Forge health contracts that can be renewed daily.

2. Foster an alliance. “The very close relationships that people have with their devices set the stage for meaningful health coaching,” Morris writes. It’s more effective to approach problem solving as a collaborative effort in health messages than to tell people what their problems are.

3. Apply social influence. “Social comparison has been used to influence behavior in many contexts, from clinical inter- ventions for substance abuse to social psychology experiments on environmentalism,” Morris writes. She suggests that by pointing out how a person is acting in comparison to others like them, change can be inspired. For example: “You drink a six-pack every Friday and Saturday; most men your age have only two drinks a week.”

4. Show people what they could lose. “Discounting of long-term goals is particularly strong for health and economic choices,” Morris writes. She suggests one way to counter this is to offer up concrete losses that would result from certain health decisions and not rely on future promises for potential rewards.

5. Put the message where the action is. This is the classic argument that information therapy often doesn’t work because billboards or PSAs on TV are not delivering information at the right place or time. With mobiles in our pockets, that opportunity may be born anew.

6. Raise emotional awareness. “By ‘checking in’ with their current mood and emotional patterns, individuals can understand their vulnerabilities to such lapses and develop alternative coping strategies,” Morris writes.

7. Reframe challenges. “Examining one’s immediate interpretations of daily events and considering alternatives helps people respond to challenging situations in more constructive ways,” Morris writes.

Read the full paper on Motivating Change with Mobile over at Scribd here.
Morris also appeared in our first video report from the mHealth Summit in 2010.

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VA to equip 1,000 family caregivers with iPads

By: Brian Dolan | May 7, 2012        

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Veteran Affairs iPhone mockupThe Veterans Affairs Department (VA) expects to equip 1,000 family caregivers with Apple iPads loaded with health apps to help these primary caregivers to better take care of veterans at home, according to a NextGov report. The initiative is part of a pilot that is also testing distribution through a VA app store that is set to launch early next year, according to the publication. A VA spokesperson told NextGov that the pilot, called Clinic-in-Hand, includes health apps that allow for the exchange of personal health data between the VA, veterans, and their caregivers.

Washington, DC-based and disabled veteran owned business District Communications Group, secured the Clinic-in-Hand contract for the mobile health project last month. The company is also helping the VA develop the mobile version of its EHR app, which we reported on last week.

“The EHR app is really powerful. It is reported to be a significant time saver, and I would use the phrase morale improver, but primarily it makes it clear that we’re using the latest technology at the VA again and not just older technology,” the VA’s CIO Roger Baker said in a teleconference with reporters last week.

The pilot is open to primary caregivers enrolled in VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, but participants will be randomly selected from those eligible some time this summer.  The apps developed and fine tuned during the program will eventually be available to all veterans via the planned VA app store when it launches next year.

More over at NextGov

Doximity offers Facebook-like app for Stanford medical school

By: Brian Dolan | May 7, 2012        

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Doximity Stanford Medical School iPhone appOver the weekend Doximity, the health app developer led by the founders of Epocrates, has teamed up with Stanford University Medical Center Alumni Association (SUMCAA) to create an app that lets graduates and trainees from the school to find each other and connect.

Doximity, which launched toward the end of 2010, describes itself as a medical communications platform that uses social networking technologies to enable doctors to communicate securely with one another — but it’s very much a mobile-centered platform. Unlike other physician social networking sites, Doximity is real-time and not anonymous. The company counts more than 50,000 physicians users now.

The new app, called SUMCAA, is free to download but requires users to authenticate via their Doximity accounts. Notably, Facebook originally launched in much the same — by creating networks exclusive to certain schools and adding new schools incrementally. Stanford could be just the beginning of a longterm process Doximity will use to build its network of physicians.

According to a blog post in Stanford medical school’s Scope blog, medical student Matt Goldstein who is also a research fellow at Doximity made reference to Facebook: “Research has shown better communication leads to better care. But like many of my classmates, I’ve had to stop using Facebook. It will be interesting to see what impact this app has on sharing clinical expertise and improving patient care.”

The app enables students and alums of SUMCAA to find, connect, and share with each other. Users can search for current or former classmates by location, specialty, and graduation year. SUMCAA also hosts a forum for the alumni and users can maintain a professional CV via the app. The SUMCAA Twitter stream is also embedded in the app.

While the app appears to be freely available in Apple’s AppStore now, the Scope blog post notes that it is only accessible by a small group of alums currently. All SUMCAA students and graduates will have access by month’s end, according to the post.

Last year Doximity partnered with Amion to launch an iPhone shift scheduling app by the same name for medical professionals. In March 2011 Doximity raised almost $11 million in its first round of funding.

More in the Scope post here.

App maker says standards, connectivity are keys to making PHRs work

By: Neil Versel | May 3, 2012        

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PocketHealth App by CognovantThe graveyard of personal health records is littered with failures large and small, but some continue to push forward, believing that conditions are finally just about right for consumers to take more control over their health data.

For Cognovant, a Kansas City, Mo., startup that announced this week that it had landed $500,000 in seed funding from angel investors, interoperability is the key to making “untethered” PHRs work – and PHRs may be a major component to interoperability.

“There is a lot of value in patient portals and in tethered PHRs if you get all your care in one place,” Cognovant President and CEO Dr. Joseph Ketcherside, a nonpracticing neurosurgeon, tells MobiHealthNews. But not everyone gets their care from a single institution or organization, so their health records tend to be fragmented.

“There’s a struggle within the industry to have all that information in one place,” notes Ketcherside.

To this end, Cognovant is preparing to launch its first product, the PocketHealth mobile PHR, an app for the Apple iOS and Android platforms. Expect it to hit the market in the next couple of weeks, in three variations. The free PocketHealth Essentials will allow individuals to manage their own health data and connect electronically with providers, following the Continuity of Care Document (CCD) standard. Keep reading>>

Mobile health news roundup from ATA

By: Brian Dolan | May 3, 2012        

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Steve Wozniak ATA

Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak

This week brought a good number of mobile health stories out of the American Telemedicine Association event down in San Jose, California. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the ones we found worthwhile.

AT&T announced a deal with VRI, an Ohio-based company that offers remote monitoring services, medication adherence tracking dispensers, and other medical alert systems that notify doctors of emergencies users have while at home, according to a report in eWeek. According to the report, “the service will allow nurses at VRI’s telemonitoring facility to monitor patients’ vital data, including blood pressure, weight and pulse. Blood pressure cuffs, weight scales and pulse oximeters will connect to AT&T’s wireless network to send biometric data to care representatives at VRI.” AT&T will begin selling the service through its channels in Q3, according to eWeek.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak suggested that in the future a Watson-Siri hybrid would likely replace human doctors, who would become more like “technicians” as a result. According to SearchHealthIT, Wozniak was enthusiastic about mobile health apps, especially those that enable personal health monitoring and tracking.

“I love the little devices that hook up to my iPhone, I’m a gadget guy,” Wozniak said, according to SearchHealthIT’s report. “I probably wouldn’t get a blood pressure thing at home and take readings and write them down, but heck when I take a reading and it’s automatically in my iPhone and I can show it off, I love it.”

Wozniak actually specifically called out one mobile medical app: ClickCare’s iClickCare app, which aims to help physicians to connect with off-site specialists for consultations via iOS devices, according to a report in MedCityNews. The company, which was started by a husband-and-wife physician team, charges users a $99 month subscription. ClickCare has doubled its sales in each of the last two years, according to MedCityNews (which also snagged a video with one of ClickCare’s co-founders at the event.)

HealthcareFinanceNews has a worthwhile roundup of the business model discussion, including telemedicine thoughtleaders’ opinions on reimbursement, accountable care, and venture capital trends. The article includes some thoughts on ACOs from American Well CEO Dr Roy Schoenberg, whose company made big news ahead of the ATA event with the launch of their mobile video patient consultation offering. More on money issues facing telemedicine over at HealthcareFinanceNews here.

In addition to American Well’s new app, eWeek picked up on an iPhone offering from telehealth company, ConsultADoctor. According to the company, the new app enables customers of the company’s health plan clients to “obtain 24/7 phone and secure email access to licensed physicians directly from their iPhone, making it even easier to consult immediately with a network of U.S. based, state-licensed doctors for medical information, diagnosis and/or treatment.” More over at eWeek here.

Finally, MedCityNews also caught up with Qualcomm Life VP and GM Rick Valencia while down in San Jose: Valencia argues that while mobile health hasn’t generated a $1 billion success story like Instagram yet, but it’s “a virtual certainty” that it will, he said. What’s Valencia’s timeline for that kind of mHealth success? “If a killer healthcare app is not developed in the next several years, then we’ll have failed at our mission,” he said. “And we’re not going to fail at our mission.”

Kickstarter phenom Pebble taps RunKeeper as first app

By: Brian Dolan | May 3, 2012        

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Pebble RunKeeperIn recent weeks Pebble, developers of a “smartwatch” that connects to iPhone and Android devices via Bluetooth, has become the most successful project or startup to leverage the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise money: So far, it’s raised more than $8 million. The Kickstarter platform has only raised a few hundred million overall, which made Pebble’s success headline news. This week the smartwatch maker tapped fitness app developer RunKeeper to be the first app with which it integrates its wrist worn computer.

The Pebble watch will enable users to view and interact with apps via the wristworn device’s eInk display.

RunKeeper’s CEO Jason Jacobs told MobiHealthNews that the Pebble watch will enable users to start and stop tracking their activity, change songs on their music while they run, and get real-time updates on their workouts right from the watch’s display. Jacobs noted that some RunKeeper users will wear their smartphones on an armband on their upperarm, which typically means the phone’s display is behind a plastic case that makes the device’s touchscreen device difficult to use.

“What are situations where it is more convenient to check a wristworn computer than to check a phone in your pocket?” Jacobs asked. “There are lots of situations where you don’t need a wrist computer, but this happens to be one situation where it does make sense. [Pebble chose RunKeeper as its first app partner] because it a showcase of the value that Pebble is building.”

Jacobs thinks it’s inevitable that eventually wristworn computers won’t need to communicate with users’ phones. This new category of devices will open up a world of possibilities for how people engage with devices on their wrists, he said.

“There were skeptics about tablets when tablet devices first came out. They thought the device had no use cases, but users have shown that they do,” Jacobs said. “Tablets did not displace computers or laptops and they’re not displacing mobile phones. Similarly, smart watches or wrist computers will be a category that will emerge, but I don’t think it will displace any of the product categories that are already out there.” Keep reading>>