BetterDoctor nets $2.6 million to expand company

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 22, 2013        

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BetterDoctorMobileSan Francisco-based patient education tool BetterDoctor raised a $2.6 million seed round to expand its staff. Jeff Clavier from SoftTechVC and Dirk Lammerts from Burrill & Co led the round. Incubator 500 Startups also contributed.

Launched just over a year ago, BetterDoctor labels itself as a “matchmaking service” that connects every US doctor with patients. All doctors are pre-screened before they can be listed on the site. To prescreen the doctors, BetterDoctor analyzed their experience, education, medical licensing, board certification, judicial sanctions and professional and referral network. Once they are listed on the site, users can rate the doctors and write reviews.

At the time of its launch, the company raised $650,000. Since then, the company has increased its monthly users from 10,000 to close to 1 million. Doctors rated on the service range from dentists to primary physicians to chiropractors and within each category, BetterDoctor will categorize the listings into 60 different specialties. Doctors also have the option to update their information from a doctor-facing portal.

“We work hard on getting our data to be better,” CEO and Co-Founder Ari Tulla told MobiHealthNews. “For us its really all about finding the right doctor for you.”

To do that, Tulla says the company wants to form a bigger team and “get the right people on the service”.

Many other companies also offer a physician ranking database. One similar company, raised $22 million this summer to improve its customer offerings and around the same time, another company, Doximity, opened its directory of 700,000 physicians to consumers.


New apps evaluate cosmetic product safety

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 22, 2013        

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Think Dirty appTwo apps — one recently released and one upcoming — are tackling cosmetic safety, providing consumers with easy access to data about the chemicals they put on their skin, using barcode scanners to make the information even more readily available.

One app, Think Dirty, was developed in Ontario, Canada and launched October 1. The app, free on iOS devices, gives users access to a database of 12,000 cosmetic products, which they can find with either a search or a barcode scan. For each product, the app gives a safety rating based on its ingredients, drawn from a number of publicly available government and non-profit databases in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

Cosmetic products are not subject to premarket approval by the FDA in the way that food and drugs are, and the requirements for labeling cosmetics are less strict. For this reason, a number of nonprofit groups suggest that some common ingredients in cosmetics are potentially toxic or cancerous. Many of these assertions have support from scientific studies.

“You should read all the sources we list and make your own judgement,” CEO and founder Lily Tse writes on the company blog. “Our rating is our opinions from sources we read. The reality is that there are clean products sold by conventional brands and dirty products sold by ‘natural’ brands. The beauty of our app is we just look at the ingredients, and nothing else. When reviewing the ingredients, as citizen scientists, we form our opinions based on whether we would like that chemicals to be on our bodies from health and environment perspective – no matter what amount.”

The Environmental Working Group, one of the nonprofits Think Dirty draws ratings from, is also launching its own app in the near future. EWG’s database contains 78,000 products. The app, called Skin Deep, will allow for barcode scanning, like Think Dirty, and will allow users to store favorites and access their search history. While Think Dirty is currently iPhone-only, EWG plans to release its app for Android phones as well.

A few developers have created similar apps in the past, but they haven’t gained long-term traction. One, an app from 2011 called “Read the Label”, is no longer available. Another, Cosmetifique, has not been updated since 2011.

Apple’s top 12 health apps for new parents

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 22, 2013        

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Owlet, baby activity tracker

A month ago, MobiHealthNews put together a list of activity trackers for babies that launched this past summer. A few weeks later, an Iowa health department program that promotes healthy pregnancy went national with a web app and around the same time Pamela Johnson, Voxiva’s Chief Medical Officer, teased a new texting alerts program geared towards expectant women who were trying to quit smoking. With the rise of baby-targeted technology, a growth of baby-targeted apps isn’t far off base.

The Apple App Store compiled a list of the top apps, free and paid, for new parents. While some aim to help parents navigate the world of new parenthood, others aim to help mothers take care of themselves before the baby has left the womb. Three apps listed are even connected to baby monitors, while only one of those markets itself as a standalone product. Here’s the apps from that list that deal with health or tracking.

WebMD Baby — Free


WebMD’s Baby app offers access to baby health and wellness information. The tips are personalized for a baby’s specific age. In baby’s first year, parents will receive weekly multimedia packages and daily tips. In baby’s second year, parents will receive monthly monthly multimedia packages and 85 pre-programmed tips. Key features of the app include a growth tracker, diaper tracker, sleep tracker, and feeding tracker. Keep reading>>

Prevently aims to combine video visits, wearable sensors, social network

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 21, 2013        

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PreventlyAn ambitious health website, launching Friday, aims to combine a number of different health features — including telemedicine, personal health records, and health social networks — into one comprehensive online platform.

Prevently, founded by Harvard University undergraduate students Laurence Girard and Kristen Faulkner, is one of three companies coming through a Long Island-based technology accelerator called COMETS.

“There’s companies that just do health content or social networking or e-commerce or telemedicine,” Girard told MobiHealthNews. “Prevently’s value is the integration of all these products and services into one place. We give you the knowledge, but there’s always a way to take action on the knowledge.”

Prevently has five main functionalities: contributed health content, an e-commerce platform for purchasing non-pharmaceutical supplements, two-way virtual physician visits, a personal health record that also connects with fitness devices, and a social network.

Some of the health content is licensed from Harvard Medical School and some comes from a staff of freelance contributors. The e-commerce platform, organized through Amazon fulfillment services, will allow users to purchase healthy food, nutritional supplements, or personal care products, but not prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Girard describes it as “an online version of Whole Foods,” although the company has no affiliation with the chain store. Users can also buy all the connected devices that integrate with the site’s personal health record function.

The personal health record feature is mainly an aggregator for data from connected devices. At launch, the site will connect with Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Nike+ FuelBand, iHealth Labs, Withings, and iBGStar devices. Users will be able to track data, share it with their physicians or care providers, or share it on the social media feature if they choose. The social media portion will at first be built like a Facebook page, where users can share statuses and comments with one another, but it will be expanded to include gamified features that encourage users to share fitness and wellness-related data, Girard said.

The telemedicine component will only support appointments with a dietician at launch. Girard said the company still needs to work out some details, but plans to add primary care doctors next, and eventually physical trainers and mental health professionals too. The visits are powered by Vsee and the providers will be partners, rather than employees, of Prevently. Prevently will charge for the visits ($60 for an hour or $100 for a monthly subscription) and will take a cut of those charges.

Finally, the company plans to have a mobile version of the website in the future. “Because we basically built something that has an insane amount of functionality in three months, it’s not perfect on mobile but they’re working on it,” Girard said, referring to a team of 25 developers. He said that eventually all of the site’s functionality would also be accessible from the app.

Prevently was incorporated in June and has raised $1 million in seed funding from undisclosed angel investors, according to the company.

Agile Health expands into diabetes management

By: Neil Versel | Oct 21, 2013        

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Diabetes iPhone Messages BG Day 2 ExamplesMobile health interventions developer Agile Health is moving beyond its roots in smoking cessation by releasing myAgileLife, a text messaging-based program to help people learn behavioral skills to manage type 2 diabetes.

myAgileLife, the first product Nashville, Tenn.-based Agile Health has commercialized on a messaging platform acquired last year from the University of Southern California, provides patients with personalized messages of support and guidance to help them control hemoglobin A1C. The system was created by two emergency physicians at USC’s Los Angeles County Hospital, and is meant to end the “revolving door” of diabetes patients repeatedly showing up in the ER or needing hospital admission, according to Agile Health CEO Gary Slagle.

The company’s “bread and butter,” according to Slagle, is daily skill building to help people manage diseases, with text messaging as the delivery mechanism.

USC researchers published results of a three-week pilot in the June 2012 issue of the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, reporting “excellent satisfaction and modest improvement in self-care behaviors” in that short time frame for low-income patients with type 2 diabetes.

They have since completed a six-month randomized control trial. “[Participants] actually performed outstandingly in terms of reduction of HbA1C,” Slagle told MobiHealthNews. Those who followed the myAgileLife messages and made necessary lifestyle changes were less likely than others to return to the hospital, he added.

Slagle said to expect the expanded results published in a medical journal in the next 4-6 weeks. He did not elaborate.

Agile Health, which raised $2 million in private equity a year ago to build out the diabetes program, is planning on migrating its original “Kick Buts” smoking cessation program to the USC-developed platform, called Sherpa. Agile acquired the technology for Kick Buts from New Zealand-based HSAGlobal, which ran a successful clinical trial in Britain, detailed in The Lancet in 2011. Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Agile Health as a Rock Health graduate.

Early clients for myAgileLife include employers and population health management companies, according to Slagle. He said there has been interest from some hospitals looking to incorporate behavioral change into their patient-centered medical homes.

Study shows meetings beat out apps, online tools as Weight Watchers’ main predictor

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 21, 2013        

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WeightWatchersA guided weight loss program, such as Weight Watchers, may be more effective than the self-help approach, according to a study conducted by Baylor College of Medicine and sponsored by Weight Watchers. The self-help group was given a set of resources online to read about and then encouraged to lose weight based solely on that library of information.

The study of 292 overweight and obese adults, completed over six months, was split into two groups, 147 in the Weight Watchers group and 145 in the self-help group. Weight was measured at the beginning, half way through and at the end of the study. Unlike previous studies that used Weight Watchers, this one incorporated three programs — meetings, mobile apps and online tools. While the study offered these resources for free, users would typically pay for the meetings, lead author Craig Johnston, of Baylor College of Medicine, told MobiHealthNews.

“Weight Watchers follows an evidence based model,” Johnston said. “Weight Watchers works, it has been shown scientifically. What we wanted to show was there are new resources [available]. Does the program still work when we add these things?”

This study comes a few months after Weight Watchers Chief Financial Officer Nicholas Hotchkin addressed the company’s declining earnings in its second quarter meeting, accrediting some of the loss to the “sudden explosion of interest in free apps and activity monitors”.

Of the Weight Watchers group, those using all three programs to a “high degree” — which means more than half of the weekly meetings or two or more uses of the website or app — had the greatest weight loss when the program ended, at 19 pounds. Those who used two programs to a high degree lost 9.5 pounds and those using one lost 9.3 pounds.

The average weight lost for the entire Weight Watchers group at the end of six months, 10.1 pounds, was much higher than what the self help group lost, 1.3 pounds. But the strongest predictor of the Weight Watchers groups’ weight loss was the group meetings, which members would generally spend money on.

While study author Johnston didn’t initially expect to look at predictors, the results showed that the meetings were the highest predictor of weight loss and the use of the app and web resources were “additives” to the meetings element of Weight Watchers’ program.