GymPact launches workout incentive app for Android

By: Jonah Comstock | Dec 26, 2012        

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gympactIf there are two groups of people who can attest to just how hard it is to motivate healthy behavior change, it’s health app developers and trainers — especially trainers who work at gyms during the first few weeks of the year. Scores of people resolve to go to the gym more in the New Year, manage to sign up for memberships, and maybe end up going a few times. But for many it stops there.

GymPact, a mobile app that celebrates its first birthday today with the launch of its first Android app, is trying to change that reality for its users. When users sign up for GymPact, they give the company their credit card information and choose an amount of money that they’ll have to pay if they miss their workout goal for the week. If the user achieves their goal instead, GymPact pays them — divvying up the money made off of the slackers. The company tracks whether the user really went by requiring them to check in with their phone’s GPS.

In August the company partnered with RunKeeper to integrate outdoor workouts into the system as an option for meeting goals. Just a few weeks ago at the mHealth Summit, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini named GymPact as one of the apps that would integrate with Aetna’s CarePass platform.

But does it work? Has GymPact helped users keep their resolution to go to the gym? CEO and Co-Founder Yifan Zhang said that the data the company has accumulated after a year of operation is promising.

“There’s some things that went really well, some things we definitely had to tweak,” she said. “We still have over 50 percent of the users who signed up January 12th [of 2011]. About 500 people having been with us for an entire year.” Of those, Zhang said 82 percent have largely stuck to their workout goals.

One of the biggest challenges, Zhang said, was dealing with cheaters — people who, because the possibility exists to get real money, will do everything they can to get it without doing the work. The company has decreased the GPS radius that the software counts as being “at the gym” and introduced verification protocols for gyms.

The Android version of GymPact was widely requested from day one, Zhang said. Since there is a social networking component of the software, it’s especially important to expand to other platforms. The product will be functionally the same, she said, although new features might be tested in the Apple version first as they’re released.

Among the new features the company plans to release is support for at-home workouts, which Zhang described as a big hole in their current functionality. Such a feature obviously presents unprecedented challenges when it comes to verification.

“I can’t say much right now,” she said. “But we will be launching that feature pretty soon, and I think we’ve done it in a way that’s in line with our philosophy.”

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Fitness app-maker Noom nabs $2.6M for Korean expansion

By: Jonah Comstock | Dec 21, 2012        

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NoomNoom, a developer of Android health management apps, raised $2.6 million in its first venture round to expand its flagship product, the Noom Weight Loss Coach, into Korea. The round was led by m8 Capital, a UK-based firm that invests exclusively in mobile technologies. Its portfolio includes memory-enhancement app Evernote. Also contributing to Noom’s latest round were Qualcomm Ventures, Harbor Pacific Capital, and former Nexon executives.

Noom co-founder Artem Petakov told MobiHealthNews that the team is excited to be working with specialized investors like m8 Capital.

“[m8] really impressed us with their focus on mobile,” he said. “There are special things going on in mobile, and it’s not always the most transferable thing. Plus, they bring a lot of expertise with European carriers and that was really important to us.”

Noom was founded in 2007 as WorkSmart Labs (the company changed its name in December 2011 to match its flagship product). In that time they have had two high-profile seed investments of undisclosed amounts: one from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (through their iFund) and one from Qualcomm Ventures’ Qualcomm Life Fund. Petakov said that this funding launch is not significantly larger than the previous, undisclosed funding raise.

The New York-based company has a number of ties to Korea already: Co-founder Saeju Jeong began his entrepreneurial career founding a music label in his native Korea, and the company received two rounds of angel funding from investors based in the country, according to the company’s website. Last year Korean food giant Daesang licensed the company’s Calorific app for a year.

Petakov said that a move to Korea – and into other Asian markets from there – was the company’s plan from the start. He said Noom is famous in Korea, and the country is Noom’s third-largest market, after the US and the UK.

“Korea is an amazing ecosystem right now,” he said. “It’s something like 90 percent Android and the people are very health-conscience. So it makes a lot of sense that they would be our third-largest market.”

With the new funds, the company will open a Korean office and fully localize and translate the Noom Weight Loss coach. All the development will continue to be done in the company’s New York office, while the Korean presence will focus on marketing and technical support.

“It’s an integral part of our operations,” Petakov said. “There’s a huge time difference, so you really need people there on the ground.”

Noom has made a name for itself as a weight loss offering for Android, topping 15 million organic downloads, according to Petakov. Noom Weight Loss Coach is a $10 per month app that gives users personalized weight loss instructions and allows them to easily track activity and food intake. In addition, the company offers two free apps: CardioTrainer, a “mobile fitness training partner,” and Calorific, an app for food logging. They also offer a paid fitness aid called Race Against Yourself.

Petakov said being Android-exclusive isn’t an endgame for Noom, and in fact the company has been working to develop iOS versions of its apps for some time. Currently, the company has one app in the iOS App Store, a version of Calorific, although it hasn’t been updated since August of 2011.

“We’re always allocating priorities in iOS as well,” he said. “We’ve had more internal versions than I can count, but to really be committed to a launch is quite a different matter. … We’re definitely preparing. It was a very close call not going for it this time around.”

Analysis: 75 FDA-cleared mobile medical apps

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 20, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsHow many mobile medical apps have received 510(k) clearance from the FDA? It’s a question I get asked often. For a while the standard response that I’ve given and heard others give was that you could count on two hands how many apps have received FDA clearance. Over the course of the past two years, however, it has become clear that an increasing number of wireless-enabled medical devices with companion apps were securing FDA clearances. Based on a review of the MobiHealthNews archives, but more importantly, the FDA’s database of summary decisions for 510(k) clearances, we have found more than 75 510(k) clearances that included a mention or description of a mobile software component — and compiled our findings into our latest MobiHealthNews Research report: 75 FDA Regulated Mobile Medical Apps.

In the FDA’s 2011 proposed guidance document for the regulation of mobile medical apps, the agency defined a mobile platform as a commercial off-the- shelf computing platform “with or without wireless connectivity” that is handheld. The agency defined mobile apps as software that can be run on a mobile platform or a Web-based software application that is designed for the mobile platform. Like most technology definitions these are far from perfect, but they guided the parameters we used to find the more than 75 regulated apps featured in our latest report. The earliest group of cleared apps from the late 90s and early 00s ran on various Palm Pilots or “palmtop” PCs. The word “smartphone” began appearing in 510(k) clearances seven years ago when AirStrip Technologies first received clearance for its OB app.

Are there more than 75 cleared mobile medical apps? In all likelihood. We only included medical devices that specifically included mobile software components in the summary description of their FDA clearance. Devices may have included these references in their official applications, but for whatever reason the mobile references didn’t make it into the summaries that were subsequently made publicly available. Also, there are a few examples of devices that have companion mobile apps — like Raiing’s companion app for its Bluetooth-enabled thermometer. The company’s FDA summary makes no mention of the app so we decided the app could not be considered FDA cleared. There are many devices that have Bluetooth or other wireless connectivity that may have companion apps, too.

Most FDA cleared apps are focused on chronic condition management — often taking the form of a digital logbook that receives data from a companion medical device. This group includes diabetes, asthma, and blood pressure management apps. The next largest contingent of FDA-cleared apps are related to electrocardiographs (ECGs), and typically take the form of a remote, mobile viewer for ECG data. Vital sign monitoring apps, imaging apps and medication adherence apps round out the group with a few apps that don’t fit any of those categories.

One metric that seems to bubble up in every discussion of FDA regulation is time to clearance. While the official time to clearance is different from the actual time to clearance — our analysis shows that the time from the official application submission to the decision date is actually shorter by almost a month for devices with some kind of mobile component. Of course, if you ask some of the early mobile health companies that went through the FDA, they will tell you it didn’t really take three-and-a-half months, it actually took years in some cases to prepare their submission.

MobiHealthNews’ analysis of 75 FDA Regulated Mobile Medical Apps is available in the MobiHealthNews Research Store today. If you are looking to better understand the types of apps that have already received FDA clearance, be sure to get your copy!

HHS pilots Health Tech Hatch testing platform

By: Jonah Comstock | Dec 19, 2012        

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patricia salber

Health Tech Hatch CEO Patricia Salber

In late January, medical-focused crowdfunding site Health Tech Hatch will premier its testing platform in a three-way partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Health 2.0. Health Tech Hatch will offer its 20 physician, patient, and tech guru testers up for free to developers entering healthfinder.gov’s Mobile App Challenge.

Healthfinder.gov, run by the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, hosts the “Quick Guide for Healthy Living,” which offers information about preventative services offered under the affordable care act. HHS is seeking to make the guide easier and more fun to access by sponsoring a contest – with assistance from Health 2.0 and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – to develop it into a mobile app. The contest, which just launched, has a $50,000 grand prize for the best app, and three $10,000 prizes for the top prototypes in the qualifying round.

Health Tech Hatch launched its first project in October, one of several health-related crowdfunding platforms that sprung up when it became clear that crowdfunding giant Kickstarter wouldn’t reliably accommodate health-related projects. But what sets them apart, CEO Patricia Salber told MobiHealthNews, is their testing platform, which will soon form a second half of their business.

“[Medstartr] is mainly doing crowdfunding,” she said. “For us it’s crowdfunding and beta testing and whatever synergies there are between those two fields.” Keep reading>>

Poll: Patients say they’re more honest via digital channels

By: Jonah Comstock | Dec 19, 2012        

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Convenience is one of the major value propositions offered by digital channels like text messaging and email for patient engagement. Often these channels are more readily usable for both patient and provider. It’s not just about convenience, though. New survey data from health texting provider TeleVox says 34 percent of American adults are more honest about their medical needs through automatic calls, email, or text messaging, than they are in a face to face conversation with a doctor.

televox survey

The survey is part of TeleVox’s latest Healthy World report. The company worked with Kelton Research to survey a representative sample of 1,015 American adults, using an online poll accessed via an email invitation. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent. The survey looked at the ways in which digital engagement tools affect patients.

In addition to the 34 percent who said they were more honest about their medical needs, 28 percent said they were more honest about nutritional habits via digital channels, 27 percent said they were more honest about their fitness regimen, and 18 percent said they were more honest about personal vices.

The survey also asked patients if receiving texts, voicemails, and emails increased their level of trust in their doctor. Thirty percent said they thought it would. Of the 66 percent surveyed who had received digital communication from their doctor, 51 percent reported feeling more valued, 35 percent said it improved their opinion of their provider, and 34 percent said it made them more certain about visiting that same provider again in the future.

Respondents were asked to rate how they would prefer to be contacted by their care provider for various reasons such as payment reminders, care between visits, requests for feedback, or tips for healthier living. Generally, respondents preferred to be contacted by email. In only one category did the majority want to be contacted by phone, instead: appointment reminders. Of course, since the survey was opted in via email, it’s possible it was biased toward email users.

Thirty-five percent of patients who don’t follow the treatment plans laid out to them by their physician said they would be more likely to if digital tools like email or text messaging were deployed to remind them.

Lumoback maker raises $5M in first round

By: Jonah Comstock | Dec 19, 2012        

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LUMOBack Lumo Body Tech, the company that makes the Lumoback posture sensor has raised $5 million in its first round of funding, with Madrona Venture Group leading the round. Also contributing were Yahoo co-founder and former CEO Jerry Yang and Innovation Endeavors, Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s investment fund, which also contributed to Lumo’s $1.1 million seed round April. With the $200,000 from their successful Kickstarter campaign that concluded in August, the company’s total funding comes to $6.3 million.

The company plans to use the funds to expand their sales and marketing, product development, and engineering, the company said in a statement.

Lumoback is a sensor worn on the lower back which communicates via Bluetooth with an app on the user’s Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. It uses a stick-figure avatar to alert users when they’re slouching and remind them to keep good posture throughout the day. The 8.5 mm-thick sensor also vibrates as an additional reminder for users.

The wearable sensors market in general has exploded in recent months, but most sensors have focused on fitness and activity tracking. Lumo’s posture sensor is a unique entrant, although the company has said in interviews they may go on to make other kinds of sensors next.

Although Lumoback sensors are currently Apple-exclusive, the company said on its Kickstarter page that Android support is a high priority for development. The Lumoback is available for $149 on the company’s website.