Study on diet apps in Journal of Participatory Medicine

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 31, 2011        

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Khan-figure-2-600x246A new research paper published in the Journal of Participatory Medicine, “Exploring Everyday Health Routines of a Low Socioeconomic Population through Multimedia Elicitations,” examines the ways mobile phones can influence healthy behavior in low socioeconomic environments where chronic diseases are common due to poor health.

The study attempts to illuminate how limited income, lack of nutritional education, stress and cultural upbringing can lead to unhealthy eating habits. The results of the study will be used in developing mobile applications for underserved populations.

Only eight people participated in the study, four being primary caregivers (mothers) and four being secondary caregivers (the oldest, teenage daughters). The participants were given mobile phones and instructed to send daily pictures and videos of their diets and exercise to the researchers. The researchers noted that, although half the families did not own a computer at home, all participants owned mobile phones and knew how to operate them to send and receive text messages and media. Overwhelmingly, the participants viewed “health” as related to diet only and reported minimal exercise beyond walking.

The researchers saw wearable technology as a possible solution to a lack of exercise. They wrote: “Most mobile phones today contain sensors (eg, accelerometers) that can be used as a wearable device to monitor and share timely information at the right time and place to encourage opportunistic activities. As opposed to structured exercise, a person incorporates activities into their everyday lives (eg, taking the stairs instead of the elevator) in an effort to increase overall activity. Research has shown that this can often lead to structured exercise.” A technological intervention, the researchers wrote, should be designed to induce a gradual positive change in low income families’ health and highlight examples of good health to educate the community.

mHealth apps in underserved communities need to stress ease of use: “Any technology needs to educate or abstract nutritional information so that it is easy to understand. For example, star icons can provide a weighted representation of nutritional values.” The authors write that they are designing multiple mobile apps that “visualize the target population’s snacking habits to provide participants timely feedback on their dietary choices.” The authors are planning a usability evaluation study in the same population for feedback on designing the upcoming app’s interface.

Read the full paper here from JPM.


WIN app to take on fragmentation of healthy eating

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 31, 2011        

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winA mHealth startup has big plans for a wellness network that encompasses consumers, restaurants, grocery stores, payors, providers, and more, according to a report from MedCityNews.

Youngstown, Ohio-based Wellness Integrated Network (WIN), aims to mash up data from patients, payors, providers, educational institutions, grocery stores, restaurants, food manufacturers and more to create personalized diet plans for users. WIN, founded in 2008, plans to use mobile apps to help users track compliance with their plans.

The company is currently conducting a 12-week diet-compliance pilot study in which 50 pre-diabetic children will be given smartphones to track their diet. Youngstown health system Humility of Mary Health Partners, an equity investor in WIN, is partnering with the company on the trial. WIN hopes that adherence to diet plans will increase 25 percent using their system, and plans to eventually publish the study in a peer-reviewed journal.

WIN has raised about $250,000 in investment funding so far, including a recent $25,000 grant from the Lorain County Community College’s Innovation Fund.

As MedCityNews notes, WIN is bringing together businesses that don’t regularly collaborate, including restaurants and supermarkets, which is one of the many challenges facing the start-up.

Read more over at MedCityNews here.

Exercise to grow virtual gardens, fund real charities

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 31, 2011        

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GameSilicon Valley-based startup Striiv announced plans for its dedicated portable fitness device — of the same name — which encourages users to exercise with virtual worlds and real-world fund raising.

The Striiv device is a standalone pedometer (no mobile phone required) that can hang on a keychain or attach to a belt. Its sensors are able to differentiate between walking, running, climbing stairs, and hiking, according to the company. Using points earned from activity, users can donate clean water to children in South America or polio vaccines to children in India thanks to Striiv’s partnership with GlobalGiving. Striiv expects to add new charitable partners in the future.

While the device isn’t cellular- or Bluetooth-enabled, it can connect to PCs via USB to synch with an online portal where users can download new apps, view charities, play games, or post their progress to Facebook. The company is primarily marketing the device to women, especially busy mothers.

The Striiv device helps users visualize their progress in a game called MyLand, where movement translates to new wildlife and plants on an “enchanted island.”

“Fitness and health are top-of-mind today. But for many people, especially moms juggling careers and family, finding time for exercise is hard to fit in to a busy day,” stated Striiv CEO and co-founder David Wang in a press release. “We’ve combined charities, gaming, and personal challenges with cutting-edge technology to create a seamless way to motivate physical activity. We’re building a playful and inspiring ‘movement around movement’ so that fitness now fits throughout your day.”

Striiv joins the growing field of dedicated fitness devices, including Adidas MiCoach Pacer, Affectiva Q Sensor, Basis, BodyMedia BodyFit, Digifit, Fitbit, Hitachi Life Microscope, Jawbone UPNike+GPSPhilips DirectLife, and Valencell. News of Striiv’s launch follows our coverage from yesterday on fitness apps that offer real world rewards.

According to TechCrunch, the company has raised $6 million from iD Ventures and a group of angel investors. Striiv plans to launch in mid-October for $99.

Read the press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

Facebook’s mobile guru joins Epocrates board

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 31, 2011        

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Erick Tseng Epocrates FacebookFacebook’s head of mobile products, Erick Tseng, has joined the board of directors of mobile medical apps publisher Epocrates. According to a recently filed SEC document, Tseng will serve on Epocrates’ board at least until the company’s 2012 annual meeting of stockholders. Tseng’s has held previous positions at Google, McKinsey, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Before Facebook Tseng was senior product manager for Android at Google.

Tseng is also an advisor and angel investor in HealthTap, according to AngelList.

“Erick is a dynamic leader who will add a new dimension to our board,” Epocrates President and CEO Rose Crane stated in a press release. “We are delighted to welcome him and look forward to tapping his proven track record of mobile innovation and expertise in user engagement.”

“Epocrates is right at the intersection of mobile and health — two of my personal passions,” stated Tseng in a press release. “As the nation moves toward digital, patient-centric health care, Epocrates is in an ideal position to help enrich the physician and patient experience with a greater degree of engagement and connectivity.”

Tseng is also entitled to a $10,000 annual retainer fee as a non-employee board member. The company will also reimburse him for travel and other expenses associated with attending board meetings. Keep reading>>

Fitness apps that offer real world rewards

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 30, 2011        

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nexerciseAs the space for fitness apps continues to grow, app developers need to innovate to gain users. While many apps include an in-app award component, Nexercise, a free iOS app that’s the subject of a recent Reuters article, aims to incentivize users with real world products including gift cards, coupons, and vitamin supplements.

Using the app, users track their fitness activities, which can range from running to swimming to yoga, and earn points for accomplishing tasks such as working out each morning or running with a fellow Nexercise user.

The real world rewards are earned via a lottery system; The more in-app points a user collects, the greater chances of winning prizes, and those achieving higher rankings in the app can earn more expensive items. While Nexercise is a free app, the developers’ business plan is to take a cut as a transaction fee when a user redeems a coupon earned by exercising via the app. The startup also plans to form partnerships with municipal governments to promote fitness, according to a Washington Post article from earlier this year.

After receiving criticism for lackluster prizes, the company partnered earlier this month with advertising startup Kiip, which has inked deals for the app with companies including Sephora and GNC.

Earndit offers a similar rewards system. Where Earndit differentiates itself from Nexercise is its integratation with services like RunKeeper, FitBit, and Nike+, using those companies’ wearable sensor devices to set goals for fitness. Successful completion of goals rewards users with points that can be spent on things like online gift cards or consultations with dietitians.

In addition, a social enterprise called Zamzee is providing young people with wrist-worn wireless pedometers that sync up to a similar rewards system. Zamzee was also partially designed by its core user demographic. Its product is expected to launch this fall.

You can read the Reuters article here.

ConversePoint plans healthcare unified communications offering built on Qualcomm technology

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 30, 2011        

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ConversePointChicago-based ConversePoint announced this week its plans to develop a communications platform for the healthcare industry.  The company offered few details about the platform, but says it will use Qualcomm technology and support multiple mobile communication standards, carriers, and devices.

ConversePoint website states that “messages from multiple peer points such as personal computers, handheld devices, and database systems are consolidated by the ConversePoint Platform. The platform intelligently deciphers message context, priority and status and then organizes the clutter of multiple message systems in to streamlined conversations. The platform then delivers the conversations to the right people, at the right time and on the appropriate device, ensuring communications are efficient and relevant to all recipients.”

ConversePoint’s website also states that Qualcomm Wireless Health VP Don Jones and Airstrip CEO Alan Portela are both on ConversePoint’s Medical Advisory Board.

Dr. Benjamin Kanter, Chief Medical Officer of ConversePoint, stated in a press release that “In healthcare, transmitting the right information to the right person quickly is critical — yet it remains surprisingly difficult. The ConversePoint platform promises to radically advance communications in a medical setting without disrupting a clinician’s established work practices. I think this will improve clinician and technician satisfaction, and will lead to safer and more efficient patient care.”

Kanter is also Chief Medical Information Officer of Palomar Pomerado Health in San Diego, which has partnered with Cisco to become a “tablet-based” hospital. The hospital group has also worked with Cisco to create a mobile app called MIAA, “medical information anytime anywhere,” which enables physicians to access a patient’s complete health record from a variety of different sources spanning organizational boundaries via Google Android devices.

Curious to see how ConversePoint’s offering compares to PerfectServe.

Read the full press release after the jump.

Keep reading>>