Red Cross launches blood donation app

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 11, 2014        

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American Red Cross Blood DonationAmerican Red Cross has launched a blood donor app that makes it easier for people to track their blood donations and schedule new ones. The app is available on iOS and Android devices.

“As the nation’s single largest supplier of blood and blood products, the Red Cross is uniquely positioned to bring this cutting edge technology to blood and platelet donors,” Red Cross Biomedical Services President Shaun Gilmore said in a statement. “Every two seconds, someone in the US needs blood, and the Blood Donor App is a new way to help meet that constant need.”

The app, called Blood Donor, helps consumers find Red Cross blood drives nearby, schedule appointments to donate, and earn rewards from premier retailers after donating. Consumers can follow their blood from when it was donated to when it was delivered, when possible, and form or join a team with peers and track their cumulative impact on a national leaderboard. When users schedule an appointment, they can sync that data with their smartphone’s calendar.

Blood Donor also helps users take personalized selfies while donating that they can share on social media accounts.

Some partners that are offering rewards for blood donors include Shari’s Berries, ProFlowers, 1A Auto, and Legal Sea Foods. The Red Cross and its partners will also send the donor “thank you” messages through the app.  Keep reading>>

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Study: Smartphone improves diet tracking adherence, but not weight loss

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 11, 2014        

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Lose it PlayAccording to a small study at Arizona State University, tracking weight loss on a smartphone leads to more consistent tracking than paper and pencil. But a dedicated weight loss app — in this case Lose It! — did not improve tracking over simply using the smartphone’s memo application, nor was there any difference in weight loss observed among the app users, smartphone memo users, and paper trackers.

“While no difference in weight loss was noted between the three groups, we found that participants who monitored their diet with either an application or the memo function on a smartphone were more likely to persist in the study and missed fewer days of entering dietary data, compared to those monitoring via paper and pencil,” lead author Christopher Wharton, associate professor of nutrition at ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, said in a statement. “This may be due to ease of use.”

The researchers studied a group of 47 volunteers across an 8-week weight loss trial, semi-randomly assigned to three groups. One group did dietary tracking with a pencil and paper, one group did the same kind of tracking in the memo application on the smartphone, and one group used Lose It!, a popular smartphone diet tracking app.  Keep reading>>

Employee wellness platform company Keas raises $7.4M

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 11, 2014        

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KeasHealth gaming corporate wellness platform Keas raised $7.4 million, according to an SEC filing. This brings the company’s total funding to date to at least $32.9 million. Previous investors in the company include Atlantic Ventures and Ignition Partners. Keas was co-founded by the original Google Health chief Adam Bosworth.

Keas’ corporate wellness program offers users a social health and wellness gaming community. It integrates data from health risk assessments and apps used by employees and mines this data to identify health risks or suggest actions to manage those risks. Employees can also access a social media feed to connect with others at the company and support each other. They can also use the feed to post photos, healthy recipes, and status updates.

The platform offers quests, challenges, quizzes and other games so employees can compete with each other and learn more about wellness. One such quiz asks users to guess ‘which food item has more sugar’ with a picture of ice cream and soda that they must choose between.

In February, Keas announced several new customers including Target, Wix, Safeway and American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings. Other Keas customers include Pfizer, Salesforce, Reed Elsevier, The Cheesecake Factory, and BAE Systems. Target is offering the Keas platform to all employees, not just those who are eligible for the company’s healthcare benefits. Target employees can use Keas to manage their health and could receive rewards for being healthy.  Keep reading>>

Weight Watchers integrates Jawbone, Fitbit data into app

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 11, 2014        

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PointsPlus Weight Watchers appWeight Watchers announced that its app will now sync with activity trackers Jawbone and Fitbit so that users of the diet and food logging program can see how their fitness data correlates with their nutrition data.

“Losing weight and keeping it off is best achieved by focusing on both eating and activity, and most of us need skills and support to do both,” Weight Watchers Chief Scientific Officer Gary Foster said in a statement. “Weight Watchers helps people make better food decisions, and devices and apps monitor activity. Integrating them can equip people with an ideal combination of resources to achieve their goals.”

Though the app only integrates with Jawbone and Fitbit so far, the company said they plan to add integration with other popular fitness devices and apps soon. After the trackers integrate their data, the Weight Watcher’s app converts the fitness information in PointsPlus values, an existing measure of health based on calories and other nutritional factors. This allows users of Weight Watchers to measure PointsPlus values of nutrition and exercise.

Before the integration, Weight Watchers offered members the option to purchase an activity tracker, made by Philips, to calculate their PointsPlus values. Weight Watchers began offering this activity tracker, called ActiveLink, to its members in late 2012. Since then the company has sold more than 400,000 of the dedicated fitness tracking devices and the service component has about 10 percent penetration into Weight Watchers member base, the company said.

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Wearable tracker for Parkinson’s disease gets FDA nod

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 10, 2014        

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KinetiGraphYet another clinically-focused, activity tracking wearable has now been cleared by the FDA, this one aimed specifically at the monitoring and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The Personal KinetiGraph, from Melbourne, Australia-based Global Kinetics Corporation, “offers comprehensive, automated reporting of a Parkinson’s disease patient’s movements so that neurologists and other physicians can more easily identify changes in movement symptoms to assist in decisions to optimize therapy,” according to the company.

“Monitoring changes in a patient’s movement symptoms is a critical element in the treatment of Parkinson’s and many other movement disorders, but it can be difficult for both patients and healthcare providers to identify and assess changes in movement symptoms effectively,” Andrew Maxwell, managing director and CEO of Global Kinetics Corporation, said in a statement. “The Personal KinetiGraph provides clinicians with a clear and accurate assessment of the patient experience outside of office visits and examinations.”  Keep reading>>

Was Apple Watch’s health sensor team held back by battery concerns?

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 10, 2014        

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Apple Watch Sport sensorssThe Apple Watch, announced on-stage at an event in California yesterday, didn’t live up to the rumors that it would offer advanced health sensing — rumors that built up around the “iWatch” thanks to months of reports about Apple’s growing team of medical sensor experts.

Why did Apple hire a sleep expert like Roy J.E.M. Raymann from Philips Research — a senior scientist at Philips Research who founded the Philips Sleep Experience Laboratory and who led projects related to sleep and activity monitoring — if its wearable doesn’t track sleep? While app developers or even Apple itself could take advantage of the sensors already built-in to the Apple Watch to add sleep tracking features, that probably won’t make it a popular sleep tracker. At least not if you want it to wear it during the day too, because it needs to be charged at night.

“There’s a lot of new technology packed into Apple Watch and we think people will love using it throughout the day,” An Apple spokesperson explained to Re/Code on the sidelines of the Apple event yesterday. “We anticipate that people will charge nightly, which is why we designed an innovative charging solution that combines our MagSafe technology and inductive charging.”

Sleep tracking looks to be a long shot for Apple Watch owners any time soon, but Raymann isn’t the only recent Apple hire that may seem puzzling now.  Keep reading>>