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Week 4 – Putting Activity Trackers through the “Real World” Test: The Brief on Behavior Change

  
  
  

With Happtique’s 30-day challenge complete, our fitness trainers give us feedback on the functionality of their activity trackers.

Jade headshot

Jade Alexis on Striiv Smart Pedometer

What behaviors are you more cognizant of since using your activity tracker?
Walking up stairs!

Moving forward, do you believe your behavior will change as a result of using your tracker?
No, because I'm already very active.

What is the single most important thing that you've learned from this challenge?
Setting measurable goals is motivational. I would look at the tracker throughout the day and make daily goals for stairs and sometimes steps. If I didn't hit my goal, I was usually close to it and did extra stairs or steps to make sure that I always succeeded!

    

Matt headshot

Matthew Basso on FitLinxx Pebble

What behaviors are you more cognizant of since using your activity tracker?
I'm more cognizant of steps. The calorie tracking isn't accurate. The Pebble has made me aware of the time I spend sitting and writing. It was a motivator to try and find ways to type while standing.

Moving forward, do you believe your behavior will change as a result of using your tracker?
My behavior may change after another two months, but one month with the Pebble isn't enough, especially without some kind of program to follow.

What is the single most important thing that you've learned from this challenge?
My biggest take-away is that my position as a personal performance coach is very safe from any possible threat of fitness wearables. There are many improvements that have to be made to this kind of technology before it becomes a legitimate way to improve someone’s behavior.

 

Rachel headshot

Rachel Buschert Vaziralli on BodyMedia FIT CORE

What behaviors are you more cognizant of since using your activity tracker?
I'm way more aware of how much walking I’m doing.

Moving forward, do you believe your behavior will change as a result of using your tracker?
Yes, I think I will be more likely to do my evening runs because I now see what a difference they make to my overall caloric expenditure.

What is the single most important thing that you've learned from this challenge?
I've learned how active I am as a New Yorker and how much not having a car positively affects my health!

 

Mollie headshot

Mollie Millington on Fitbug Air

What behaviors are you more cognizant of since using your activity tracker?
I am more cognizant of the time I spend sitting versus standing. I try to walk or cycle to work more now, rather than use public transportation.

Moving forward, do you believe your behavior will change as a result of using your tracker?
Yes. After four weeks, I feel like I am in the habit of moving more than before I had my Fitbug. Workouts are now a priority for me, where before I was always too tired after training my clients. The Fitbug was so easy to use; I think I’m going to get one for myself and one for my mom so we can have a little friendly competition.

What is the single most important thing that you've learned from this challenge?
I need to not be so afraid of technology! Once I got the Fitbug set up and played with the online features, it was really effective in helping me be healthy.

Week 3 – Putting Activity Trackers through the “Real World” Test: Functionality Feedback

  
  
  


With Week 3 of Happtique’s 30-day challenge complete, our fitness trainers give us feedback on the functionality of their activity trackers.   

Jade headshot

Jade Alexis on Striiv Smart Pedometer

What does your activity tracker’s reporting function look like, and is your data presented in a way that’s meaningful to you? It is simple—one button to scroll through. It shows steps and a number, stairs and a number, and calories burned and a number. I like it because it is user-friendly.

What is your favorite feature of the tracker and why? The fact that it counts stairs— it's like magic! It encourages me to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and walk up escalators. I'm in competition with myself to climb as many stairs as possible. I love to see the number go up.

What are you looking forward to most going into the final week? Wearing it as much as possible and maybe getting some friends involved (I haven't used the social network feature available via the app yet. I think it would be fun and motivational).

    

Matt headshot

Matthew Basso on FitLinxx Pebble

What does your activity tracker’s reporting function look like, and is your data presented in a way that’s meaningful to you? The reporting function on the Pebble itself is cool. It's just a pattern of lights that shows how close you are to your daily goal. It's techie and sleek...I like that. The website interface, however, doesn't match that. It's very juvenile and could have a much better layout. It has several reporting options, but it's unclear in terms of how to customize your screen.

What is your favorite feature of the tracker and why? My favorite feature of the Pebble is the ability to clip it to a variety of places on my body. As I said last week, the fact that I can clip it to my wrist and wear it in the water while paddleboarding is huge for me. It's also nice not to have some ugly, bulky bracelet or armband. Style matters to most people.

What are you looking forward to most going into the final week? I'm most looking forward to seeing how FitLinxx, the company that makes the Pebble, responds to me when I reach out to them. The device is cool, but could be made so much better.  At the end of the day, wellness is a personal thing. Coaching people with a device that has a feedback loop can be useful, but the people behind the system need to connect as well.

 

Rachel headshot

Rachel Buschert Vaziralli on BodyMedia FIT CORE

What does your activity tracker’s reporting function look like, and is your data presented in a way that’s meaningful to you? When you upload your data, you see a list of the various subjects tracked (such as steps taken, calories expended, and hours slept) with the number hit next to them. And if you log your food, you will see calories consumed. The numbers are listed side by side with the goals you have set for each activity so you can easily compare the actual to the desired number. There is also a bar graph showing your activity highs and lows and the times they occurred.

What is your favorite feature of the tracker and why? The bar graph is my favorite because I literally look at it and see the ups and downs that I experienced in my day.

What are you looking forward to most going into the final week? Trying to improve my step number, since last weeks' was lower than the previous week!

 

Mollie headshot

Mollie Millington on Fitbug Air

What does your activity tracker’s reporting function look like, and is your data presented in a way that’s meaningful to you? It has a clock on it and the number of steps for the day.  You can also scroll through to see calories burned for the day and previous stats for up to 12 days.

What is your favorite feature of the tracker and why? I like that I can see where I am in regards to my goals at any time. I don’t need to be online or have my phone with me.  If I am thinking about walking or catching a bus, I look at my tracker first.  I also like how comfortable it is to wear.  I forget I have it on sometimes!

What are you looking forward to most going into the final week? I am finally synched online, so I am looking forward to exploring the Fitbug online community more.  I can also input my activities (like yoga and cycling) where I didn’t wear the Bug to add on to my step total.  There is even a nutrition component to help me stay on track.


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Don't forget to cast your vote for your favorite trainer and be automatically entered for a chance to win your very own activity tracker!*

*Subject to Terms and Conditions. 

Week 2 – Putting Activity Trackers through the “Real World” Test: The Wearability Evaluation

  
  
  


As Week 2 of mHealth Zone's 30-day challenge finishes up, our fitness trainers tell us just how wearable their wearable devices really are.  
 

Jade headshot

Jade Alexis on Striiv Smart Pedometer

How do you wear your activity tracker? What is the best part about wearing your tracker in that particular place? On my waist— clipped onto my shorts or tights. The best part is I forget I have it on! Also, if I want to check my stats, it is easily accessible. 

How does your tracker hold up throughout the course of your daily activities and workouts? Great! But I pressed the main button down for too long and lost my info. The device reset, and it took me two days to figure out how to turn it back on!

What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming week? I haven't hit my goals yet, because I sometimes forget to wear it. I want to do more stairs this week. I love that the tracker counts stairs! This week, I will make sure I have it on all my runs (I always wear it when walking around throughout the day, but sometimes forget it for my workouts/runs). This week, I will shoot for 40,000-plus steps!

   

Matt headshot

Matthew Basso on FitLinxx Pebble

How do you wear your activity tracker? What is the best part about wearing your tracker in that particular place? Most of the time, I wear my Pebble on my belt. I have tried it on my shoe, and that works well too. I prefer the belt because it's comfortable and discreet. I found out that the Pebble is waterproof, so I clip it to a bracelet when I go paddleboarding. It seems to register accurately on my wrist.

How does your tracker hold up throughout the course of your daily activities and workouts? The clip on the Pebble is strong. It hasn't popped off of anything yet.

What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming week? I'm looking forward to seeing if my activity increases with each week.

 

Rachel headshot

Rachel Buschert Vaziralli on BodyMedia FIT CORE

How do you wear your activity tracker? What is the best part about wearing your tracker in that particular place? It must be worn on the left upper arm. I'm not a fan of wearing it there because it's very visible.

How does your tracker hold up throughout the course of your daily activities and workouts? I love seeing how many steps I've taken and how many hours a day I was active. However, it's extremely frustrating to do high intensity intervals on a bike or an extremely intense weight training session and then upload my daily data, only to find it says all my activities were moderate, and I spent two minutes in a vigorous activity. I don't think so!

What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming week? I'm looking forward to challenging myself and hitting my step goals.
 

Mollie headshot


Mollie Millington on Fitbug Air

How do you wear your activity tracker? What is the best part about wearing your tracker in that particular place? I wear my Fitbug on my waistband.  There is a handy wrist strap that I use to secure the bug to a belt loop, so I never have to worry about losing it.

How does your tracker hold up throughout the course of your daily activities and workouts? I take it off when I ride my bike from home to the train station (10 minutes) and when doing yoga.  On my online profile, Fitbug has a function to add these activities to my step count—which is awesome!

What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming week? Every day I aim to beat the previous days’ step count.  I am walking more rather than taking public transportation. It’s getting me moving!


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Don't forget to cast your vote for your favorite trainer and be automatically entered for a chance to win your very own activity tracker!*

*Subject to Terms and Conditions. 

Week 1– Putting Activity Trackers through the “Real World” Test: The Scoop on Setup

  
  
  


With Week 1 of mHealth Zone’s 30-day challenge complete, our fitness trainers give us the scoop on setting up their activity tracking devices.
 

Jade headshotJade Alexis on Striiv Smart Pedometer

What steps did you go through to set up your device? Charged it for about 10 minutes, downloaded the app to my computer, and then synched it to my iPhone and gave it access to my Facebook account. Turned on the device and it was synched with my iPhone!

How long did the setup take from start to finish? How user-friendly was the process? About 20 minutes. Was pretty straight forward.

Now that setup is complete, what are your feelings and expectations about using your activity tracker moving forward? I am excited. It works like magic and has several cool features! It synchs seamlessly with iPhone. I can certainly see how the device and app will encourage people to be more active.
   

Matt headshotMatthew Basso on FitLinxx Pebble

What steps did you go through to set up your device? To set up the device, I had to fill out a basic info form. They asked for my address, which I thought was weird.

How long did the setup take from start to finish? How user-friendly was the process? Setup took about 10 minutes, and it was pretty simple.

Now that setup is complete, what are your feelings and expectations about using your activity tracker moving forward? Moving forward, I will be trying to see if the Pebble can act as a "trigger" for better behavior. It's not a motivator for me; however, I may be able to more easily introduce some new habits.
 

Rachel headshotRachel Buschert Vaziralli on BodyMedia FIT CORE

What steps did you go through to set up your device? Spent a frustrating few hours trying to get the console off—we were scared we would break it! Once we got it off, we realized that the instructions say to "push down” well; when you do that, you instinctively hold the back side and you are unable to pop it out. Once you realize this, it's easy, and you feel like a moron!

How long did the setup take from start to finish? How user-friendly was the process? You charge for three hours. Then, you set up your profile online. Probably took me 30 minutes.

Now that setup is complete, what are your feelings and expectations about using your activity tracker moving forward? I am a little apprehensive about wearing a bulky thing on my arm all the time and expect a big tan line, but I am excited to finally start getting some data! It was funny because I knew it was going to track sleep, so I felt like I had to go to bed. It kind of peer pressured me into it and made me more conscious of getting to bed on time.


Mollie headshotMollie Millington on Fitbug Air

What steps did you go through to set up your device? It was very hard to do, as there was no user manual.  I had to go online and register, but my packaging was missing my subscription number. Customer service was helpful, though. Easy to enter settings on the iPod, but I still can’t connect online.

How long did the setup take from start to finish? How user-friendly was the process? Once I was able to find the setup instructions on how to enter date, weight, stride, etc., the setup took less than five minutes.  The website isn’t easy to navigate in regards to finding Bluetooth or initial setup info. I am still not sure if I have to have a recent Apple product to connect my data to my online profile.

Now that setup is complete, what are your feelings and expectations about using your activity tracker moving forward? I do find it motivating—I want to beat my steps each day.  Fitbug sends an email every day with tips, which is nice.  I think I would enjoy it more if I could figure out how to integrate it with online resources (about food and exercise).  I just emailed customer service again for help with Bluetooth.  Hope to hear back from them soon.

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Don't forget to cast your vote for your favorite trainer and be automatically entered for a chance to win your very own activity tracker!*

*Subject to Terms and Conditions. 

Ben Chodor Guest Post for The Health Care Blog on App Prescribing

  
  
  

Ben Chodor resized 600Happtique CEO Ben Chodor was recently asked to write a guest blog post for The Health Care Blog on app prescribing. The post, titled App Prescribing: The Future of Patient-Centered Care, addresses some of the concerns surrounding app prescribing and Happtique's efforts to bring credibility to the space: 

"Dr. Leslie Kernisan recently wrote a great piece about app prescribing, asking, “Should I be prescribing apps, and if so, which ones?” Since Happtique is all about integrating apps into clinical practice, I jumped at the chance to add to this important discussion.

Dr. Kernisan is right to be concerned and somewhat skeptical about app prescribing. More than 40,000 health apps exist across multiple platforms. And unlike other aspects of the heavily-regulated healthcare marketplace, there is little to no barrier to entry into the health app market—so basically anyone with an idea and some programming skills can build a mobile health app. The easy entry into the app market offers incredible opportunity for healthcare innovation; however, the open market comes with certain serious concerns, namely, “how credible are the apps I am (or my patients are) using?”

Continue reading the full blog post here.

 

Happtique Goes To Washington: Testimony Video

  
  
  

**UPDATE** - In case you missed this morning's hearing on "Health Information Technologies: Harnessing Wireless Innovation," you can read Happtique CEO Ben Chodor's testimony HERE. You can also view the video below.
 

state seal resized 600On Tuesday, March 19 at 10:30 AM ET, the Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on "Health Information Technologies: Harnessing Wireless Innovation." Read the full memorandum HERE.

The Committee will hear from a number of important leaders in the mHealth industry, including Happtique's very own CEO Ben Chodor!

Other speakers include: Dr. George Ford, Chief Economist for the Phoenix Center for Advance Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies; Robert Jarrin, Senior Director of Government Affairs at Qualcomm; Jonathan Spalter, Chairman at Mobile Future; Bradley Merrill Thompson of the mHealth Regulatory Coalition; T. Forcht Dagi, MD, MPH, DmedSc, Partner at HLM Venture Partners. 

GigaOM Exclusive: Happtique releases standards for mobile health apps

  
  
  

GigaOM's Ki Mae Huessner released an article today announcing Happtique's release of the final standards for the Health App Certification Program:

With an estimated 40,000 mobile health apps (PDF) available for doctors, consumers and others in healthcare, it can be hard to separate quality apps from, well, crap.  A November report from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting highlighted the number of apps that over promise and under deliver. And while more doctors are using apps to monitor patients or check information, there are still valid concerns about reliability, privacy and security.

To help give hospitals and health care providers more clarity around the good, bad and ugly in mobile health apps, New York-based Happtique has been working on a certification program for mobile apps and on Wednesday plans to release its final set of standards.

“One of the things I hear all the time when I’m dealing with providers and institutions is ‘hey, there are so many apps out there, how do we know which ones have just even been looked at by clinicians? … Or within [a category] ‘how do we decide which ones that we’ll use or recommend to patients?’,” said Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique. “They just need somewhere to turn where at least these apps have been peer-reviewed and scanned so we know that they’re safe.”

In the past year, Happtique has enlisted experts and patient advocates to serve on its standards committee, and it’s met with hospital and medical associations and government agencies to hear their feedback. Last July, it released a draft of its standards to give developers, care providers and other health care professionals the opportunity to comment.

The final standards released Wednesday cover not only technical performance, including operability, privacy and security, but content standards. For example, they encompass issues like the credibility of an app’s information and sources, the fairness of its description and claims, compliance with rules and regulations and advertising disclosures.

Chodor said they’re intended to give health care providers and consumers a Good Housekeeping-like “seal of approval” to look for, as well as provide app developers a set of guidelines to build to and a way to show customers their value.

The Food and Drug Administration is still expected to hand down its own guidelines — and Happtique says its standards will shift to follow federal regulations. But the FDA will only cover some mobile apps, leaving others in a gray area still helped by an industry standard, Chodor said, adding that Happtique could also be a feeder to the FDA.

Still, even though mobile health could certainly be helped by standards, some argue that Happtique’s plan is unfolding a little too early because there aren’t enough good apps worth filtering out. And, in the vast and quickly growing world of mobile health, Happtique will have to establish itself as a trusted, known name. But its pedigree and partnerships will likely serve it well — not only did it grow out of the hospital community (it was incubated in the venture arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association), it’s signed on impressive partners, including Mount Sinai Hospital, the NYU School of Medicine and Beth Israel Medical Center.

While Happtique’s final guidelines will be released Wednesday, it won’t start taking submissions from developers until this spring. At that time, app developers interested in certification will pay $2,500 to $3,000 and then it will go to third-party partners for review. The Association of American Medical Colleges and theCommission on Graduates for Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), a credentialing authority for healthcare professionals, will review the content and Intertek will scan for technical performance."

We're very excited about the release of the standards and encourage you to visit the app certification page to learn more

Top cardiologists recommend healthy heart apps, give advice

  
  
  

Healthy Heart AppsWith Valentine's Day right around the corner, millions of Americans are planning romantic activities, buying heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates, and filling out cards professing love and devotion. For those who celebrate, the holiday provides a chance to warm the hearts of the ones we love. 

But what about our own hearts? Not the little pastel-colored candy hearts that bear messages like "Be Mine" and "Kiss Me" - we're talking about the heart that beats faster when your loved one is near. There's no better gift you can give to yourself (or your loved one, for that matter) than a healthy heart for this Valentine's Day and those to come. 

Having a healthy heart no longer means just eating right and exercising coupled with a yearly checkup at the doctor's office. With the advent of mobile technology and connected devices, it's something that you can monitor and track on a daily basis.

We surveyed top cardiologists all over the country and asked them to give some healthy heart advice along with a recommendation of their favorite healthy heart apps. Here's what they had to say:  

Samir Damani, MD, PharmD, FACC
Cardiology, Genomic, & Wireless Medicine
Founder & CEO, MD Revolution, Inc.
Follow Dr. Damani on Twitter

Healthy Heart Advice: "Heart and lung capacity measured by maximum VO2 (oxygen consumption during maximal exercise) testing is a measure of fitness that is 10 times more predictive of death than serum cholesterol. Hence using heart rate monitors to maximize efficiency and precision of workouts is critical to improving longevity and mitigating the effects of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and diabetes," says Dr. Damani.

Healthy Heart App: Dr. Damani likes the healthy heart app Digifit. "Digifit, which allows for customized programming of heart zones and real time tracking of heart rate provides the greatest platform for real time feedback to our patients on whether they are truly reaching appropriate heart rates during exercise."


Farris K. Timimi, MD
Medical Director, Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media
Follow Dr. Timimi on Twitter

Healthy Heart Advice: Dr. Timimi says, "Lower heart attack risk? Move 10 minutes/day, make it brisk - sleep 8 hrs as a nightly recipe - 5 servings/day of fruit/veggies."

Healthy Heart App: Dr. Timimi recommends "MyFitnessPal. Free, easy to use, great database, integrates with Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale and FitBit." 


David Lee Scher, MD
Board Certified in Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology
Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
Follow Dr. Scher on Twitter

Healthy Heart Advice: Dr. Scher's advice is short and sweet: "Take the stairs."

Healthy Heart App: Dr. Scher's "favorite app is Heart Connect: an app which connects to a community of cardiac patients." 


Jack Lewin, MD
Founder and Principal, Lewin & Associates, LLC (former CEO American College of Cardiology)

Healthy Heart Advice: Dr. Lewin says "don't let stress get to you - in my experience a positive attitude is more powerful than even exercise and diet for heart health."

Healthy Heart App: "The HeartWise Blood Pressure Tracker is my favorite app. Why? Because 50% of people with high BP are not in control - this is an easy way to track BP," says Dr. Lewin.

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Celebrating Healthy Hearts for Valentine's Day on mHealth Zone Live!

mHealth Zone Live with Ben & Corey
At Happtique, we're celebrating Healthy Hearts on Thursday, February 14 at 12pm ET (9am PT) with our mHealth Zone Live Radio Show. Don't miss the chance to to hear hosts Ben and Corey in a conversation about how mobile solutions can help improve heart health. Featuring special guests: Dr. Samir Damani, PharmD, FACC, CEO of MD Revolution, Mellanie True Hills, CEO of StopAfib.org and author of A Woman's Guide to Saving Her Own Life, and Dr. Monica Kleinman, Chair of Emergency Cardiovascular Care at the American Heart Association. Give yourself a healthy heart this Valentine's Day!



Disclaimer: The information and third party products contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. The mention of third party products (e.g., mobile applications) contained herein does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Happtique. These third party products are for general information or reference purposes only, and should not replace or be relied upon instead of any medical or other professional advice provided to you by a physician or other health care professional.”

Milk, Bread, Batteries and Apps?

  
  
  

By Sara Seigel, Brand Manager

November 7, 2012

Last week parts of the East Coast were devastated as Hurricane Sandy displaced families, destroyed homes, and wreaked havoc on healthcare facilities. Although I live in lower Manhattan and didn’t have power for almost a week, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Why? Because I was able to manage my health despite the general state of emergency.

I’ve lived with—and successfully managed—a chronic disease for years. Nonetheless, my health is always in the back of my mind and therefore, the events of last week really got me thinking: How are other chronically ill patients coping? Where do these folks turn during a natural disaster, presuming they don’t need a hospital or emergency medical attention? You might be holding the answer in your hand: mobile health apps.

During emergency situations, patients with chronic—but not urgent—medical needs may not be able to access their healthcare providers as easily. Or, perhaps family members might be especially concerned that these patients aren’t able to manage their health in the absence of daily routine and scheduled appointments.

So what apps can help folks cope? Simply sorting by “apps for patients and consumers” in the Happtique app catalog – I came up with a few essential topics that might pertain to an emergency situation:

Medication Tracker Apps: It’s no secret that medication compliance is a huge issue--studies show 75% of adults do not consistently take prescribed medications. When a significant disruption in daily routine occurs, like a major weather event, those statistics worsen. Medication tracker applications remind users to take their pills and help them keep track of their meds.

Disease Management Apps: Approximately 1 in 10 Americans are living with a chronic disease today. Anyone who has a chronic condition knows that managing your disease on a regular day can be difficult, never mind when you’re in the middle of a natural disaster! Disease management apps help users both track their symptoms and better manage their disease. Other features can include medication reminders and automatic alerts to caregivers and/or providers. If these apps are connected back to healthcare providers, physicians and other clinical staff can help monitor at-risk patients remotely.

Mental Health Apps: Not surprisingly, folks who suffer from mental health issues are at higher-risk for urgent health problems during emergency situations; however, anyone can develop mental health issues following the stress of traumatic incident, such as natural disasters. Depending on your current diagnosis, there are a variety of mental health apps that do everything from screen and check your symptoms, track your mood, and provide tested treatments.

Emergency-Related Apps: Of course anyone can become a victim during a natural disaster and therefore, nothing is more critical than emergency care. Emergency-related apps provide users with critical information utilities and other resources, important transportation info, links to urgent care, and some even allow you to store your personal health information in case your medical files can’t be accessed from your regular healthcare provider. Obviously, apps don’t—and shouldn’t—replace 9-1-1 for actually emergency care, but they certainly can provide access to important, up-to-date information when dealing with a storm and its aftermath.

I think we can all agree that health apps are playing an increasingly significant role in improving people’s health—and empowering patients to manage their own wellbeing. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, these tools seem even more valuable during emergency situations. The storm alone propelled emergency care app Hurricane by the American Red Cross to number 3 in the Apple app store! So, when a storm is headed your way, you might want to add a visit to the app store to your prep list.

And one final thought: For these types of tools to help in an emergency, your smartphone needs power—so make sure you charge your phone early and often!

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Four Lessons from Boston

  
  
  
By Dylan Cicero, Sales Support and Social Media Associate

August 1, 2012

Hundreds of mHealth conferences are held each year. Selecting which ones to attend can be confusing, especially when you consider the registration fees, which are often hefty. As I was fortunate enough to attend, I’ve written a review of the 4th Annual mHealth World Congress that was held in Boston from July 25–27. My rating? Five stars. Here are four practical lessons that I took away from the conference:

1)      The FDA is not the enemy. As stakeholders in the mHealth space, we want our medical apps and devices to serve a legitimate purpose. Right now, the marketplace is taking a Darwinist approach common in most free markets—survival of the fittest or, in this case, the most popular. While that may be fine for sneakers or vacuums, it’s a little more challenging in the medical field. With patient care at stake, we can’t take a wait-and-see approach about the accuracy or legitimacy of apps. And that’s where the FDA comes in, promoting patient safety and doing so without hampering innovation. Consider the number of mobile blood-glucose testing devices and less-known dermatological apps that with a single picture of a skin lesion can pair that image to a database in the cloud and offer a self-diagnosis.  An incredible advance—if it works. But if clinicians and patients can’t rely on apps to do what they promise, mHealth will quickly lose credibility with the medical establishment.

2)      Healthcare can be fun! There is some really exciting stuff happening with the “gamification” of health.  On one of the summit panels, Jim Burns, Chief Technology Officer at Elbrys Networks, described his image of a future that incorporates gaming into the mHealth space. He envisions a system by which points or currency could be accrued for commendable fitness performance as measured by connected devices. This currency would have purchasing power in traditional mobile gaming applications. For example, if you walked 1,000 steps as measured by any connected mobile device, you might receive 1 point. You could then use those points toward perks in other gaming apps (e.g., 100 points could unlock all levels of Angry Birds).  Another speaker on the panel, Dr. Lisa Shieh, Medical Director at Stanford University Medical Center, described the app that Stanford developed regarding sepsis infections. The app, called Septris, invites physicians to read a patient case and accrue points for proper virtual treatment based on clinical standards. During the panel, Dr. Shieh presented data on the heightened knowledge about sepsis experienced by physicians who played the game, and she elaborated on ways that Stanford will further engage physicians through the game–like by creating a hospital leader board that ranks participating hospitals by their Septris scores.

3)      Behavioral science is paramount. One of the standout moments at the conference was when Dr. Victor Strecher took the podium sporting his Nike fuel band and asked, “Why is Nike Fuel so successful?”  The answer, of course, is that it is fashionable―it looks cool both with workout clothes or a tuxedo…and it acts as a watch, too.  The statement, however simple, was nonetheless an eye-opener. A similar aha moment came when Dr. Naomi Fried, Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, described the process used to develop her new Patient Passport app. The app—which helps users track their hospital experience, take notes, and recall names and faces of physicians—first began as a paper passport. Only after the paper version was deemed successful did Fried and her team decide to digitize it. The lesson here? Too often app developers create a product without adequate consumer demand. Dr. John Halamka, Chief Information Officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, discussed the influence of behavioral psychology when describing the initiative to secure employees’ personal devices.  Admitting that hoping employees would actually follow policy protocol and secure their personal devices was too good to be true, Dr. Halamka initiated a program by which his IT staff personally secured such devices. Though the process wasn’t exactly convenient, it certainly beat the constant fear of a security breach and the expensive recruitment of a forensics team that had been required when a physician’s laptop was stolen.

4)      There is a new protocol to fund mHealth ventures. With an ever-growing number of mHealth startups, securing venture capital is becoming increasingly difficult. Firms are forced to find new ways to raise money or are forced to find new ways to prove themselves worthy of capital.  Behold crowd-funding.  Now, with sites like Kickstarter and Medstartr, firms are able raise significant amounts of capital through public investment.  Consider Erik Migicovsky, founder of Pebble Technology, who raised over $10 million from 69,000 backers in 30 days.  Admittedly, Migicovsky’s story is unusual. The real strength of crowd-funding lies in the public’s ability to back a firm with a few thousand dollars, offering proof of concept when the start-up makes its VC pitch.

Events like the Boston summit will continue to reveal important trends and clarify erroneous assumptions in this space. With continued collaboration between mHealth professionals, we can look forward to watching the mHealth world blossom and grow.



 
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