Monthly Archives: December 2013

Best in Healthcare For 2013

2013 was a great year for consumer healthcare technology. This year, 95 million Americans have used mobile phones as health tools or as search devices to find healthcare information, paving the way for a more connected and health conscious 2014.

To continue with my annual Year in Review, I present some of my favorite companies and posts in 2013.

A big thank you to my readers for your support, ideas and input.

-Alexis

Best New Entrants into Wearables:

Best Smart Fabric Concepts:

  • Athos — Athletic apparel made with smart fabric and sensors to measure every muscle exertion, heartbeat, and breath
  • OMsignal  — Embedded sensors in the apparel monitor your heart rate, breathing, and activity

 Best Fitness Apps:

  • RunKeeper — GPS app to track outdoor fitness activities
  • Moves — GPS app to track daily activity continuously, shown on a timeline
  • Charity Miles — GPS app that tracks and lets you earn money for charity when you walk, run, or bike

 Best Personalized Coaching:

  • Sessions — Simple, individual, and thoughtful fitness program to help you get healthy
  • Wello — Online workouts with a Certified Personal Trainer in real-time on your mobile device over live video

A New Twist to Common Items:

  • HAPIfork — An electronic fork that monitors eating habits and alerts you when you eat too fast
  • Beam Technologies — A smart toothbrush that monitors oral hygiene and reports habits to a smart app
  • Withings Blood Pressure Monitor — Measures, calculates and tracks changes in blood pressure on graphs

Best Up and Coming:

  • PUSH — Tracks and analyzes performance at the gym; measures power, force and balance
  • Emotiv Insight — Multi-channel, wireless headset that monitors brain activity to optimize brain fitness and measures cognitive health and well-being
  • Scanadu Scout — Medical tricorder to measure, analyze and track vitals
  • MC10 — Stretchable electronics that conform to the shape of the body to measure and track vitals

Best for Healthcare Providers:

  • Pristine — Develops Glass apps to help hospitals deliver safer, more coordinated, more cost effective care
  • Informedika — Marketplace for electronic test ordering and results exchange between healthcare providers
  • IntelligentM — Data-driven hand hygiene compliance solutions for hospitals to dramatically reduce healthcare-acquired infections
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The Diet Resolution: Start the New Year with a Healthy Eating Lift

I’ve never stuck to a diet – except when I tried going gluten free (it was difficult and I ended up eating a lot of gluten free pizza, cookies, and candy, defeating the purpose of a healthy alternative diet). Now with Lift to keep me on track, I look forward to tackling a month of diet change.

This year, Lift is launching a Quantified Diet Month where you can either pre-select a diet or use a diet Lift selects for you. For the month of January, Lift will encourage, teach, and help you through the diet via the Lift app. The app will measure and survey you regarding your weight loss, mood, energy, and adherence to learn more about dieting and what works for you.

Here is the list of ten diets you can choose from, below. To learn more, check out this post.

  • Paleo: eat like a caveman, mostly veggies, meats, nuts. Advised by Paleohacks and Nerd Fitness
  • Slow-Carb: lean meat, beans, and veggies; abstain from white foods like sugar, pasta, bread, cheese. Based on Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body
  • Vegetarian: vegetables, but no meat. Cheese and eggs are optional. Advised by No Meat Athlete
  • Whole foods: eat only recognizable foods and avoid processed ones. Advised by Summer Tomato
  • Gluten-free: no wheat, rye, barley or wheat-based foods
  • No sweets: a simple diet change that affects your insulin swings
  • DASH: USDA’s current recommendation
  • Calorie counting: the old standard
  • Sleep more: the science says this should work. Advised by: Swan Sleep Solutions
  • Mindful eating: learn mindfulness to recognize when you’re full. Advised by ZenHabits and the Center for Mindful Eating
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EveryMove: Earn Points and Rewards for Every Move

EveryMove gives you rewards for moving. Seriously, you get points for the things you are already doing for your physical activity. Walking to work, running, biking, or mowing the lawn? Sync up your wearable activity tracker or manually input your activities to get rewarded and recognized by your health plan, your employer and national brands. Right now, over 160 brands use EveryMove to reach subscribers and reward them for activity. What was the thought process behind creating EveryMove? CEO and Co-Founder, Russell Benaroya tells us his story.

In 2005, Russell launched REM Medical, a network of comprehensive sleep centers to deliver leading quality sleepcare in the rapidly expanding field of sleep medicine. While at REM Medical, he saw that nearly 80% of their patients were being treated because of poorly made lifestyle choices, including those surrounding diet and wellness. While managing and solving these issues was important to REM, Russell saw the value in prevention. He wondered, “How do we create a company that isn’t constrained by people who are already in the healthcare system? We came up with the goal that we wanted to improve the lives of 10 million people in 10 years, which required technology that could scale and the ability to reach people who are wellness minded but not necessarily already inside the healthcare system.”

Russell’s goal of impacting people before they found themselves inside the healthcare system laid the foundation for EveryMove. In his words, “Through a number of iterations, we got inspired by the idea of putting control into the hands of the consumer to show that their healthy lifestyle has value.”

There are 200,000 registered users on EveryMove today and growing quickly. To help participants who are looking for the right wearable tracker for their individual needs, the company just launched their Fitness Tracker Device and Comparison Tool. As Russell describes, “We want to be seen as a champion on the forefront of healthcare tracking. We don’t know what works for you, but we can help you discover the perfect solution.”

Russell thinks that the timing is right for people to adopt a healthy, value based activity system. “We think that the convergence between healthcare change, wearables, and increased smartphone processing power is creating a nexus point of tremendous opportunity for us.” EveryMove isn’t betting on a single app or device. Even Russell wears and uses multiple devices (Moves App, Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, and Garmin on runs). Instead, EveryMove wants the wearables ecosystem to flourish. As a rewards plan for health, Russell wants users to feel that, “I am part of something that is much bigger than myself and by being a part of EveryMove, it says something about me and the control that I have over my health, and that is a really empowering feeling.”

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Goji Play Launches: Tops the List of Must Have Fun Fitness Tech

I met with Kai Huang, co-founder and CEO of Blue Goji, and Zach Fountain, COO in a SOMA gym to test out Goji Play, a fusion of hardware and software that turns any cardio fitness machine into an interactive and engaging workout experience. How engaging? After the interview I tried Goji Play at home for thirty minutes and it really did feel like I had only been working out for five – it was totally and utterly immersive. Kai and his team are pros at making games active and social – he co-founded and invented Guitar Hero almost a decade ago.

The device setup is simple. I downloaded the Goji Play App as well as some games while giving the wearable activity sensor a quick charge. I clipped the sensor onto my shirt, but it also fit comfortably in my pocket or on my shoe. Setting up the wireless game controllers meant hitting all the buttons to sync them to the iPad app, which took several seconds.

The controllers are intuitive to use and designed for comfort. They can be fitted on any cardio machine or fixed onto hand batons (great for treadmill workouts). After a few minutes of using the buttons and commands they became second nature and I could focus my attention on exerting more energy into my cardio activity. I downloaded several games including a boxing game, a fast moving game (reminiscent of Mario Cart), and a block matching game similar to Tetris. Twenty minutes on one game felt like two minutes – I was so immersed that time passed quickly and before I knew it I had drummed up a sweat.

From Guitar Hero, Kai witnessed how fun games can inspire people – friends and families – to be more active and social.

How did you make the leap from pure gaming (Guitar Hero) to health and fitness?

KH: “We wanted to take the immersive experience of gaming and use it to inspire people to get active. The power of games is that they get people to engage in an activity in such a way that you often don’t realize how much time has passed because you’ve been so involved. While you are doing this, we are tracking your fitness goals, steps, distance, etc. and truly making this a fitness product.”

How has Guitar Hero influenced the design and hardware of Goji Play, if at all?

KH: “We’ve designed the Goji Play for comfort – we want you to use it on any wireless device and any cardio device in the gym. The hardware is designed to be simple and easy to use – something that everyone feels comfortable using.”

ZF: “On the software side, we area focused on making games that are deep, engaging, immersive experiences. Additional games and apps are in development and will be released on a regular basis.”

Who is your target market?

KH: “Anyone who uses an exercise machine. We have a broad audience from people who have invested in exercise equipment at home to anyone with access to a gym. “

What is the broader vision and mission of Blue Goji?

KH: “We want people to lead healthier lives and we want to get people motivated. If we can take an activity and make it fun while helping you get healthy in the process then we’ve done well.”

ZF: “We want this to have an impact on the entire family and each member can create their own profile. There might be a primary purchaser but because we support multiple profiles and have a wide variety of games we envision the entire household getting value and having some collective fun in getting in shape and using the system together. Also, given that the New Year is around the corner, we think Goji Play can keep people on track with any fitness resolutions.”

KH: “We want people to remember that Goji Play is all about fun and letting you have fun. In the background it’s about pushing you to achieve your fitness goals – but if you have fun using Goji Play, then we’ve succeeded.”

Available online starting today for $99, Goji Play is compatible with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, and can be used with most cardio equipment including treadmills, stationary and recumbent bicycles, and elliptical machines.

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Athos: Smart Fabric Measures Every Breath, Heartbeat and Muscle Exertion

A smart fabric plus an accelerometer core creates the next level in quantified performance clothing. I spoke with Athos founding team members, Dhananja Jayalath, Chris Wiebe, and Joel Seligstein to learn more about the technology behind Athos.

What’s so special about Athos fabric?

DJ: “The cloth has sensors that are built directly into the fabric. With ECG sensors and muscle output sensors integrated into the clothing, you can very accurately measure heart rate and muscle effort. The Core is the analytics module of the sensors – it’s essentially the computer that collects and analyzes all the stats and sends the data to the mobile app.”

Why did you opt for clothing instead of a wrist / arm wearable?

DJ: “We wanted to capture data from multiple points. We wanted to capture info from your biceps, quads and triceps, which our fabric lets us do. By building the sensors into clothing we think it also makes it easy to use and remember, and helps create a routine.” Since all the sensors are built in, you’ll be able to measure heart rate without a chest strap and get real-time responsive input on how to best train for your goals.

“We believe that apparel is going to get smarter, it’s not just something you cover yourself up with anymore. Athletes will get an advantage in training with Athos unlike what a simple wicking shirt or compression shorts provide.”

Who is your target audience?

Chris: “People who are going on 6am rides or heading to the gym 3-5 times a week with the goal of getting better and stronger – that is our target market.” Athos apparel is focused on people who want to get better at their fitness goals and those who want to analyze their performance and continue to do better. The company’s differentiation factor is that they aren’t trying to motivate stationary people to move more – they want to help athletes be more efficient and train harder. Athos would be an ideal partner for sports teams, events like the Olympics, gyms, and trainers.

“We’ve talked internally about how our data is good enough for pros to use so that they can train for their events but still approachable enough for the average consumer to use.”

How is the app user experience?

Joel: “We are using the app to give tailored insight to what your body is doing. For weightlifters counting reps is important, but if you are riding a bike, cadence and balance and pushing vs. pulling on the pedal is important. Long term, we’ll continue to iterate and make things customized.“

What is the key takeaway here?

DJ: “We are not just about collecting data – we are about giving the user a great experience. We are not just about the hardware – we want to deliver performance and comfort in something that is unique and useful.”
 

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Quantifying Alcohol Consumption with BACtrack Mobile: Small, Fast, Accurate and Social

One aspect of health and wellness is measuring what we eat. While many mobile apps track calories to regulate diets, not many have tackled measuring the amount of alcohol consumed. In April 2013, BACtrack launched the world’s first smartphone breathalyzer, the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer.

The general concept of using a breathalyzer is to quickly estimate a person’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) to determine if he or she can legally get behind the wheel. But the BACtrack Mobile serves a higher purpose than that. The breathalyzer provides a quantitative way to track how you feel at different amounts of alcohol consumption – it is essentially a health tracker.

I tested the device and spoke with BACtrack president and founder, Keith Nothacker to learn more.

How did you decide it was time to make a mobile breathalyzer?

“We started to focus on mobile about two years ago, and launched the BACtrack in April 2013. It was a great time for us to design the device. We were finally able to bring down the cost of our fuel cell sensor technology. Years ago if you got pulled over by the police, they would be using a $500 device. Now the cost is a quarter of that. Also, the new bluetooth low energy chip gave us the ability to create a better mobile experience.” When you look at the price of the sensor versus the cost of getting a DUI (on average $10,000) or getting in an accident, monitoring is definitely worth it.

What kind of feedback do you get from people using the device?

“We hear feedback almost everyday. We’ve sold so many over the last decade and we often hear, ‘We had a party and it just changed everybody’s behavior.’ We see the device used in groups. If my friend blows a 0.12 in front of me, now there is quantifiable number that makes that person and all the other people around him accountable. It shares the responsibility and makes everyone safer.”

Keith was adamant on one point. “We tell people that you should not drink and drive at all. The purpose of the device is to understand how alcohol affects your body, not tell you when you can or cannot drive.”

The mobile app helps track your BAC and location and can estimate when you might be sober again. The device is best used 15 minutes after eating/drinking/smoking for the most accurate results.

How accurate is the device?

“The device uses the same fuel cell technology as the BACtrack S80, the handheld screening device that law enforcement uses. New accuracy data will be released on our website in the next few days.” BACtrack does lots of research to make sure their technology, for all devices, shows comparable accuracy to the expensive $10,000 lab instrument they have in their office (and found in police stations).

Who is your main target market?

“We have a pretty broad target market. The device is sold online and in stores like Walgreens and Costco. Purchasers include people who have gotten a DUI – about 1.4 million people a year get a DUI, those who are safety conscious, and suburban people with cars.” They have sold to high schools for prom and football games, small to mid-sized construction companies with zero tolerance rules, and even pizza delivery businesses so they can test teen drivers on Friday nights.

“We often get the question, ‘I drink responsibly, why do I need one?’ Once people use the device, a light bulb goes off. Try it out – you’ll be surprised. If you haven’t eaten and you drink during happy hour, your body reacts differently compared to when you have a drink with dinner. From a health perspective, if you drink alcohol at all, it’s something you could use.”

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Digital Health Metrics in 2013: Mobile Usage, Doctors, and Pregnancy Apps

MobiHealthNews has compiled a list of 51 digital health metrics in 2013. For a full list, visit here.

Some interesting stats and metrics:

95M Americans used mobile for health in 2013

  • “As of 2013, 95 million Americans are using mobile phones as health tools or to find health information, according to Manhattan Research. That’s 27 percent more than 2012, when the number was 75 million.”
  • This number seems pretty reasonable. Research estimates that 56% of American adults have a smartphone, meaning that a little more than half of all smartphone users have searched the internet for a health related query. I’ve certainly searched for home remedies before.

Seven in ten doctors have a self-tracking patient

  • “Seventy percent of doctors report that at least one patient is sharing some form of health measurement data with them, according to a survey of 2,950 practicing physicians.”
  • This number seems a little high to me – but given health trackers, diabetes and weight measurement devices, and other applications (including blood pressure and cholesterol trackers), this number might not be too far off. It does suggest that patients are more aware of their health and are more open to sharing their data with others.

InMedica predicts six times as many US telehealth patients by 2017

  • “According to new data released by research firm InMedica, the American telehealth market is predicted to grow by 600 percent between 2012 and 2017. While there are currently 227,000 US telehealth patients, according to InMedica, that figure is forecast to reach up to 1.3 million patients in 2017. US telehealth revenues, meanwhile, will jump from $174.5 million last year to $707.9 million in 2017.”
  • While telehealth still faces some regulatory challenges, the growth trajectory shows that consumers are opening up to the idea of a slightly less personal, personal doctor’s visit.

Report finds pregnancy apps more popular than fitness apps

  • “According to ByteMobile, on average, 39 percent of mobile users who are using one or more mobile health applications are using a fitness app. Of all the mobile health related data traffic that operators facilitate, about 50 percent of it comes from personal fitness apps.Ÿ While fitness apps are generating more data, it seems that pregnancy related apps are actually more popular: On average, 47 percent of total subscribers using one or more mobile health application use a pregnancy related application, according to the report. Despite the popularity of these kinds of apps they don’t generate nearly as much data as fitness ones do:Ÿ Pregnancy monitoring applications generate only 9 percent of the total mobile health related data traffic on wireless networks.”
  • This stat is surprising. It says that if there are 100 mobile users who use one or more health apps, 39 of them use a fitness app and 47 of them use a pregnancy related application. Although research shows that women install 40% more apps, spend 87% more than men, men used health and fitness apps 10% more than women. Now to be fair, if you look at the breakdown of ages using mobile health apps, data shows that Millennials (aged 25-43) engaged with their smartphones every hour in the day and used fitness and health apps twice as much as the average of other age groups. This data claims that in a gender split, women use health and fitness apps 200 percent more than men do. If I were to venture a guess at the percent of total subscribers using one or more mobile health apps who use a pregnancy related app, I’d guess it’s 25% at the highest. Luckily we’ll have some interviews and posts in the next few months on pregnancy apps to find out more.
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Withings Pulse: Little Tracker, Big Heart (Rate Monitoring)

I had first mentioned the Withings Pulse in June and have finally gotten around to testing it.

What sets the Pulse apart from other pocket-sized wearables is the heart rate monitor on the back of the device, which can measure your heart beat in a few seconds. Since I already have the Withings Smart Body Analyzer Scale and mobile app, my Pulse data gets uploaded to the same place as my weight measurements.

Pros:
1. Two week battery life – I rarely charge it and when I do it uses the same charger as most Android phones. Easy.
2. Heart rate monitor makes it more competitive than the Fitbit One.
3. The online portal is robust and you can download all your data – which is pretty cool for those of us who like data.

Cons:
1. Less accurate than similar wearables. I did not run 8.5 miles at a 7:41 pace last Sunday. In fact, that Sunday was the day after a gorgeous destination wedding, where I unwillingly dragged myself to the gym and did 7 miles at a 10 min/mile pace on a treadmill. For a device + app that knows my height, weight, heart rate, etc. it is surprisingly inaccurate. This was also after the software update.
2. Clip format makes it difficult to use. No surprises here – this is a common complaint of mine for clips in general. There is a reason the Fitbit Flex and the new Fitbit Force are wrist wearables – it is easier to have on at all times. The Pulse is also not waterproof, unlike the Jawbone UP, which I wear into the shower. Every time I change clothes (work clothes, workout clothes, home/lounge clothes, pjs) I have to remember to remove and move the Pulse.
3. Bluetooth upload a little slow – especially if you have a weeks worth of data to upload.

Final thoughts? The Pulse is a nice wearable pocket companion – bonus if you already have the scale. I’m sure as Withings starts to collect more data and tune the Pulse the data collection will only become more and more accurate. At this price point, the Pulse competes with the Fitbit One, which doesn’t have a heart rate monitor.

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