Category Archives: Get to Know

Gero Lab: Using Everyday Movement to Predict Risk of Age-Related Diseases

Locomotome, as coined by the Human Locomotome Project is a set of human locomotive data that can be analyzed to predict human stress levels and proclivity of age-related metabolic or degenerative disorders.

Gero Lab, a new and burgeoning company in this space, has been collecting locomotome data to discover markers of age-related diseases and evaluate the clinical importance of these markers. They have an app that collects initial answers to health questions and then uses activity data from devices like FitBit, Jawbone, and Bodymedia to further cement their locomotome models. Users are then sent metrics on their neurological state and potential health conditions, increasing their awareness of various health factors important for early prevention and lifestyle changes.

Gero co-founder Vera Kozyr answers some of my questions below.

What was the driving force to create Gero? What are the company’s goals?

We were originally studying different biological signals including transcriptome and genome signals, looking for signatures of aging and associated chronic deceases. Then we realized that the locomotome signal is extremely rich and much more convenient to gather, so we adjusted all our mathematical models and algorithms for it. The goal of our company is to create a convenient (non-invasive and seamless) and reliable tool for the early stage diagnosis of different diseases.

How can data collected and used in Gero models be translated into action items for users?

Awareness is very important when it comes to health. Early warnings can be impactful, especially for slowly developing health conditions. For example, life-style changes during the early stages of diabetes type 2 can significantly slow down the development of the disease or even reverse it. In the future, after passing FDA approval, GERO technology could also be used by doctors for preventative measures.

What are some of the most interesting bits of data that you have gathered so far? What is to come?

The key takeaways of our first 3,000 Fitbit study (finished in November of last year) are:

  • Motor activity contains signatures of particular chronic deceases (metabolic, psychiatric and neurological)
  • Low-resolution trackers (e.g. Fitbit, Jawbone, etc.) can also be used with GERO’s mathematical model with sufficient tracking time
  • We are already passed the proof of concept phase to detect particular health conditions with accuracy

We keep working on increasing the accuracy of our algorithms. Along with disease risks and trends, we have learned to detect biological age and gender. At the moment we are focusing on diabetes and soon will publish some of our very interesting findings.

How does the app / data interface help users?

As we are still in the research stage we don’t claim that our app helps users at the moment. It collects activity data and helps to develop our technology. Individual health reports that we will release to our participants of course might potentially help by giving awareness of health conditions and showing their trends.

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First Opinion: Personalized Doctor Messaging, Designed for Moms

Sometimes all you need is a first opinion. Designed especially for moms, First Opinion gives users the ability to text an assigned doctor via the app during any time of day. All First Opinion users are paired with a doctor who is also a mom. Subscription based at $9/month, the user is connected with the same doctor for every subsequent exchange. Frequent topics doctors can help with include illness, pregnancy, child development, nutrition, lactation and sleep training.

I tried the app to ask what I should do about a nagging cough. Within an hour of signing up, I was matched to Dr. Preet, who messaged me her recommendations to soothe the cough. The recommendations were fairly organic, which is not a surprise since she can’t prescribe over the app. In fact, to get past HIPAA at the moment, my information remains anonymous, except for the information that I choose to share via chat. The fast, responsive messaging and thorough follow-up makes the app a great tool for concerned parents. With a recent fundraise, First Opinion is geared to support more doctor consults for first time moms.

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Founder Interview: Jon Pearce, CEO of Zipnosis – Online Diagnosis and Treatment is Here

Zipnosis is an online service that diagnoses and treats common medical conditions, 24/7, by a board-certified clinician. Yes – finally a service that can prescribe you medication to common conditions by just knowing current symptoms and past history.

There are existing companies that introduce telemedicine through complex solutions using live streaming video, focused on diagnosing tough conditions. Zipnosis differs by first entering the market to treat all the millions of people with simple, more common conditions.

As Jon Pearce, CEO of Zipnosis, describes it, “If other telemedicine companies are like Blockbuster, Zipnosis is more like Netflix. We are web based and can be used on any device. We’ve been able to build a company that is a true digital platform between a patient and a provider. We are targeting more than just information – we are focused on diagnosis, treatment and triage.”

Busy growing, the company has gone from treating an initial 8-9 conditions to adding about 40 more conditions last year, and focusing this year on triage and chronic conditions. Zipnosis can be used in 14 states and expanding, and is busy partnering with health systems to expand their diversified base of clinicians. Over time, Zipnosis will broaden from treating common conditions to include chronic ones, such as cardiac disease and hyperlipidemia.

What are users saying? The company has over 90% satisfaction rates. The clinicians prescribe by guidelines, giving better, more consistent quality care. “96% of the patients that we talk to tell 3-4 people because it’s so transformative,” Jon says. “We know it works and it works quickly and accurately. People should not be afraid of the way we are offering diagnosis and treatment. It is rooted in clinical data and successes and it is a safe and effect way to get care.”

Zipnosis is leading the way to a new, leaner and faster way to get answers and treatments to immediate health concerns. Jon assured me that California is on their short list of states they will be expanding to, and I look forward to using them. For those in the lucky 14 states, try Zipnosis the next time you need an answer.

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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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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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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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OnTheGo Platforms: Using Glass with the Ghost of Running Past

I always run faster in races. When I’m doing a training run, my thoughts tend to wander – I think about my to do list or run various scenarios through my mind. During a race, I spend most of my time thinking about how I should maneuver through a crowded group or how to most quickly pass the person in front of me. I also generally run faster during the second half of a running event, pushing for a negative split as some runners start to tire. But during training runs, I grow complacent, focus less on running, and my mind set is not on competition – it’s on finishing.

I could find a running partner – one who runs at my pace, doesn’t want to have a conversation while we run, and who can make him or herself available based on my schedule – or I can (soon) get a virtual running partner. OnTheGo Platforms is creating apps for smart glasses like Google Glass. Their showcase application, Ghost Runner, shows a ‘ghost’ (when you fall behind) that appears running in pace with your old time. Now you can ‘race’ with the old you – and with each progression, you push yourself to steadily run faster. This is a great start to glasses optimized running / fitness applications and a good proof of concept for Glass. I look forward to seeing more great ideas and apps from OnTheGo.

Ghost Runner Leader board from OnTheGo Platforms on Vimeo.

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Interview: Steven Yaskin, CEO of Informedika

Informedika has created a one stop online marketplace for healthcare providers to choose, discover, compare and select lab services, therapy providers and nursing home vendors at the click of a button. They have created a platform that is not only EMR agnostic, but also free to use.

I caught up with CEO, Steven Yaskin to learn more about Informedika. Steven describes the company’s mission as, “We are connecting doctors to healthcare vendors – diagnostic labs, radiology centers, physical therapy trainers, sleep centers, nursing homes, assisted living and many, many more. Doctors are at the top of the food chain in terms of referrals and now all vendors are finally at their fingertips.”

The Informedika marketplace empowers doctors to place electronic orders through an online ecosystem, which eliminates faxes, paperwork and mistakes.

Eliminating paperwork, Informedika shows all patient imaging data.

Informedika has taken a grassroots approach in getting their name out, focusing more on building a strong product than spending money on marketing. So far it’s worked – doctors love the flexibility and transparency that Informedika gives them. As Steven notes, “In healthcare you don’t have adoption by doctors unless you have all the vendors tied to them – local and nationwide labs and services. We have an all-inclusive catalog of pharmacies, sleep centers, labs, etc.  When doctors log into their existing EMR software, they may only see one lab but when they log into Informedika they see all their options.”

All local and nationwide options on one interface for labs.

Steven states that a big problem with healthcare data is that not all the medical record companies are cooperating and a lot of startups become bystander victims because of this. How does Informedika fit smoothly into the healthcare system? “We aren’t relying on doctors and vendors or patients to upload data. Because we sit in the streams of electronic fax data flowing between doctors and labs, we can aggregate that data into medical charts directly. We are EMR agnostic and doctor agnostic. We are creating a patient centric repository, regardless of what software a doctor uses – we don’t compete with EMRs, instead we make their data more robust.”

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Basis: Multiple Sensors Track Exercise and Sleep Accurately and Automatically

Basis is a supercharged fitness tracker. The watch uses multiple sensors to track heart rate patterns throughout the day as well as a perspiration and skin temperature changes to measure exertion levels. Basis uses these data points to paint a more exact picture of calories burned and sleep patterns.

I took the watch on a 6 mile run to see how well the tracking worked, and I was impressed. The data is compiled clearly and accurately, so you can monitor your daily activity and make small changes to be more consistent. The online portal compares activity metrics on a double axis so you can see changes in your heart rate compared to calories burned or steps taken.

The beauty in the watch is that there is no need for the user to signal activity changes. As you can see from my data, I took a nap from 5-6:30PM. Other fitness trackers would note this as ‘idle time’ but Basis knows that I fell asleep because it is tracking my heart rate, which dropped and became more steady while I was sleeping. Basis emails me whenever I reach a goal – like running an Afternoon Lap, and it syncs my data via Bluetooth to my iPhone app.

While the watch has a larger face than an UP band or Fitbit, the added sensor functionality gives it additional analytics power. If you are running with a Garmin or Suunto already, you won’t notice the Basis on your wrist. For people who prefer a smaller wearable device, the technology will only get more compact. This is definitely one company to follow.

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