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Traqs: One Tool to Rule Them All

Next on the agenda on our journey through a list of five personal data innovations to watch is Traqs.

There are SO many different gadgets out there to help enhance workouts and overall health. However, it can be hard to keep track of them. I have all sorts of apps downloaded on my phone, but it becomes kind of a tedious task to go through and individually check up on each one. That’s where Traqs comes in.

It has a dashboard that collects all the data from various gadgets and apps into one place. So instead of checking every single app for updates, only one is now needed. Unfortunately, for the time being, there are only a few gadgets that are currently compatible with the system — Fitbit, Withings, Zeo, Garmin, and other GPS devices. However, the company promises for more integration soon.

It is currently in beta-testing, and one must request an invite in order to possibly get in on this before it’s available to the public. As such, the website doesn’t provide a lot of information, but it does boast of the following features:

  • Track your life —  users can track just anything from fitness and sleep to their current location.
  • Plug n’ Play — it’s compatible with quite a few devices and more apps/devices will be integrated soon
  • Access your data — store, sync, or download anything needed from devices
  • Visual dashboard — a personalized hub to help monitor progress and see results
  • Reports — data taken from devices can be generated into a report
  • Location Aware — This creates your “top places” and creates maps according to GPS data that can be imported.
It’s a pretty cool idea, and I think a lot of people will be attracted to the efficiency this innovation brings. If this turns out to be as good as it sounds, taking control of health will be even easier.
This tool has a lot of features I think anyone can enjoy. Data junkies will enjoy the graphs, charts, and information all neatly compiled together. Anyone who loves social media, especially things like FourSquare, won’t be able to resist the “Location Aware” feature. And anyone looking to simplify their lives, but still use all their favorite gadgets will probably find this useful.
Isn’t it incredible all of the new ideas that are coming forth? I was just thinking the other day — is there going to be anything better invented? It seems like just about everything I can think of has been! However, this is probably just the beginning. While I don’t have Fitbit, or any of the other currently-compatible devices, I’m definitely signing up for an invitation. Hopefully some of the apps I use will be compatible soon too .

September 27, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Smartphone Blood-Testing System Change the Way Tests Are Given

I found something today that really caught my idea — a handheld lab that can potentially eliminate the wait time for finding out blood test results. 

This handheld lab is a smartphone-enable blood-testing system. It was developed by researchers at the University of Rhode Island. Not only will it eliminate the long waiting period for test results, but requires less blood in order to be tested.

I know how frustrating  and, well, nerve racking, the wait game to be. And getting blood drawn is my least favorite thing because of my tiny veins — on average, I have to get poked three times before enough blood is taken. This was the exact case a few weeks ago when I had to get three vials of blood drawn, and then wait five long days for the results. Oh, how I would have loved for this technology to be at my doctor’s office.

It works like this:

What the university calls “lab-on-a-chip technology” needs just a drop of blood for analysis. The blood is placed on a disposable, credit card-sized plastic polymer cartridge and inserted into a hand-held biosensor, where it reacts with reagents so a sensor can detect certain disease biomarkers

While this doesn’t seem like it would work in all cases, it’s pretty neat. This will likely open the door for a lot more “instant result” innovations being created.

As I was reading the article, I thought — well, I wonder if this could be available to consumers. My answer was quickly answered part way through. Mohammad Faghri, the lead researcher, said that it can even be done from home. It’s another way for patients to take control of their health care. While the first generation version cost $3,200 for the sensor, the most recent version is only $10, making it very affordable for just about everyone.

September 26, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

FCC to Act on Key mHealth Task Force Recommendations

Government involvement is often a mixed bag when it comes to the development of new technologies.  There is definitely an upside to having an organization with huge amounts of money to spend supporting your new ideas.  On the other hand it can be quite the burden to wade through new regulations, or to compete with the aforementioned deep pockets.

In this case I think we are looking at a beneficial relationship that should aid in the development of new mHealth technologies.

One of the limiting factors when it comes to any technology is the infrastructure needed to support it.  It is all well and good to have an idea that will change the world, but if the platform doesn’t exist to support it, then it really doesn’t matter.

The FCC has now taken it upon themselves to put their own backing into the development of mHealth technologies.  Steps such as reinforcing the broadband networks in less developed areas, and even establishing a health care director at the FCC to focus on health related issues.

Some of coolest technology that was discussed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is the development of Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN) and Medical Micropower Networks (MMN).

MBANs are networks made of wireless sensors as small as a band-aid that can monitor a patient’s vitals and send that data to healthcare providers.  The US is the first country in the world to make spectrum available for this use.

MMNs have the potential to provide even more life-changing results.  They involve low power wideband networks of transmitters that essentially replace damaged or destroyed nerve cells.  This technology could help paraplegics learn to walk again, and even restore vision in some cases.

It truly never ceases to amaze me what the human mind can create, and it is reassuring to see a government agency that is making a concerted effort to try to foster that development.  Opening the door for these technologies is a huge step towards developing technologies that will change the lives of millions.

September 25, 2012 I Written By

Healthy Eating Infographics and Visualization by Massive Health

Massive Health has created this really interesting page which shows a fascinating visualization of how healthy we eat. Plus, they have 5 infographics on healthy eating as well. I’ve embedded one of them below. Very cool! I love when people use data for good.

September 20, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Succeeding in the mHealth App Creation Frenzy — Make It Simple and Valuable

Since we’re on the topic of making apps easier to use, I thought I’d comment on another article I read at Fierce Mobile Care.

Mobile health apps are being created left and right. Some are successful, others are not. The question many developers should be asking themselves is how to separate their app from one of the more than 10,000 medical and healthcare apps currently available? Show value and make it simple, according to this article.

The author of the article makes a good point:

The problem is that too many of the apps are duplicative. After all, how many BMI calculators does a person need? Far fewer are focused on managing chronic conditions, though apps to help manage diabetes tend to be among the most popular.

I imagine a BMI calculator is far more simple to make than an app that is designed to help treat chronic illnesses. But like this person said . . . how many BMI calculators do you actually need? To be honest, I don’t even need one — I have a browser that can give me that information just as quickly, plus it doesn’t take up room on my phone.

The article referenced another articles called “What’s the Matter With Mobile Health Apps Today?” There were a lot of interesting points made, and I think that this graph really displays her opinion well:

I download lots of mHealth apps to my phone, and to be honest, most of them end up getting deleted after I realize I never use them. Which is sad, I know, but life gets busy and I don’t find them absolutely essential to my life, and many of them are just time consuming to understand. Rhona Finkel, author of the article explains the phenomenon (and it makes me feel better to know that only 20 percent of users use an app again the day after it’s downloaded; 5 percent after a month, and almost 0 at 3 months):

Fundamentally, it seems, it’s a little like starting a new exercise program.  Everyone starts off enthusiastic, buys a new running outfit, fits themselves with a new pair of Nikes and sets off running every day. By week two it’s down to a light job twice a week. A month into it people are back in their sweats, sitting around the TV with a bowl of potato chips.

It’s like Rhona was watching my life.

But why is it that apps aren’t “sticking?” Are the only ones that really get used consistently ones that are “prescribed” to patients — and even then, those apps probably go largely unused. Here’s Rhona’s guess:

I’ll tell you what’s wrong in a nutshell. It’s boring and time-consuming to enter the data required by so many apps to get the most bang for your buck. I mean to enter my calories consumed, my medicines taken, my notes in my gratitude journal. But in the end I’m really more of a potato-chip-on-the-couch type of app consumer than one enthusiastically willing to exercise my fingers and thumbs.

The bottom line is, an app needs to be interesting. Interesting enough that person is excited to open it, rather than dread it. We live in a world where people get bored easily. Should apps incorporate games, music, and lots of flashy things? I don’t think so. That’s not what health is all about. H&HN Daily’s writer Ian Morrison suggests “that complexity and confusion are also a major part of consumer engagement issues . . . [and] advises that hospitals keep it simple with their products and services because patients are reluctant to engage in their health with confusing option.”

mHealth apps are supposed to make our lives easier, and really, I think they would if we spent as much time using them as we do playing Angry Birds. Have any of you found apps that meet the goals of showing value and being simple?

September 19, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Payer Driven mHealth and Mobile Apps as Pharma

David Lee Scher, MD offered this fascinating insight into the Mobile App as Pharma discussion:

My assessment of this question is that saturation of the entire market will only occur if enough excellent apps which provide an impact are found to be of similar efficacy. This will need to be borne out of comparative studies (the performance of which I think will be driven by payers). There might very well be saturation of sectors of the industry, such as fitness, wellness, diabetes and other specific disease management tools, remote monitoring, and others. Expansion of the industry has, at this point far exceeded adoption in clinical practice. This provides an opportunity to fairly rapidly compare products, and not be dependent necessarily on a few which may not prove effective. There will continue to be a robust growth period, but, as in the pharma industry, the clear winners and workhorse apps will be likened to brand named drugs, and others will be considered either ‘me toos’ or generics. I don’t think this analogy is too off-base as apps will be entities that are prescribed. Sales of apps will be done virtually (as most pharma will be as well). Efforts by Johns Hopkins and others to demonstrate efficacy will go a long way in vetting the winners and losers on one level giving people guidance. just my personal perspective.

First, I agree that payers will likely drive the studies and then user of these apps.

Second, I look forward to places like Johns Hopkins testing the efficacy of apps. The big winners of these studies will be very big winners. Plus, the big winners from these studies are going to be very big winners. It’s actually the perfect study since whether you find that the app is effective or not, you have something to publish.

I look forward to this suite of mobile health apps that dramatically improve healthcare. I don’t think we’re that far from it.

September 18, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

App Developers Urged to Consider Older Generations

Earlier today, I was involved in a discussion about technology, and how “older generations” have a harder time understanding, or even wanting to be involved, in the latest innovations. As I listened to others talk about this topic, I couldn’t help but think about how often I see articles in the health care IT world concerning this very idea. Older doctors are hesitant to embrace EMRs. Smart phone apps can be confusing for someone who grew up with a phone that you had to spin the dial to call anyone (and, well, they can be confusing for me too!). We came to the conclusion that most of us just don’t like change, and someday, when we’re being told we need to “get with the times,” we’ll be longing for the early days of smart phones and technology.

Anyways, after this discussion, I was reading the latest articles over at Fierce Mobile Health Care, and came across one that seemed pertinent to the topic. Apparently, quite a few of the diabetes apps have posed some problems for older users. The article cites a study that was done that analyzed three different diabetes tracking apps that had a 4 star rating or above. The researchers discovered that “for people with declines in cognition, vision, and motor skills, they can be difficult to use — which might lead to a stop in their use entirely.”

Because of this study, the researchers, North Carolina State University’s Laura Whitlock and Anne McLaughlin, are hoping to convince app designers to consider the needs of older users when developing apps. They found that many of the problems in the three apps analyzed were easily fixed, but if they weren’t fixed, many older users would have a hard time using them.

There has been a lot of success with diabetes tracking and adherence apps, especially with people ages 13 to 19. However, because diabetes is a disease that many older people have, it would be nice if these apps could be made more accessible to them. They need to be simple. The text needs to be bigger, and the colors must be easy to read. It may not seem like a big deal to a teenager, or young adults, but for someone who hasn’t been raised with this kind of technology — it makes a big difference.

I do hope that app developers will take the needs of this “older generation” in mind as they create apps. Maybe two different versions could be made — a more “advanced” version, and a simple one. I believe that many people could benefit from health apps, and they should be easily usable by everyone. Obviously, some apps can be designed towards people who are more tech savvy. But for apps that deal with diseases that may affect a large demographic of people, some of the suggestions made in this article should be taken into consideration.

September 14, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Studycure: Experiment Your Way to Better Health

Next on the list on our journey through a list of five personal data innovations to watch that I talked about last week is Studycure.

Now, before I get everyone too excited, this website is in beta, so it’s a bit rough. You have to request an invitation, but I got mine within about five minutes of registering. Despite all that, I love the idea of Studycure.

To put it simply, it’s part motivation to get healthier and happier, part experiment. Sometimes, when you are trying to accomplish a certain goal, such as weight loss, it’s hard to know what is working, and what is not. Studycure users take a basic, scientific procedure — an if, then statement — and apply it to different “theories” concerning their health. You can select any amount of time you want to test out your if, then experiment, and at the end of that time period, the data is analyzed and helps you to make a decision on that particular theory. As I’m writing this, it sounds kind of confusing, but it makes total sense. Here’s a video from the website, which makes things far more clear:

There are quite a few different sections, like sleep, diet, exercise, and spirituality. Before creating my own tasks, I decided to see what other experiments were going on. By doing this, I was able to get a better feel for the website. People can put a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on experiments that are listed, and you can join ones that have already been created. Because a lot of the experiments that were already created were along the same lines as what I was going to do, I just joined those. The more the merrier, right? You can invite friends and family to join in, or just to see progress. You can even share the data with healthcare professionals.

Here are the four I decided to try out for seven days:

IF: I turn off my computer at 11pm, THEN: I won’t feel tired in the morning

IF: I make a ‘to-do’ list, THEN: I will be less stressed

IF: I eat breakfast, THEN: I’ll lose weight

IF: I exercise for 20 minutes or more each day, THEN: I will feel happier

From what I gather, users receive email or text reminders throughout the day, encouraging them to keep going. As the video mentioned, articles and studies that are discovered concerning your topics of choice will be recommended, as well as studies you can participate in. At the end of your “experiment,” you can determine whether or not it really worked or not by using the data compiled by Studycure.

I’m excited to see if this works. It’s definitely an interesting idea and I think there is a lot of potential for expansion. I could see doctors using Studycure to try and determine patterns in patients lives, and help them eliminate (or create) certain habits. Only time will tell if Studycure will take off. Have you joined or created any experiments on Studycure?

September 11, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Sano Intelligence Creates A New Way For Patients to Monitor Health

Personal data tracking is one of the latest trends in the mHealth. There’s a lot of data tracking devices available, making it easier than ever to track health and exercise. Allie Hastings, at TheNextWeb.com, wrote about five personal data tracking innovations to watch out for a few weeks ago. These are some pretty awesome devices, so I decided to look more into them and share what I found with all of you.

Today, I’ll discuss Sano Intelligence.

First off, what is it?

According to its website, “Sano is building a small, wearable sensor that can capture and transmit blood chemistry data continuously to virtually any device.”

So I’ll admit, when I first read this, I wasn’t totally sure what it meant. However, I soon discovered that this has the potential to change lives. Already, Sano is able to report glucose and potassium levels. It’s a patch, and as far as I can tell, doesn’t require any needles. I can only imagine how much easier that would make life for diabetics who are always having to monitor their blood sugar levels with blood samples.

Sano Intelligence appears to be expanding the solution to monitor other health issues. The possibilities seem endless. Wouldn’t it be great if people that are constantly having to get their blood drawn, could use something like this — like people who have Leukemia, or other types of cancer, where CBC is monitored. I’m not sure that it will be able to track everything, but it’s definitely a big step in the right direction for patient home monitoring. For those that have a hard time remembering to test themselves, the fact that Sano is wearable is a big deal. It sounds like you can just put it on and then forget about it, more or less.

This is definitely the beginning of a new era of home monitoring devices, and Sano is setting the bar high. Hopefully, other companies will take it as a challenge, and we’ll see similar devices released in the future. I’m excited to see what else Sano Intelligence has up their sleeve, as they continue to fullfill their mission — to make diagnostics continuous, connected, and cheap,

September 7, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Detect Heart Rate With iPhone Camera — #HITsm Chat Discovery

This is the continuation of the #HITsm Tweet Chat Highlights series. 

I am pretty starry eyed with all of the #telehealth innovations these days. Anyone check out MIT’s Cardiio ap on the iPhone? #HITsm

— Melody Smith Jones (@MelSmithJones) August 24, 2012 

The Cardiio app gets your heart rate from your iPhone camera. #HITsm

— Melody Smith Jones (@MelSmithJones) August 24, 2012

I’ve heard of mobile apps that detect heart rate, but Cardiio (yes, with two eyes) seems pretty cool. First off, it doesn’t require any special equipment. Secondly, it seems so simple to use. As this tweet says, it measures your heart rate from your iPhone camera.  You just look into the camera (it has to be an iPhone 4S…sorry early generation-ers), and the user’s heart rate is shown quickly. It also has a “personal dashboard” feature. Here, the user can see a visualization of their heart rate at different times during the day, week, and month. The app also analyzes your heart rate to create a “fitness level” based on an averaging of the past seven days. It creates a “life expectancy” estimate, and compares your stats to the rest of the world. While I’m not sure I want to see what this app says my fitness level is, or see my predicted dying age, it’s a pretty awesome app from what I can see. If only it wasn’t just for the iPhone, I’d be downloading it right now. I was curious about how this works, so luckily the website for Cardiio explains it:

Every time your heart beats, more blood is pumped into your face. This slight increase in blood volume causes more light to be absorbed, and hence less light is reflected from your face. Using sophisticated software, your iPhone’s front camera can track these tiny changes in reflected light that are not visible to the human eye and calculate your heart beat!

It is $4.99, but considering no fancy gadgets are required for it to work (well, beyond the iPhone 4S), that’s a price I’d be willing to pay. Download it for the iPhone here.

Download here

September 4, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.