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3 Keys to Healthcare Gaming

Jonah Comstock has a great article over on mobi health news about Ayogo building an adherence game for big pharma. The article is short on details since Michael Fergusson, CEO of Ayogo, wasn’t given permission to demonstrate the game. However, the article highlights three elements that I have yet to see really done well in the “gaming healthcare” space. Each one of them is incredibly powerful and could change healthcare, but I have yet to see them implemented well. They are:

  • Social
  • Fun
  • Competition

I can’t think of three more powerful motivators that exist. People love to be social (see Facebook). We love to have fun. Most of us also love a good competition.

It sounds like Ayogo is trying incorporate all 3 of these elements into an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that helps to improve prescription compliance. You don’t need all 3 elements to create a successful application, but how powerful it is if you can nail all three of them.

I think the concept of healthcare gaming is an important one and someone is going to finally crack the code. The problem I’ve seen is that the healthcare games I’ve seen too date are too much healthcare and not enough game. As I’ve written about before, health improvement needs to be a side effect of enjoying the game. Basically, you should want to play the game whether there was a health benefit or not. That’s a high barrier to overcome, but has a nice pot of gold waiting on the other side for whoever cracks the code.

June 28, 2013 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.

Lumosity: An Exercise Program For Your Brain

So often, we focus on our physical health, but neglect our mental health. All forms of dementia are devastating. Many people complain of brain fog. Thousands of people suffer from attention disorders. While I don’t claim to know the cure for any of these things (or even the cause) I do think that exercising the mind is just as important as exercising your body. I mean, if your brain fails, then your life ceases to exist. It’s a pretty important thing to take care of!

I saw a commercial today for a website called Lumosity.com. It sparked my interest, so I decided to check it out. The website says that it “turns neuroscience breakthroughs into fun, effective games” and it’s a way to “harness your brains neuroplasticity [the brain’s ability to grow and expand] and train your way into a brighter life.”

To be honest, it seems like it is set up a bit like an exercise website. When you sign up, you answer some questions about where you want changes to be made. Changes can be made in any of five categories, all of which have subcategories. These categories are memory, attention, speed, flexibility, and problem solving. You can select as many or as few of these categories as you want. After doing this, you can create an account and view your free and personalized training program, and you can personalize your training even further.

The program changes with you — as you get better at the challenges, you get newer ones. Each of the “sessions” include a variety of games to help you improve in the areas you initially selected. You get points very every game you do, to help you track your progress. The games are actually pretty fun, and challenging, and scientifically developed to help increase your brain function.

The basic version of Lumosity is free, but if you really want to get into the program, there are paid options. This gives you more games each day, more personalized training, and more. People spend hundreds, maybe even thousands, on personal training at a gym, as well as countless hours…so why not spend some of those valuable resources on making sure your brain is in tip-top shape? I thought this was a cool idea, and I think it could be a great resources for anyone wanting to exercise their mind. Apparently, 97% of Lumosity users improve after just 10 hours of training (which can be seen in the personalized tracking portion of the website.)_

Lumosity Brain Trainer is also available as a free download for iOS devices.

June 10, 2013 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.

Lose Weight and Win Money With DietBet

After I posted about the study that found financial incentives to be a good motivator for weight loss, I have been on the lookout for more websites popping up like Gym Pact. I was curious to see how much something like this would motivate me, and since I no longer belong to a gym, Gym Pact was out of the question. Well, today a friend of my sent me an invitation to a website called DietBet, and I was immediately intrigued.

DietBet is a 4-week program, where participants need to lose 4% of their body weight (or more) in order to get any of the “pot.” You can create your own challenge, or join someone else’s, and pay a certain sum of money to participate. For instance, the one I joined was $25. And let me tell you, I’m more motivated than ever before to lose weight, even just to get back my $25.

Whenever a new person enters your group, the pot rises. I was looking at the top game, and it’s at almost $9,000. I wouldn’t mind being part of that group! When the date arrives for the contest to begin, you have to take two photos  — one full length photo of you on a scale in “airport security” attire, and one of the scale, the number on it, and a piece of paper with a weigh-in word, to prove it’s actually you. I was wondering how they would do this, actually, and it seems like they’ve got it under control! These photos are kept private, and you don’t have to share your weight with the others in the competition.

During the competition, you can post photos, write comments, and just interact with others in the game. There is also an iPhone app companion for the game, which I thought was nice.  Starting on the last day of the competition, you have 48 hours to “weigh out”

I really believe that money is a great motivator for just about anything, and I’m interested to see if I actually have any success using this site. (PS, if you want to join in, my group starts on April 29th. The more the merrier!)

April 19, 2013 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.

SlimKicker Turns Tracking Food and Exercise Into a Game

If incentives cause people to lose weight, does competition do it as well? Well, SlimKicker, might prove if that is true as well.

At first glance, SlimKicker looks like just about any other food and exercise diary. You can enter exercise, food, and track your weight and other goals. However, it hosts different challenges that its users can join, and some of them yield actual prizes — not just badges like many sites have. Many of the challenges give you points for winning, which I will talk about next.

SlimKicker is similar to Weight Watchers in the sense that is point-based. However, instead of losing points for the foods you eat, you get them. The healthier the food, the more points you get. And what can you use the points for? From what I can tell, you can redeem them for prizes, but I have yet to figure out

One of my favorite parts of SlimKicker is the visualization aspect of it. You can upload a photo of the rewards that you want, when you reach a certain goal our level. When you reach those, SlimKicker lets you know, and you can redeem the reward. While it is up to you to provide the reward “promised,” it’s a nice reminder to see a reward whenever you login.

SlimKicker’s goal is to help its users keep motivation. How many of us have gotten all revved up about a new exercise regimen, or diet, only to give up on it a week later? I know I’m not the only one. With the challenges and inspiration feed that SlimKicker has, it is easier to stay motivated.

I know I talk a lot about food and exercise trackers here, but there are just so many, and to be honest, many of them have really unique features. One of the best ways to stay healthy, and out of the doctor’s office, is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and by using these websites and apps, you can do just that.

There is a free app for iOS devices, which can be downloaded here.

March 25, 2013 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.

Health IT Positively Affects Childhood Obesity

According to a study done by Pediatrics recently, more than one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. That’s a very scare figure, because that definitely increases the child’s chance of diseases like type-2 diabetes, and adult obesity. The authors of the study also noted that childhood obesity is often times undertreated and goes undiagnosed. As sad as it is, I have seen this

The study set out to see if Health IT may improve the “quality, efficiency and reach of chronic disease management,” according to this article. According to another article about this study, some of the parts of the study that are most relevant towards health IT included that “telemedicine was as effective as in-person counseling at reducing BMI and that text messaging and phone support were associated with weight loss maintenance.”

Combating childhood obesity is something I am very passionate about. As a child, and into my teenage years, I could have been classified as extremely overweight — probably even obese. While I’ve worked very hard to beat the statistics, and get my weight down to a now healthy weight, it is something that truly has affected my entire life to this day. And the thing is, when I was at the unhealthy weight that I was, no one said anything. No doctor, my parents, or anyone. Sure, I was encouraged to take a PE class here and there, and perhaps not take seconds — but no one saw that problem for what it was. Because of the things I went through, I want more than anything to prevent my own children from becoming overweight themselves. Reading this study, and seeing how health IT can positively affect childhood obesity was neat. While I think too much screen time can really contribute to the problem, I’m glad that there efforts out there to try and get kids involved in their own health, particularly by using electronics — something that most kids love. I hope that more Health IT developers will see the importance of creating apps, programs, and devices geared toward children. I couldn’t find any, but it would be cool if there were exercise apps that kids could put on their iPods that are similar to ones that adults have, but that are geared toward exercises more children participate in.  In my research, I found a few health IT apps and websites aimed toward kids that I think could be helpful:

Food Hero:
This is a game that was created by HealthSocial, a non-profit project based at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. To win the game, the child must “become” a food hero. To do this, the child must make their character make healthy choices, like eating healthy food and exercising, and earning gold along the way. If the character eats too much, physical challenges become more difficult. However, if too little is eaten, the character has difficult participating as well. The goal is to ultimately eat healthy meals. It seems like this game would be a great visual for children to see what happens when you don’t have balanced meals.

Food ‘N Me:
This website was created to promote healthy living in children. It has interactive games, quizzes like “What Food Am I.” This quiz has the child choose the foods they have eaten throughout the day, and it gives a rating at the bottom of the screen, telling the child how balanced it was. At the end of the quiz, it tells you what kind of food you are, based on your choices. For instance, if you eat primarily grains, it will say you are a bagel. The website also features the game Smash Your Food, which is also available on mobile devices, and I’ll talk about next.

Smash Your Food:
This app was on Michelle Obama’s “Apps for Health Kids” contest. Whether the person is using it online or on a mobile device, it works about the same. You get to “smash” foods — from milkshakes, hamburgers, to healthy, homemade meals. — and it tells you what it is made of.  The goal of it is to encourage children (and their parents) to understand what is in their meals, and to make healthy choices at home and on the go. It can be accessed at the Food ‘N Me website, or downloaded for the iPhone or iPad here for 2.99.

February 13, 2013 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.

mHealth Trend Predictions For 2013

On the healthcare section of InformationWeek.com, I read an article about Health IT Predictions for 2013. Not all of them dealt with mHealth, but several did. I thought it would be interesting to post those few ideas here and then come back at the end of the year to see how true they were.

  • HIEs and body sensors will drive growth in analytics and data mining: First of all, I feel like I see a new body sensor on the market every day. Because of this, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see body sensors leading the way in mHealth, particularly when it comes to gathering information. I think that HIEs and body sensors are definitely becoming mainstream, and it won’t be long before we see them being used in doctor’s offices and patients every where
  • Patients will become more responsible for care: I think many patients are beginning to see the importance of being responsible for their care. I know I am. And with the help of mHealth, it is easier than ever. The article said that “mobile access to personal information will promote the migration to a more patient-centered model, encouraging individual engagement and responsibility in healthcare management.” I do think there will be a very apparent shift to this. No longer are the days where patients just totally rely on their doctors for information. I know I’m grateful for access to my personal health records — otherwise, information on my low vitamin d levels may have slipped through the cracks (my PCP’s office ‘misplaced’ the results and forgot to call me).
  • Consumers will dictate the path healthcare technology takes: mHealth is very much driven by the consumer, and the more vocal patients are about what they want, the more likely it will happen. Because of the growth of mHealth, more people might be willing to voice their opinion on what types of technologies and apps they want created. Consumers do have a lot power when it comes to the future of mHealth.
  • Cloud storage and mobile will explode: We have already see the growth and “explosion” of mHealth in the past year or so, and it’s only going to continue. I think 2013 is going to be a huge year for mHealth. I’m excited to see what will happen.

What are some other predictions for mHealth in the coming year? Are there any types of apps or technologies that you’d like to see developed? I think there will be even more doctors and physicians becoming involved in social media, and seeing the benefit in doing so, in addition to some of the things mentioned above.

January 8, 2013 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.

Blood Oxygen Monitor Now Available For iOS Devices

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the smart socks – a device that was designed to prevent SIDS and measure the oxygen saturation level in the blood of infants. While that has a ways to go, I just saw a tweet about a new device designed to do the same thing, using a smart phone. It’s called the iSpO2, and it’s available for the iPhone and iPad.

The device isn’t cheap — Amazon.com has it for over 250 dollars right now. However, most mHealth devices  do require some sort of financial investement, at least the ones that mimic something in the doctor’s office.

The website lists some different people that could benefit from using this device. It  mentions high altitude sports participants and pilots. I thought these were interesting suggestions, since I probably would have just thought of people who were struggling to breathe, or infants. But I guess anyone can become hypoxic, especially those doing something at a high altitude. The site also states that the “only practical way to know if you are hypoxic or in danger of becoming hypoxic is to use a pulse oximeter.” And since most people probably don’t own one, and that’s kind of scary (though, I’m sure there are physical symptoms that may indicate this.)

the iSpO2 monitor attaches to an iPhone or iPad through the charging port, and the oxygen saturation level and pulse rate is measured by placing a sensor on the users hand (not unlike one used in a doctor’s office for children.) The levels are then displayed relatively quickly, and can be charted over time. At sea-level, a normal SpO2 level is between 95 and 100%.

Data can be emailed and downloaded, which is probably helpful for one reason or another. I’ll be honest, I really want one of these devices — or the smart socks — because my son’s SpO2 levels are often spotty at doctor’s appointments (typically in the low 90s). But at the price, I probably won’t be getting one for awhile. I’m hoping we’ll see more devices like those coming out though in the future, there’s definitely a need for them in my opinion — even if it’s just for sporting and aviation.

The website does state that it isn’t intended for medical use, but moreso for climbers, hikers, and pilots. 

January 3, 2013 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.

MyCrisisRecords Offers Peace of Mind In Emergency Situations

It’s always nice to get feedback from readers, especially when they alert me to other apps. With some of my recent lists, I can’t always post all the great apps pertaining to a particular topic. While I try to do a thorough job researching, I obviously have room for error just because of the vast number of apps out there. So I definitely encourage readers and app creators to let us know if you have a great app that I should talk about. On that note, the CEO and founder of My Crisis Record contacted us about his service, and I thought it would be good to talk about. I focus a lot on mHealth apps around here, and this is an alternative to having all your medical information stored in an app.

MyCrisisRecords offers a place to store medical information safely and remotely and access them in a variety of ways, depending on the membership plan they choose. There are a few different plans, ranging from free to 14.99 a year. The free membership includes access to their Personal Health Care Record (PHRC) online, while the 14.99 plan has a lot more options. You can register here and view all the details of each plan, but here are a few features that can be used.

  • MY Crisis Card: This is a card that you put in your wallet that has a personalized QR code on it. A medical professional and emergency responder can take the card, scan the code, and all your medical information will be displayed on their smartphone or tablet.
  • MyShareFile: This allows the user to upload diagnostic files to their PHCR, so they can be easily shared and accessed by medical professionals.
  • My Crisis Capsule: A flash-drive like device that contains all your medical information (that you have submitted to your profile) pops up as soon as it is
  • Mobile: The ability to access your PHRC mobiley

After I registered, I went to see what kind of information you could enter. And I wasn’t disappointed. They sure didn’t seem to leave anything out. This could definitely be very helpful in case of an emergency. I like how there are different plans available, just according to whatever your needs are, and even the most expensive plan isn’t that bad. The information is stored securely and can only be accessed on the web with a password.

I did find the website to be a bit confusing. At this point, I’m not entirely sure if everyone gets the My Crisis Capusle, regardless of the plan they sign up for, or if it is only included in the highest plan. I also found it hard to find the information I was looking for at times (like the prices for plans), and it was a little information heavy in some places.

Overall, this program should definitely be one that anyone wanting to be a little more prepared should look into. It’s a nice alternative to storing the information on a mobile app, or on paper, though it can be accessed both those ways (a copy of the PHRC can be printed off if desired.)

December 10, 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.

Striiv Ups the Standard for Pedometers — Games, Challenges, and Charity Incorporated

The amount of pedometers I have owned in my life is a bit ridiculous. Granted, most of them have been free, or cost less than five dollars…but the fact of the manner is — I usually end up losing them as a result of forgetting to use it in the first place.

Striiv, a company that aims to create products that get people walking, has recently come out with two new products to achieve that goal. The first, a $99 pedometer that has tons of features. And the second? Something that anyone who tends to lose pedometers will appreciate.

Both the pedometers were created with activity based games with one goal in mind — to get people moving. The actual pedometer “turns 10,000 steps a day into playing a game, donating to charity, and competing with friends,” according to the Strivv website.

It really looks like a lot of fun. The device is pretty small, and looks like a cell phone. It tracks steps, mileage, and has challenges and tournaments. One of the coolest things about the device is that the more the user uses it, the more customized the experience becomes. It starts to learn habits and adapt to lifestyles. And instead of simply just showing the amount of calories burned, or miles walked, the device shows food items that have been burned, and shows distances like walking across the golden gate bridge.

Every step a person walks while using the Striiv Smart Pedometer, money gets donated to charity. This is a free service to the user, and goes to a great cause.

It also has a fun fitness game called “My Land.” Here is the description of it from the website:

MyLand is the first ever fitness based game on a pedometer. The concept is simple. You start with an enchanted island and your goal is to bring back the animals that inhabit the island by planting the building trees and places to live. Everything you build is based on how much you walk, run, and take the stairs though. So the more you move, the more you progress.

For anyone that likes games or is competitive, this sounds like the perfect motivation!

Now for those who can’t afford the $99 price tag, or just simply want to incoporate a pedometer into their phone, the free app from Striiv is a great idea. I mean, I always have my phone with me. Almost no chance of losing it, right?

The app creates customized challenges to “hit throughout the day.” It keeps track of distances and calories burned (Striiv actually teamed up with MyFitnessPal to help track nutrition.) Users can compete against friends, or even people they don’t know, for some added motivation. It also creates graphs about weight loss and distance walked.

“MyLand” is also available on the app, so you won’t be missing out by just getting the free app. I wasn’t able to figure out if walking goes toward charity, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does.

I’ve often heard that walking is the first “step” toward becoming healthier. And it looks like Striiv is making great strides to making that easier and more enjoyable. I’d love to try out either of these, but I’ll just have to wait and see if the app comes out for Android.

Download the app for free here
Striiv Smart Pedometer can be purchased here

October 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.

10 Steps For Helping Patients Become Involved With mHealth

mHealth is here to stay. However, along with some caregivers, many patients may be hesitant to jump on the band wagon because they aren’t comfortable with handling health matters virtually. Bryce Williams, director of health and wellness at Blue Shield of California, was recently featured on a panel concerning patient engagement in mHealth. During the panel, he discussed 10 steps that should be taken to help with engaging patients in mobile and online health and wellness programs. These steps were: 7. Don’t rely on financial and other extrinsic incentives.

  1. Don’t be academic
  2. Make it fun
  3. Don’t build walled gardens
  4. Use trusted recruiters
  5. Encourage health competition
  6. Create a clear objective
  7. Don’t rely on financial and other extrinsic incentives
  8. Change it up
  9. Learn from the winners
  10. Measure it

These are some great ideas. Such as, beginning with a goal of 10,000 feet a day, and then changing that goal to 15,000. People tend to like a challenge, and if they become to accustom to a certain task, they may stop doing it. I think what is most important is making mHealth apps easy to use and fun. If something takes an hour to get into, freezes up the all the time, and then has no “fun” quality to it, who is going to use it? Probably no one. While it seems like people in their teens and twenties probably had social media and technology programmed in their brains from the time they were born, older generations may have a hard time using mHealth, so it needs to be easy to use.

What do you think about this? Should more companies be aware of the consumer and their needs when creating mobile platforms for patients to use?

More information on these steps can be found at this article on FierceMobileHealthCare.com

July 16, 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.