Archive | September, 2011

28 Hours of RxPact, a Social Reminders App for Medication Adherence

30 Sep

I showed up a couple days early for the Health 2.0 Code-a-thon last weekend and went to the code-a-thon, where we were supposed to go from idea to team formation to development to demo in 28 hours, competing for $13K in prize money.

My team, composed of people who previously knew each other little or not at all, made an app with social reminders and social rewards for remembering to take your medications on time. We won the $3K Novartis prizeContinue reading

More Interesting Projects from Health 2.0

30 Sep

In the Behavior Change Category

Mobile adventure walks is an iphone app in beta. Someone authors a “walk”, which is like a tour with waypoints. You follow the yellow brick road on a map on your phone, using GPS. At each waypoint, there’s a multiple choice question that you can answer by looking around– forces you to actually go there, and to notice interesting things about your surroundings. Informally, they have already found that people who author tours then want to get their friends and family to take them, which gets them walking. It seems like a nice little tool to make taking walks a little more fun, for the crowd who aren’t yet “exercisers”. They’ve tried it in suburbs, with positive response, so you don’t need to have sites of great public interest at the waypoints for it to be fun. A related idea is scvngr, which has challenges that you can only do at specific locations, so you move around in order to get to the places where you can do them.

Keith Hutchings told me about his work on imoveyou.com (nee GetUpandMove.me). It was a platform for making microchallenges to your friends (I’ll do five pushups if you’ll dance to two songs), sort of a fitness version of the community-service oriented pledgebank.com. It appears to be down now, but perhaps I can analyze some of their old log data. Their founder Jen McCabe has now moved on to co-found HabitLabs, which has a new app bud.ge, in the works, which I might profile later.

HealthPer is another gamification of health site (games, points, rewards, challenges and competitions).

In the Judgment/Decision Making Category

CareCoach is an iPhone and Android app that helps you prepare for a doctor’s visit collaboratively with family members (preparing a list of questions to ask), and then takes an audio recording of the visit and lets you share it with friends. It also lets you listen in advance to recordings of strangers’ exam room visits, so that you can be better prepared for what to expect, and therefore process your own visit better. It sounds very promising.

In the Social Support Category

glu is a community for type 1 diabetes patients and their families, in closed beta right now. You identify yourself with a attributes and it tries to match you with similar others, if I recall correctly from the presentation a few days ago now.

Seen at Health 2.0: Health Applications With a Social Element

27 Sep

At the Health 2.0 Conference, I’ve been scouting for companies and apps that are using social elements to promote health and wellness. Here’s what I’ve found so far, on stage, in the exp, and from random conversations.

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Tracking and Sharing Moods With My Wife (Part I)

19 Sep

Inspired by others’ experiences reported in my last post, my wife and I want to try tracking and sharing our moods for a while. I’ve now spent spent several hours searching and evaluating the many different apps out there. Surprisingly, I haven’t found anything that will do it.

Here were the features I was looking for, and where various otherwise promising apps seemed to fall flat:

  • Very simple to record a mood, with optional text note, on iPhones. MoodScope, for example, has no iPhone app, and while the card metaphor for recording a score on each of several dimensions makes for a beautiful interface, it takes a long time to record a mood.
  • Ability to share with my wife, any only my wife, the updates I post. The simplest way, I think, would be to post them to Facebook, and then configure Facebook privacy settings to only share posts from that app with her. The only app I found that came close to offering this was MoodPanda, but in order to share with anyone on Facebook, I had to shared with everyone on MoodPanda. One app, from Track & Share, let’s you email a CSV of your data to anyone. Most apps had no export at all. I was surprised not to find “share with buddies” or at least “share with caregiver” or “share with lifecoach” as a common feature. If anyone works for any of the companies that have developed these apps, I’m curious whether this is just a low priority feature, or whether it was a deliberate design decision.
  • Alerts at random times to prompt input (like in Experience Sampling.) One app, GottaFeeling, sends four random reminders per day, but the number and time weren’t configurable, and it didn’t meet my other needs above. The Harvard University research project, Track Your Happiness, uses experience sampling (it sends you text messages or emails at random times) but doesn’t seem to have the sharing facility.

So, at least for now, here’s our plan:

  • We set up two new twitter accounts that are not publicly followable and that follow each other.
  • We agree on a very simple micro-format: each tweet begins with a number from 1-10, and then a space, and then any text or pics or links we want.
  • I’ll write a program that harvests the data and puts it into nice graphs for us occasionally.
  • I’m not sure what I’ll do about the alerts at random times. I couldn’t find an iPhone app that does that. If I had a Mac and wanted to learn iPhone programming, I suppose it would be a simple task to create one, but I don’t think I’m going there. Perhaps write a program that sends SMS messages at random times? Looks like there are cloud services that will send out SMS messages for you at a very low price (e.g., Twilio).

Wanna Know How I Feel?

19 Sep

There are a bunch of apps that track your self-reported mood. (See a compilation)

One of them, Jon Cousins’ MoodScope, encourages people to share their moods with a few buddies. Buddies can check the web site, or be notified each time you record a new mood score.

Cousins tells a great story about how he was inspired to create the tool, based on his own experience. He was tracking his mood for a while. When he started publishing it to five buddies, he immediately stopped having ups and downs, and that continued with do dips for more than a year. Watch the video, skipping to around minute 6 or 7 if you don’t want the full runup.

Alexandra Carmichael has a slightly different story about the social effects of sharing mood data. In her case, it didn’t magically eliminate mood swings, but she reports a few other findings. First, after about a month her moods began to align with her friend’s. Second, sharing moods with the friend strengthened the friendship; now they are best friends. And even though it hasn’t magically made her happy all the time, she thinks that the sharing and reflecting together about their moods makes her accountable for taking care of herself and “reminds me of who I am and how I want to live”.

Sharing something as personal as our moods clearly puts us in a vulnerable position. But perhaps that’s why it’s so powerful.

Stay Hydrated, My Friend

16 Sep

In a paper at the 2009 Ubicomp conference, Hao-Hua Chu and his students and colleagues presented results of a trial of a system that encourages people to drink more water. They built a tracker that sensed water consumption from a special bottle.

Some subjects got an individual feedback app. When they drank enough, their tree avatar was healthy; when they didn’t, it lost its leaves.

Five subjects got a version with two social features:

  1. They could see small representations of the other four users’ tree avatars
  2. They could send reminders to other users (in the form of heart icons, suggesting “I care about you, so drink!”)

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Social Game Helps Elders Take Pills On Time

15 Sep

Researchers Rodrigo de Oliveira, Mauro Cherubini,  and Nuria Oliver, at Telefonica, in Spain, developed a mobile phone app that tries to make it more engaging to try to take your medications on time. They tested it with 18 elders. It worked!

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