App awakenings

Putting the power of technology into the hands of the consumer
By Erin McCann
12:00 AM

It's an exciting time for consumers. Now, more than ever, they have access to tools that allow them to play active roles in tracking, maintaining and improving their health.
"People don't just want their data. They want to do something with that data," ONC chief Farzad Mostashari, MD, told the audience at Health Datapalooza IV in Washington, D.C., this past month.
Mobile applications have opened up a world of potential to the every day consumer -- calorie counters, medication reminders, disease support.
Some of the top 50 mobile health applications were demoed at Datapalooza, one among them being Tictrac, which tracks one's daily health activities and syncs with other mobile apps to give a single, holistic picture of what makes that individual tick.
Martin Blinder, chief executive officer of Tictrac, demoed the platform, which offers an impressive amalgamation of diverse health metrics. Users can sync the app with their emails, track stress levels and blood pressure. They can follow sleep patterns, count calories and foods they consume.
What's even cooler, Blinder explained, is the ability to cross reference one metric with any other metric. For instance, how do the number of emails and meetings correlate with one's stress level, and how do these stress levels impact blood pressure? Is one's diet correlated with stress and sleep patterns? A simple drag and drop will present the user with a clean, lucid graph of the metrics' relationship.
Blinder showed the audience his own personal dashboard. From the data, he's learned that stress causes a decrease in food consumption. Because of this, he can choose to receive food alerts, reminding him to eat when his stress levels are high.
The platform doesn't stop here, however, he explained. The user can give his or her physician access to Tictrac, and thus reliable, recorded data metrics like blood pressure can sync into the dashboard. Virtually any other mobile health application that tracks a certain metric can also sync with Tictrac.
"It literally starts to take in all these different data sets and through algorithms it starts to present me with content that is completely individualized to my own data, my own experience," said Blinder.
He cites a Tictrac-sanctioned study that enrolled 500 diabetes patients to use the platform to help manage their diabetes. Eighty-seven percent were daily active users, and 67 percent added more than 10 data points each week.
Furthermore, more than 50 percent of the patients actually lowered their calorie consumption using the platform. "We're helping to effect actual behavioral change," adds Blinder. "We hope that we'll enable people to take control of their health."
Another app that garnered some big attention and some big bucks at Health Datapalooza was Connect & Coach. The app developers walked away with a $100,000 grand prize for the "2013 Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge - Prove it!"
Designed specifically for registered dieticians and certified diabetes educations, Connect & Coach allows these health professionals to document all aspects of their patient's care via a Web-based platform. The app also connects to community supermarkets that interact with dieticians who then interact with patients via their health needs, all through the mobile platform.
It's not only beneficial to users with diabetes but also to the supermarkets who can access communication between the dietician and consumer to see how these interactions are changing consumer shopping patterns
When describing the app, Connect & Coach's Paul Sandberg said it best: "We have more than an app; we have an ecosystem."