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Cutting Through The Clutter of Connected Health Innovation

November 16, 2011

I had the pleasure of speaking this last week at the Future Forward meeting in Wellesley.  This is one of a series of meetings that brings together the Boston innovation and entrepreneurial community to hear about trends and opportunities.  My talk was on how technology is maturing to achieve consumer engagement in health and resultant behavior change.

In preparation for the meeting, I reflected back on the days when my colleague Doug McClure, now CTO at Healthreageous, and I envisioned what would be needed to bring connected health mainstream.  One area that has been troublesome has been the ease with which we can extract data from various home-monitoring sensors (blood pressure cuffs, pedometers, glucometers and the like) and get it into the cloud for analysis and utility.  At this point a variety of strategies exist, from plugging a device into your computer (via USB port) to the wireless home hub, to embedded mobile chips in the sensors themselves.  This cacophony suggests an integration nightmare.  Long before we founded Healthrageous, Doug and I thought device connectivity would give us an edge.

Fast forward 5 years and its hard to find a sensor that does not have some sort of wireless connectivity.  Many of them have connectivity integrated through a smartphone or home hub directly to the company’s website.

Device connectivity has largely been conquered.  So is that the market?  Well, there are countless sensors that you can buy and easily start tracking your own physiologic info and learning from the experience.  It is this phenomenon that was the genesis of the Quantified Self movement, now with meet-ups in many cities world wide.  It seems like selling products to this burgeoning market of self-tracking zealots might make sense.

The challenge is, it appears to be about 10% of the population.  Lots and lots of devices chasing a small and finite population…..

Then there is the deluge of smartphone apps.  More than 10,000 of them last count.  So are apps the answer? Well not exactly. It seems that 26% of the time apps are opened zero or one time.  Further, 75% of the time folks stop opening them at about the 10th try.  That is kind of discouraging. It seems that apps alone are not the answer.

Maybe there is some way to marry these two concepts. We know that data=self entry is a particularly weak strategy as it is subject to social desirability bias as a confounder. We all want to look good and healthy so we’re prone to report those readings that support this and somehow not report those readings that do not.

Healthrageous has taken the path of focusing on dynamic personalization.  With all of the data being collected about you, they are able to craft a uniquely motivational program of messaging for you. And it’s working.  Their early results show positive improvement in both blood pressure and activity monitoring.

Likewise Runkeeper is doing some interesting integrations with devices as is Gravity Eight.

These are just a few of the companies that now take advantage of the near ubiquitous tracking data that can be derived from consumer-level sensors, but seek to surround those data with strategies to draw the consumer in and create the opportunity for sustained behavior change.

The tools are:  social networking, incentives, games/contests, and automated coaching.

So if you are in the business of recommending investments or partnerships in the rapidly changing/growing space of connected health, the data is coming in.

Companies that figure out how to present objective data to consumers in a compelling way, combined with motivational coaching, social networks and gaming will succeed. Not all of these tools will be necessary.  But the trick will be finding out which one suits each individual.  Those entrants that have a highly customizable platform and an ability to sense what you as the consumer will respond to, will be the winners.



8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2011 4:54 pm

    There is so much information out there, and so many people to impart it to! And not all that information is relevant to individuals, and who wants to wade through a stack of facts to find the one that you want?

    As you say, the first post the post in this particular problem is going to make a hell of a lot of money!

  2. Chris Wigley permalink
    November 17, 2011 12:23 am

    I am puzzled by the statement ” We know that data=self entry is a particularly weak strategy as it is subject to social desirability bias as a confounder.”.
    I have never seen “connected” vital sign monitors for sale in stores, but these same stores all sell this equipment in the ‘manual’ form. It appears to me that what is missing is a way to make use of the manual data and interpret the data – not just to say blood pressure should be less than “x” but to interpret, say, a trend of steadily rising values, but still within ‘limits’. I may not want this information to be “in the cloud”, but I do want to know!

    • November 17, 2011 9:48 pm

      thanks for the comment. it appears i was not clear. social desirability bias refers to our tendency to want to ‘look good’. this is almost universal and for that reason we tend to selectively remember readings that make us look good. objective data collection is irrefutable. can’t argue with the facts. it is much better for encouraging accountability. As regards connected sensors, the day is near when they will all be connectable out of the box. The best example of that is the latest iPod Nano, which tracks steps and uploads them to Nike’s website right out of the box.

      • Chris Wigley permalink
        November 18, 2011 12:12 am

        Irt appears that “I” was not clear enough. I do not need to concern myself with others opinions if the only person to see “MY” data is myself. That is just one of the reasons why I would not want my information “out on the cloud”. But I do want to know what changes in my vital signs are signalling!

  3. November 17, 2011 5:26 am

    Here is a link to informative podcast I found at the interactive health portal – Follow this link:

    Stay up-to-date with latest podcasts and videos collected from the most authentic business and physician sources- all at one place:

    We are inviting contributions from other blogs that can offer quality insights into key healthcare trends globally.

  4. November 30, 2011 1:24 pm

    “….the data is coming…” and now, what to do with it.
    Dr. I have one answer that will work well in some circumstances.
    My company is about to announce a technology for Personal Safety that includes CARE components for patient monitoring at in facility, clinic, or home.

    We automate the process but use live monitoring to collect data and determine alertness and the ability to provide information. We also do live check-in to capture activity and compliance data. The automation is driven by schedule, condition, and data trend analysis for tracking recovery. We collect data on vitals, activity, medicine, and diet compliance, as well as provide schedule management including reminders. Location checker verifies that the patient is in the right room, or a safe location, at home for example, for an Alzheimer’s patient, and we provide live verification, notification, and escalation directly to the care giver, family, clinic or primary. does not detail the Care components. We are very cost effective, with high assurance due to the live verification.
    We seek partners.
    Best, and thank you for your service.

  5. December 12, 2011 2:08 pm

    Yes , i read this article This story reminded me of the approach taken with personal health records (PHRs) and health tracking devices over the past decade. Well intentioned clinicians, researchers, technologists, and others have brought many products to the market and have assumed that
    if you build a new device or PHR then people will use it to improve their health.
    As a result, we now have electronic devices that track steps taken, food consumed,
    water drunk, hours slept, and many other indicators of health and health-promoting

    we ( also provide Old age health care services for those who need. Amada Home Care is part of American Board of Home Care (ABHC) which offers 24 hours home care service for serving seniors with extraordinary home care, health aids and elderly companionship in Orange County.

    • December 13, 2011 8:09 am

      Undoubtedly the ideal solution will involve both technology and human touch. The idea is that the technology should extend providers across more patients, with the end goal that the patients feel more cared for and the providers feel they are giving high quality, evidence-based care at a reasonable pace and stress level.

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