Healthy Feedback Loops
Devices, Apps, and Portals
© Copyright October 2012 Chester Street Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
oday’s health and tness devicesare connected. Whether they areBluetooth-enabled, WiFi-ready,ull-on cellular, or easily pluggedinto a mobile, these devices are collectingdata that is much more meaningul andimpactul because it is not locked withinthe device itsel. This mobility o health andtness data is a key enabling actor or themany health behavior change experimentscurrently being led by consumer healthstartups. At the heart o these experiments– these new devices and companion apps– the search is or eective, positive healtheedback loops.At its most basic level, the kind o eedbackloop oten leveraged in these experimentsollows these three steps:Granted the three steps outlined aboveoten occur right rom the same device.Smartphones equipped with motion-sensing accelerometers, location-awareGPS chips, and increasingly better cameras,have helped make the smartphonea standalone health and tness datacollection hub. With their current suite o sensors, however, smartphones are notable to collect data related to all o themajor biometrics.In recent years blood pressure monitormakers, weight scale manuacturers,blood glucose meter developers, pulseoximetry device makers and more haveadded connectivity. As a result thesedevice makers have had the opportunity totransorm themselves – or at least augmenttheir current status – rom hardwarecompanies to sotware companies withcompanion applications or even serviceplans attached to their device oerings.Device collects data.Data moves to application.Application provides device userwith personalized eedback.
O course, not everyone has ully embracedthat opportunity.In early 2011 iHealth Lab, a Mountain View,Caliornia-based subsidiary o China-basedmedical device company Andon Health,became the rst company to have anFDA-cleared medical device sold at AppleStores. As the name implies iHealth’s BloodPressure Dock connects directly to an iOSdevice just like a charging dock or speakerdock accessory. The blood pressure deviceis actually controlled by its companionapp, which the user downloads to the iOSdevice rom iTunes AppStore.The iHealth BPM app’s eedback is sparseand streamlined by design. Apart rom thebig, centered button that the user pusheson their iOS device to make the cu infateand take the blood pressure measurement,the app oers a simple graph that showswhere the BP reading alls on a scale o dark green, green, yellow, orange, darkorange and red. It also oers a historicaltable o past readings and a comparativecolor-coded chart or past BP readings.Like almost every other company thatoers connected health devices, iHealthkeeps eedback to qualitative colors toavoid moving into the more regulatedterritory o diagnosis.“Are we looking to be everything toeveryone?” iHealth’s Senior Vice Presidentand General Manager Adam Lin asked.“No. Forget whether or not we could doit, no one has ever done both hardwareand sotware incredibly well. Apple maybe the exception. Our ocus is still onthe hardware, rst and oremost. We areocused on enabling connectivity andensuring the data is truly mobile, secure,and not restricted. There are a numbero [third party] apps out there that do[sotware] really well.”Considering iHealth’s success with itsApple partnership, Lin’s comments areunderstandable. While many others workingin connected health agree that openingAPIs and enabling third party apps to usedata collected by dedicated devices is animportant trend, most companies buildinghardware also see companion apps andservices as a big opportunity. Some evenbelieve the service and sotware side o the digital health opportunity is the biggerone.This report aims to highlight and illustratesome o the ways digital health companiesare using eedback loops in an attemptto encourage healthy behaviors. Whilethis is not a comprehensive document, itwill provide a broad overview o the mostcommon types o eedback loops andmechanisms used by consumer healthapplications today. It is also worth notingthat many o the digital health servicesmentioned here oer a number o dierentkinds o behavior change mechanismsbeyond the ones highlighted in this report.
iHealth’s Blood Pressure Dock and BPM iPad App