mHealth Monthly Mashup: release 10.0 – merging mobile, gaming, and social media into a next generation health and wellness platform

Michael Spitz

Ignite Health

Mobile health is an exponentially evolving, transformative field melding technology, communications, and clinical knowledge toward the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes worldwide. From gamification to game changing apps, emergency medicine to electronic health records, mhealth is revolutionizing medicine from every angle and level—so much so, in fact, that the Holy Grail of integration seems to be getting increasingly distant with each improvement in technology. But thankfully industry mavericks from Apple, Zynga, WebMD, and Ning have joined forces with a young visionary to create an end-to-end digital health and wellness platform for consumers called Careverge. Let’s take a quick tour, and explore the amazing potential of mhealth for personal empowerment.

“…industry mavericks from Apple, Zynga, WebMD, and Ning have joined forces with a young visionary to create an end-to-end digital health and wellness platform for consumers.”

Grant Verstandig is a former Lacrosse player turned young entrepreneur who had an epiphany after seven knee surgeries and the realization that accessing health information and connecting with like-minded souls online was, despite the explosion of health portals and facebook, often as painful as his condition. As he describes in his blog, “I couldn’t find a place that had tailored content for me and my situation. This was the moment I realized that I needed to make health easy.

To bring the power of the Web to those in need. To bring social networking to healthcare and make it easy, simple, and engaging.” So he dropped out of Brown University to found a company to do exactly that, and by sheer force of will raised more than $16 million in venture capital from New Leaf Ventures and CEOs John Sculley (Apple), Roger Ferguson (TIAA CREF), and Jack Rowe (Aetna) and launched the Washington, DC-based digital startup Audax Health.

“Getting and staying healthy is complicated, and usually no fun at all,” says Derek Zabbia, EVP Strategic Development at Audax. “Making matters worse, otherwise valuable tools and resources are difficult to find, difficult to use, and typically not catered to the individual. So at Careverge we’ve created a unified, dynamic, and motivational environment where achieving health and wellness becomes personalized and fun.” The platform utilizes a subscription model designed to be subsidized through healthcare systems, insurance companies, and corporations to create an advertisement-free, HIPAA-compliant health experience.

“…success in digital rests with the user experience.”

Loaded with features that enable users to track their health from mobile devices, record fitness goals, research conditions, and communicate directly with other members and even certified healthcare professionals, Careverge seamlessly integrates social media functionality with gamification principles, personalization, and mobile monitoring peripherals to make proper diet and exercise engaging. “We’re defining success as being able to empower people to take active command of managing their health and any existing conditions,” adds Derek.

“But success in digital rests with the user experience,” elaborates Thor Ernstsson, CTO of Audax Health and formerly lead architect at Zynga. “So when designing Careverge we worked hard to keep things simple, intuitive, and integrated, while providing an increasingly customized journey. That’s accomplished by asking users a series of basic, visual questions, and incrementally rewarding them with points and access to additional information and features. As users answer and explore, Careverge remembers and learns, making recommendations for fresh experiences, peer-to-peer and professional connections, and related health opportunities.

The overall experience grows organically and is self-reinforcing, turning a tedious chore into a desire for improved quality of life, and a burden into an enthusiastic drive toward wellness. The site is designed to provide associative content, growing in relevance the more a user interacts with the platform.”

Figure 1: Option to describe why you are using Careverge1

Users quickly discover that navigation and information architecture are structured into five clearly defined, intuitive channels:

Figure 2: Navigation of Careverge1

The Home page integrates a dashboard of all their customized content from across the other channels, acting as a dynamic profile page. From their My Health page users can monitor and analyze data from various mobile biometrics and monitoring devices, representing the data in Timelines and performance schedules that motivate positive health behaviors such as exercise and eating right:

Figure 3: Timelines in Careverge1

The Discover page has a look and feel similar to the increasingly popular social media site Pinterest, where content is displayed graphically and progressively “learns” individual user preferences for specific types of content that can then be “followed”:

Figure 4: Discover page in Careverge1

In the Community sections users can share thoughts, feelings, and opinions with other members and even health experts across various topics and through updating threads:

Figure 5: Community section in Careverge1

While Goals can be set and tracked at this page, used as benchmarks for accomplishment and hallmarks of positive reinforcement:

Figure 6: Goals section in Careverge1

In terms of mobile connectivity, the platform is currently compatible with fitbit and Polar, enabling users to set goals and measure performance directly from these biometric peripherals, including weight, blood pressure, caloric consumption, distance, and other metrics. “We plan on expanding the range of compatibility to multiple providers to take full advantage of what a truly ‘quantified self’ means and has to offer,” adds Thor. “This way Careverge goes beyond a website or platform users log into, instead becoming a seamless extension of their lives wherever they go.

“Eliminating the input barriers created by an interface is the most important goal of any health and wellness platform…”

Eliminating the input barriers created by an interface is the most important goal of any health and wellness platform, making the connection and biofeedback mechanism seamless, intuitive, and flexible is ultimately what we’re trying to be.”

Figure 7: Careverge compatibility and mobile connectivity1

“I think the best part of Careverge is the reward system,” observes Derek. “Users earn virtual coins, gems, and medals which can in turn be exchanged for actual prizes in the Careverge Marketplace. Different goals realized net different rewards, all motivating the consumer to work harder to meet those goals, leading to a healthier body and mind.”

Newly launched, Careverge holds tremendous promise for integrating the currently disparate channels of social media, gaming, and mobile health, paving the way for an exciting future when maintaining good health and wellness become as natural and entertaining a process as updating one’s facebook status or playing Angry Birds. Let’s see how the platform evolves, and watch as institutional players and healthcare systems take note.



About the author:

Michael Spitz is VP of Digital Strategy at Ignite Health, with offices located in New York City, New York, and Irvine, California. Spitz combines his passion for technology with more than 15 years of clinical content expertise to help engineer healthcare communications solutions across numerous treatment areas for many of the pharmaceutical industry’s major companies. Follow @SpitzStrategy on Twitter for his daily – often hourly – updates on all things digital for the ultimate benefit of patients worldwide.

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