By Steve Downs, Assistant Vice President of the Health Group, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Patricia Flatley Brennan, Director, Project HealthDesign
At the recent Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, the winners of three different RWJF-sponsored Health 2.0 Developer Challenges were named – including the Project HealthDesign Challenge co-sponsored by RWJF and the California HealthCare Foundation. You can read more about the other challenges on the Pioneering Ideas blog.
For the Project HealthDesign Challenge, we asked developers to create apps for the web, smartphones or tablets that take into account elements of the PHR apps created in the first round of Project HealthDesign and can run on a commercial personal health record service (like Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault).
We were unsure where this experiment might take us, but ended up seeing some really creative apps that we probably would never have thought of on our own. While we had to choose one overall winner, there were several really strong projects that stood out and exemplified the true spirit of the challenge.
- The winner – Ringful Health, was inspired by the University of Massachusetts’ visual story about a handheld electronic pain and activity diary that allows people to record information about their pain experience, treatment and physical activities throughout the day. Their app – Pain Care – helps patients with chronic pain better manage their symptoms, medications and communication with their providers. The app allows a user to create an electronic pain journal to report pain episodes, triggers and medications. It then correlates all the data, gives insight into whether medications are effective and reports back to a physician on progress. The app is currently available for the iPhone and will also be available for Android sometime in the near future.
- Another competitor, CureTogether, has been collecting information on the patient experience to help people track their health. Like CureTogether, we have found that recording information like diet, exercise, mood and pain – observations of daily living – is important to patients and can help give insight into and guide a patient’s treatment. CureTogether extended their website to now allow patients to track their lab test results. Patients can manually input data from their printed test results into the website as well as import data from Google Health or HealthVault if they use these services. With quantitative information on over 600 medical conditions on the CureTogether website – it will be exciting to see how this new feature will help patients even more.
- Fred Trotter also decided to track observations of daily living for people with chronic pain. However, instead of using Google Health or HealthVault as a platform, Fred used Twitter. Fred had the notion that people already use Twitter to track what is happening with their lives, so why not track what is happening to their health? That builds upon another key finding from Project HealthDesign: help people track their health information by incorporating the process into their existing daily routine, not adding something new. He built a front end that would enable people to enter basic data about their pain and related information and then store the data on Twitter using a structured syntax. If someone was depressed, for example, they could include #mood(depressed) or if they went for a swim that day, they could type, #exercise(swim). To help analyze patterns and trends, Fred opted to use Grafitter, a free utility that graphs text found on Twitter and other sources. You can try the application out for yourself at toeleven.org.
All in all, we ended up seeing some really interesting apps that expanded upon Project HealthDesign concepts. We felt that this challenge was successful because we were able to leverage our current investments and help the participants guide and enhance their ideas through our earlier work. We also liked the process. Sometimes foundations get too caught up in big grants and elaborate application processes. This was simpler: make something and we’ll check it out. In so doing, we tapped into a different mindset, a particularly creative one, and what resulted was well beyond what we would have envisioned.
We are eager to see where these apps may go and are also looking for new creative ways to stimulate innovation in design. Any ideas?