Brian Buntz

November 15, 2013

4 Min Read
Mobile Apps Designed for Heart Patients and Expectant Mothers

The Quantified Self movement promises better living through self-tracking. Up until now, however, the bulk of the market has been largely comprised of devices that are glorified pedometers, such as the Fitbit, which tend to monitor activity levels rather than health metrics. The number of applications in this space is expanding, and a growing number are veering into medical territory.

Karten Latitude app for tracking heart patients' health

The Latitude concept app pulls data from patients' ICD to help them monitor their cardiac and general health. 

A recent example of this trend include the Latitude Heart Coach, which is an app concept designed to work with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator to share relevant health metrics and advice to heart patients. The app can determine when a user experiences arrhythmia and then ask them to cite their symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. The idea behind the technology is that by sharing information with patients, they will be able to better manage their disease.

"I think it represents the future of where medicine is going. Many implants like ICDs have complex computers inside, whose full potential is not being tapped," says Anne Ramallo, manager of PR and communications at Karten Design (Los Angeles). The sensors inside can empower patients to improve their health by revealing the connection between diet, activity, and heart health, as revealed by data harvested by data gathered by the ICD.

The app uses a combination of health alerts, coaching, and progressive disclosure to help detect health problems and provide relevant advice. For instance, a patient with sudden weight gain, an increase in pulse, and respiratory rate would be advised to consult their doctor for possible atrial fibrillation.

The Latitude mobile health app can also track physical activity trends as well as monitor metrics measured by an implantable defibrillator.

The Latitude mobile health app can track physical activity and heart-function trends.

The algorithms this app uses can reveal whether a patient, for instance, is having the same symptoms were having the last time they went into atrial fibrillation. Or, the algorithm might detect a missed medication does. The algorithms were developed with the help of Leslie Saxon, MD, who is the chief, division of cardiovascular medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

"Karten Design was responsible for making the app simple and engaging: finding an emotional hook to get people interested in adopting the app and using it long-term," Ramallo says. "We created the experience around the app--what information is presented at what point in time, the depth at which information is presented, and of course the visual experience of using the app."

Another example of a medical-themed mobile app comes from a startup known as Ovuline (Cambridge, MA). Dubbed Ovia Pregnancy, the app enables expectant mothers to track the development of their baby. The app is designed to offer valuable, customized tips for different stages of the pregnancy.

While both Apple and Google host a variety of pregnancy apps in their online stores, many existing apps provide static information for users. Many existing apps lack personalization features that can help mothers track the unique nuances of their pregnancy.

With Ovia Pregnancy, expectant mothers can receive unique feedback based on their current nutritional intake and level of physical activity. In addition, the app uses big data analytics to track symptoms during different times in a pregnancy. Armed with this data, women can see how their symptoms compare to their peers, giving users valuable feedback on the state of their pregnancy.

"Right now at Ovuline, across fertility and soon in pregnancy, we're undergoing the largest study in this space in the history of the world," Wallace said. "What we're going to be able to discover and the questions we're going to be able to look at are just mind-boggling."

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz and Google+.

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