Dr Joe Kvedar Discusses the Launch of Wellocracy, ‘Self Health’ and the Next Phase of Mobile Health Data 

Date: 11.26.2013 | Rob Waters">Rob Waters


The Center for Connect Health at Partners (CCH) recently launched Wellocracy, an independent online consumer resource for mobile healthcare apps, devices and activity tracking. Dr Jospeh Kvedar, Founder of the Center for Connected Health sat down with with HITC’s Rob Waters to discuss the inspiration, mission and launch of Wellocracy.com and the role of providers and wellness coaches in the mobile healthcare revolution.

Rob Waters: What was the inspiration to launch Wellocracy.com?

Joe Kvedar: After working at remote patient monitoring for about 10 years, we were ready to bring self-care to consumers – couch potatoes, weekend warriors and all of us in between hoping to live a little healthier, lose a few pounds or just feel a little better. The goal of Wellocracy is at once simple and daunting – to get America moving, and to motivate our citizens to move to a healthier state. It turns out that the formula is straightforward: track your activity, find your individual set of motivational tools and find ways to increase your activity without disrupting your life.

Through our work at the Center for Connected Health, we saw that patients enrolled in our programs began to significantly improve their self-care, using their daily monitoring results to better understand their condition and understand how lifestyle choices affected their health.

As we observed this phenomenon, we broke it down into two sets of factors we could study:  the use of objective data in feedback loops and the use of motivational psychology to help our patients strive to keep those data in the right range.  Another profound, reproducible finding over the years has been the attachment patients feel for these home monitoring devices.  This led us to the observation that self-tracking is contagious or in Internet parlance, ‘sticky.’  Most people enjoy seeing how their lifestyle affects some sort of number.  Self-tracking keeps health top of mind and can keep people motivated.

As the quantified-self movement caught on to self-tracking and the deluge of self-tracking devices and apps that are now available came on the market, the time was right to bring these insights, this stickiness to consumers, to improve health and wellness in the population at large.

RW: How will Wellocracy’s mission of empowering consumers with information on ‘self health’ technologies be met?

JK: We start with the premise that the self-tracking market is crowded, confusing and oriented toward techies. Wellocracy is delivering up-to-date information, expert guidance, unbiased reviews and innovative ideas to get the most out of personal health technologies. Wellocracy is a source of impartial, easy-to-understand information on new personal “self-health” technologies like activity trackers, wireless devices and mobile apps to empower people to get and stay healthy. We believe that with insight and the right inspiration, we can learn from our own behaviors by harnessing simple technologies to engage in healthier lifestyles and activities. By integrating new health tools into daily life, we all have the ability to make positive changes and be more active. Wellocracy is focused on motivating each of us to be our best and healthiest selves.

RW: The majority of consumers have not yet utilized or had the opportunity to utilize a health tracking device. Do you see this as a set-back or an opportunity?

JK:We see this as a huge opportunity. There is a huge void in the market today. Easy to use, accurate and effective health and wellness trackers are readily available, yet most consumers are not using them. Wellocracy will fill that void and help individuals select the right health technology best suited to their preferences and goals, and figure out the personal motivation that will keep them on track to best manage their health. In fact, in a recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by Wellocracy, we found that the majority of consumers (56%) have never used any type of health tracking device, app or website.

At the same time, this survey also found that 65% believe that using a health tracking device, website or app would be beneficial, including helping them stay motivated to meet health and fitness goals (32%), and over one-quarter believe it would provide accountability (31%) and help them stay in control of their health (27%).

We know that if we give people — young and old — insights into their health and help them understand how lifestyle choices impact quality of life, they feel more accountable, engaged and live a healthier, more active life. Integrating ‘self-health’ tools like activity and nutrition trackers and sleep monitors into our daily lives, we can learn from our own behaviors and make positive changes to take charge of our health. We’re taking these devices and apps, personalizing the experience and helping people figure out the right health technologies, the right strategy and the right inspiration to get on the right track to health and wellness.

RW:How can wellness professionals spur consumer adoption of activity tracking devices in positive, effective ways?

JK:As healthcare professionals, we have to help empower patients to take control of their wellness, take responsibility for maintaining their health and, importantly, give people the tools to achieve this. A healthcare provider only has a very brief time with their patients, maybe a few times a year. Health and wellness trackers can serve as an extension of traditional care, create accountability, educate patients on ways toself-manage their health and provide important, real-time data for both patients and providers.

Providers can encourage patients or even ‘prescribe’ a tracker to monitor their health and ask that they share this data with them. We know that patients who track their health and wellness at home, and share that information with their providers feel better cared for, more in charge of their health and more satisfied with their provider.

RW:For healthcare providers who are looking at gaining meaningful insights from the coming wave of personal health data from mobile devices, what advice do you have and how can they avoid the pitfalls of becoming ”data rich, information poor”?

JK:It is important to establish decision support tools to manage patient derived data. This is an area very much still in development. It is fair to say that a provider without an EMR system would be hesitant to get too involved in collecting and evaluating patient self-reported data. But a few provider organizations and managed care groups are already offering to link patient data via an API. We will see this area evolve quickly, as the use of health trackers and mobile apps become more commonplace.

6. Are there lessons from the social media sphere that might help individuals and providers improve the value of personalized health data, how do you see these worlds intersecting in the future?

Healthy behaviors are not as easy to manipulate as, say, purchasing behaviors. But there is much we can learn from social media and ecommerce. I am developing the concept of ‘making health addictive’ using a series of strategies to delivering health and wellness messaging that is less clinical, less technical, less abstract and more focused on some aspirational, personal goal. Much like we now see with social media, if we put personalized, relevant, motivational and unobtrusive messaging in front of consumers, we can create permanent behavior change.

Every day, we leave an trail of online breadcrumbs that provide information such as activity level, GPS data, mobile purchasing data, natural language processing analysis of outgoing messages (tweets, texts, emails, etc.), which could be combined to give us a unique health-related profile.  That will enable us to send individuals highly customized, personalized, relevant ads and messages every time you pick up your smartphone.  Some of these messages will be so subtle you may not notice them.  Some will be welcome and none of them will be annoying – if we do it right.

In addition, no one wants to appear unhealthy to our friends or family. Social networks will be a powerful tool to increase accountability and adherence to care, and wellness plans and mobile phones make social interactions that much more convenient.

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