If you had any doubt about the might of your mobile, consider this. By the end of 2011, over 10.9 billion apps (smartphone applications) had been downloaded to mobile phones across the
Their popularity is driven by some universal factors:
- Apps are easy to use and visually appealing: they are unashamedly consumer-focused rather than feeling ‘businessy’.
- Apps are personal: we keep our phones in our pockets at all times, and apps become part of our lifestyle
- And smartphones are highly functional, with GPS tracking, wifi and 3G connectivity and touchscreens; all of which mean apps can be powerful in a way which many laptops cannot.
Look through that list again, and it’s quite clear that apps are also the ideal software model for public healthcare delivery. The public wants medical apps to be user-friendly, personal and private unless they dictate otherwise, and full of bells and whistles to both inspire and entertain.
Since summer 2011, a wealth of healthcare apps have appeared on the market; none more functional than Livescape, which has been dubbed “The Swiss Army Knife of Healthcare Apps”. Livescape is proving very popular in the US, and it’s going to be landing in the UK before the end of April.
As a ‘health lifestyle’ app rather than targeting a single specific ailment or medical challenge, among its many features are:
- A nutrition and exercise journal
- Calorific values and favourite food items with OCR support (snap a picture and the app will work out the numbers)
- A pedometer and heart rate monitor
- Calculate BMI, BMR and other key stats
- Allergy and ailment tracking
- ...And even a fertility cycle calculator
Unlike desktop analytics, the user interface is simple and easy to use (it’s based on the Windows Phone ‘Metro’ interface), and includes elegant charts for spotting trends and achievements.
Oh, and if you really want to lose weight or beat your best time round the block, Livescape can (if you choose) also publish key data to Facebook; after all, nothing is more motivating than knowing that your friends are watching.
The app’s creator, Logan Mueller, says “We’ve had over 100,000 downloads, and over 10,000 full purchases of the app. We’re seeing great traction both in the US and across the world”. Mueller says there are two reasons for this. “Firstly, it’s all on the phone. Who wants to, say, go for a run; and have to strap on a pedometer and then when you get back all sweaty, enter data on a laptop? Nobody! Mobile devices allow all this to happen automatically.
The HealthVault Connection
“Secondly, Livescape syncs up with HealthVault, Microsoft’s health-and-wellbeing specific personal data repository. That means that data in Livescape can be shared with doctors, dieticians or other healthcare professionals (or indeed your personal trainer). Not surprisingly, our early customers were athletes or at least gym fans with an existing interest in their own fitness, but we’re now seeing a much broader community of people discover the value and simplicity of taking a more active interest in their wellbeing.
Mark Smith, Director of Healthcare and Life Sciences in the UK, adds, “That, I think, is a really exciting trend for healthcare strategists. The UK shares some long-term challenges with the US – problems like obesity, diabetes management, or indeed simply the maintenance of an aging population. If mobile apps like Livescape can turn people on to managing their own lifestyles proactively, then there is a world of opportunity and benefit on offer.”
Mueller adds, “The integration with HealthVault is bringing more doctors in, too – we are now seeing doctors and dieticians recommending Livescape as an aid to weight loss, for example, because it allows them to see (by agreement) a patient’s progress, even when they are not in the consulting room”.
HealthVault is also cumulatively beneficial. Rather like a healthy lifestyle, the more you embrace it, the more effective it becomes. Via HealthVault, Livescape syncs seamlessly with the burgeoning range of personal healthcare devices (wireless scales, blood pressure cuffs, INR monitors etc.) and other HealthVault enabled pieces of software.
Arif Govani, Director of Microsoft HealthVault in the UK, says, “This means that Livescape can be a focal point for a much broader ecosystem of applications and personal interactions with technology via HealthVault. Livescape doesn’t, for example, claim to offer medical advice. But a third party can develop a separate app which takes data entered into HealthVault via Livescape and then offer advice, spot trends, or recommend new fitness regimes. The more connected we are with our health and the medical specialists who support it, the better the outcome will be.”
Mueller has several plans for the expansion of Livescape, including localisation for new territories (Germany and China are on his list, and both require a subtle change to the typical nutritional data on offer). Web and tablet PC interfaces are also somewhere on the list – although he says consumers are falling in love with it on their phones and seem to be largely happy there.
For now, though, Livescape comes highly recommended by Mueller’s most discerning critic – his mother; on whom the app was initially comprehensively tested. Both Livescape and HealthVault are
naturally entirely secure, and the secrets of Mrs M. (Senior)’s weight management programme are rightly locked away...
More about HealthVault: http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/healthvault/default.aspx