Teams race to design new apps at Health 2.0
Last Saturday at Google's Crittenden Site, Health 2.0, an organization that encourages innovation in health care, held a Developer Challenge Code-a-thon. Attendees form teams to creatively design and code new health care applications. Ten teams competed in the contest and most were able to present working demos by the end of the day.
The day started with some short 15-minute lectures, the first being from the head of Google Health, Dr. Roni Zeiger. Have you tried storing your family's health information on Google Health (health.google.com)? When Google Health was launched, it seemed a tedious way to record health details, especially as Nintendo's Wii Fit Plus tracks my weight and my spreadsheet graphs 25 years of blood test results. As Google Health partners with more clinics and hospitals, more data will be entered automatically. My view of Google Health changed last Christmas when I fell off a chairlift. So I used ZipHealth on my iPhone to upload a picture of my bruised head and record the date of my accident on Google Health. ZipHealth is quick to use and also works with Microsoft HealthVault (healthvault.com/microsoft). Palo Alto Medical Foundation has its own online system, but sending a message to your doctor costs an outrageous $60 a year. It supports iPhone users with an app, MyChart
The first-prize app depicted one's health on a smartphone as a Wellness Garden. If your health was good, flowers would grow. The second-prize winner designed an app to show people what free prevention services they are eligible for, based on their insurance coverage and medical history. One prize-winning team wanted to integrate school information with medical data for asthma sufferers. The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health stimulated this idea by providing a data set and challenging participants to help families of children with special medical conditions share and find information.
Other apps relied on peers to encourage healthy behaviors and treatment experiences. Sfibd.org, currently available only to invited beta testers, helps sufferers of Crohn's disease, colitis and other irritable bowel disorders to share information. An interesting discussion on the privacy of health information ensued. How willing are sufferers to share health information with strangers who suffer from the same disease? Another app sent e-mails to friends and families to persuade them to exercise, diet or keep fit.
One team attempted to use Google Refine (formerly Freebase Gridworks) to clean data from government databases, then used Google Fusion Tables to plot data on a map and visualize it. They showed a correlation between unhealthy air quality days and life expectancy for different states. Not surprisingly, some of the coal mining states' citizens lived the shortest lives on average.
In one day, most teams managed to create some impressive code, even if they didn't finish complete apps. Health 2.0's co-founder, Matthew Holt observed, "This Code-a-thon demonstrates that developers can implement innovative features really rapidly, even faster than at our last coding event in October 2010."
I ended the conference by talking to Fred Trotter, who claims the Nationwide Health Information Network is as important to the Health Internet as the government funded ARPANET was to today's Internet. You can read more about advances in health networks by reading Matthew's blog at thehealthcareblog.com or Fred's blog at fredtrotter.com. Health information and medical records management is increasingly a personal responsibility.
Angela Hey advises technology companies on marketing and business development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.