The Apple Watch and Apple’s Health ResearchKit are making news today. I am most excited about the kit. Congratulations Apple! If the health research kit didn’t exist I’d have to invent it. And in fact I did. 12 years ago. I’m sharing my story here, hoping it will inspire others.
Starting in 2001 I submitted NIH grant applications to build a research platform that allows patients to track their symptom and treatment data with a portable device. This was years before the iPhone. So I hacked into a dotcom era keychain device, called the iTag. Then I linked a mobile barcode scanner with my analytical software. A pretty cool idea for the time. Patients could instantly scan-in their pain levels, medication, diet, exercise, and behavior. It only took one click to scan items from a card or booklet. I built a prototype. Today this solution is still the simplest I know for instant data entry. Here is an image from my 2003 grant application:
Simplified Patient Interface (2003)
How would it work in practice? In 2003 bluetooth was making its way into practical applications. The time stamped data from the barcode scanner would get synced via bluethooth with the patient’s computer. The data would be synced via the Internet with the physician’s practice. Or the office staff would read out the data directly when the patient showed up for the next visit. The analytical software drew graphs from the data. The charts could tell a story. The care team would be able to see how different area’s of the patient’s life related to each other. And they could see what happened before / after important events. Such as a change in the patient’s therapy.
Information Flow SPI (2003)
Daily patient reported outcomes graph (2003)
All of this provides several benefits to the patient, the care team, and the healthcare system in general. Real time tracking of how the patient was doing would allow for earlier intervention if things started to get worse, a better understanding of the unique pattern of a patient’s condition would allow for more customized care, and the systematic outcomes tracking would provide a cleared answer to the question: What works?
Weekly patient reported outcomes graph (2003)
Years later– the iPhone came out in 2007–I implemented this solution in iPhone apps. TracknShare, Bowel Mover Pro, Autism Tracker, Gratitude & Happiness, Habits Pro, Mindful Eating Tracker were released between 2009 and 2013. These are the most customizable tracking apps out there. Track pain intensities, mood, weight, emotions, durations, frequencies, time and habits. Create your own customized visual scale to express exactly what matters to you.
Coming to the App Store in 2009 with a fully thought-out solution I was a pioneer, creating a path for Apple’s Health Kit. And its Health ResearchKit. Apple gave me recognition by featuring my app Autism Tracker as #1 in Special Education for Trackers and References. We also received critical acclaim from Fast Company, Dr. Oz, Teach Hub, The Best Life, MacLife, University of Nebraska Lincoln, Huffington Post, OTs with Apps, HIStalk, The Doctor Weighs In, Harvas Media. Autism Tracker is discussed in the textbook “Technology Tools for Students With Autism: Innovations that Enhance Independence and Learning”. San Jose Mercury News featured it as well. Then there were the comical acts that definitely helped spread the word for me and for Apple. Laughing Squid, AJ Jacobs for Esquire Magazine, James Altucher, Mental Floss, to name a few.
Tracknshare for iPhone (2009)
What is next? Now that Apple is carrying the torch for patient outcomes tracking and engagement I keep exploring uncharted terrain. Today I am designing consumer experiences that use self-tracking and sharing as building blocks. I am adding new props for the next phase of empowering patients. I start with Honest Placebo pills. Our brand empowers people to design customized experiences on their path to well-being. Our solutions have a feedback loop built-in to help consumers improve their health in iterations. It’s structured, free-style well-being. Zeebo comprises apps, pills, and books. We just launched Zeebo a few weeks ago.
Zeebo Effect for iPhone (2014)
May be Tim Cook will take out his checkbook and write me a bonus. $1 million–that is less than $70k for each year I pioneered mobile patient reported outcomes tracking. And I have great plans for new projects. A $5 million blank check could create a lot of value for patients and the industry. I see a strong case for companies like Apple to give to independent inventors. People who decided to help push the field forward by focusing their time on Innovation without Distraction. We are lean-game-changers who create and execute on ideas without the overhead of raising capital or filing Intellectual Property. Tim, if you read this, please donate here. Let’s keep making a dent in the healthcare universe!