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Entries in Health (23)

Coming face to face with the impact of health and lifestyle choices

Alexandra Brown
CEO, Co-Founder @ AprilAge



It's becoming increasingly well accepted that technology can change behavior. One of the most widespread examples is the addition of cameras into smartphones. Who even thought they needed a camera in their phone before they first became available about 15 years ago?

However, mass adoption of smartphones with digital cameras has meant that, today, seeing someone (or yourself) taking “selfies”, or snapping pictures of friends and family at any occasion is widely accepted.  What’s more, the sharing of these images via social media has become an immensely popular method of communication and fuels a repeat cycle of even greater photo collection and distribution.


What has this got to do with healthcare?


Combine this shift and acceptance of new consumer technology with what's going on in healthcare. Consumers and patients want information that is personal and relevant. Health and wellness providers want greater engagement and participation in programs that help people prevent chronic diseases, rather than treat them after they’ve developed - which accounts for approximately 75% ($US2 trillion) of all healthcare spending in the USA.  

According to PwC's Health Research Institute (HRI) in the New Health Economy, digitally-enabled care is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather a fundamental business imperative. Industry leaders across health plans, hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry all see major shifts in how care is being delivered.

Digital technology bridges time, distance and the expectation gap between consumers and clinicians.  The HRI surveyed 1,000 physicians and physician "extenders" (e.g., nurse practitioners and physician's assistants) and found that caregivers share similar views with consumers on the promise of digital technology to promote self-management of chronic disease using health apps: in 2014, 28% percent of consumers said they have a healthcare, wellness, or medical app on their mobile device, up from 16% the previous year. Roughly two-thirds of physicians said they would be willing to prescribe an app to help patients manage a chronic disease such as diabetes.


Building behaviour change on top of visualization


AprilAge shows me what I might look like at age 72 if I don't improve my diet and

if I don't increase my physical activity


A large body of well-documented research indicates that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information.  The human vision system is a complex and powerful part of our bodies, and we use it and rely on it in almost everything we do. Visualization (the act or process of interpreting in visual terms or putting into visual form) engages the primary human sensory apparatus, vision, as well as the processing power of the human mind.

At AprilAge, we use the power of visualization to “show” vs. “tell.” The APRIL® Face Aging Software was developed to show people the effects of risky lifestyle behaviours (smoking, weight gain, heavy sun exposure) on their appearance as they age. Unlike simple morphing technology or an artist’s rendition, the APRIL® face aging results are based a proprietary database of how real people age. Helping people visualize their “future face” can be the dose of reality that is often just the catalyst that’s required to set someone on a path to a healthier future.


AprilAge around the world


APRIL® is now used by health practitioners, wellness providers, and employers in more than 25 countries to inspire people to healthier lifestyle behaviors. As a digital tool first conceived of for an exhibit in a science center, it is now also installed in more than 30 science centers around the world as these traditional places of science exploration are broadening their scope to include health issues that affect us all:


  • At The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, walking through the Giant Heart has been a rite of passage for children and families. Visitors gain new insights into the anatomy and physiology of the human body through interactive exhibits that emphasize the importance of exercise, healthy diet, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. 
  • In Germany, Pfizer uses the APRIL® Face Aging Software in meetings with healthcare providers to impactfully demonstrate the visible effects of smoking on their appearance. By personalizing the face aging process for the provider, Pfizer helps them relate to their patients' experience and talk to them about how to quit smoking.  
  • In Canada, as part of the Nivea Haus pop up experience, Bieresdorf created a "The Age Simulator" with the APRIL® Face Aging Software. A main attraction in this busy retail environment, consumers were given the opportunity to see the effects of risky lifestyle factors on their own faces and discus the steps to prevent such damage.  
  • In the USA, a health provider and insurance company have teamed up to pilot the use of APRIL® on mobile tablets in a shopping mall to help consumers visualize the effects of bad lifestyle choices, and to offer them  information on health and wellness programs available in the mall.



Can the future you drive behaviour change today?


But does seeing yourself in the future inspire lasting behavior change when needed? According to a randomized controlled study conducted by researchers from Curtin University within Australian pharmacies, and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers using the APRIL® Face Aging software found that 13.8% of the study’s participants quit smoking after engaging in the face aging visualization process, well above 1.3% in the control group that wasn’t exposed to face aging visualization. Results were verified by CO2 testing six months post-study.

Why does visualization work? According to a study from Sheffield University’s Department of Psychology, researchers found that the impact of perspective in visualizing health-related behaviors from first-person perspective has a greater effects on motivation to engage in visualized behavior than third-person perspective.* In other words, successfully visualizing yourself completing a behaviour was more likely to lead to actually doing it. In the field of health promotion, visualization has been used to motivate exercise, reduce alcohol consumption, and increase healthy eating.

Today, visualization helps people do things and perform in ways that a few years ago would have been thought impossible. Imagine what visualization could achieve tomorrow...


*The impact of perspective in visualizing health-related behaviors: first-person perspective increases motivation to adopt health-related behaviors, Journal of Applied Social Psychology,  Rennie, Harris and Webb, Dept.  of Psychology, Sheffield University, May 2014





Janssen offers $140000 to HaTCH a plan to improve Australia's health 

Jason Berek-Lewis
Social media, content, PR, sales consultant @ Healthy Startups [at]health





Janssen Australia has announced the launch of the #JanssenHaTCH challenge and has put AU$140000 on the table to drive innovation across:
  • Early disease detection and monitoring if we can detect things earlier and can monitor them in the community we can disrupt the pattern of landing in a hospital for diagnosis. 
  • Access to and sharing of health information not a new problem but an opportunity that is critical for helping manage patients more successfully in the community.
  • Connectivity between Australians and HCPs and services we need to develop new ways to connect and engage all members of the 'care team.'  HCPs, services, families. This will help to empower patients and their families in the healthcare process.


Innovation in care for our ageing population
This innaugural HaTCH challenge focuses on innovations to 'treat' the way Australia cares for its ageing population. The challenge is specifically looking for solutions that deliver care and prevention strategies outside of the hospital system.
Have you got what it takes to HaTCH a solution?
Then you had better hustle FAST! The Janssen HaTCH challenge is not open for long. Entries close on Friday, 3 October! Throwing your hat in the ring is quick and simple: all you need is a brief outline of the idea that you want to HaTCH. 
What are YOU waiting for? APPLY NOW at the HaTCH website.
Next, Janssen's healthcare and startup expert panel will judge the entries and select 4 finalists who will each receive AU$1000 to further develop their ideas. Selected finalists will receive mentoring from HaTCH judges between October and December.
The winning project will be announced on Wednesday, 3 December 2014.

Sergey Brin, Larry Page talk Google as a health company

Jason Berek-Lewis
Social media, content, PR, sales consultant @ Healthy Startups



The Khosla Ventures CEO Summit features big thinkers talking solutions around big challenges. You don't get much bigger than Sergey Brin and Larry Page from Google talking to Vinod Khosla about healthcare. Here's the transcript:


VK That leads to another strategy question. Can you imagine, given your interests-- you've had some interest in health. There's some radical stuff there. Android is a natural platform for health. Mobile is, and health needs to be distributed and highly accessible - broadly, not just at the hospital. Can you imagine Google becoming a health company? Maybe a larger business than the search business or the media business?

SB I think it's, for sure, a larger business. In fact, Google X - for example - we do have the glucose reading contact lenses. 

LP Which are very cool.

SB I don't wear them. Well, I don't wear contacts, so I don't have the need to measure my glucose. But they should be coming along pretty well. I'm very excited about that. Generally, health is just so heavily regulated. It's just a painful business to be in. It's just not necessarily how I want to spend my time. Even though we do have some health projects, and we'll be doing that to a certain extent. But I think the regulatory burden in the U.S. is so high that think it would dissuade a lot of entrepreneurs.

LP We have Calico, obviously, we did that with Art Levinson, which is pretty independent effort. Focuses on health and longevity. I'm really excited about that. I am really excited about the possibility of data also, to improve health. But that's-- I think what Sergey's saying, it's so heavily regulated. It's a difficult area. I can give you an example. Imagine you had the ability to search people's medical records in the U.S.. Any medical researcher can do it. Maybe they have the names removed. Maybe when the medical researcher searches your data, you get to see which researcher searched it and why. I imagine that would save 10,000 lives in the first year. Just that. That's almost impossible to do because of HIPPA. I do worry that we regulate ourselves out of some really great possibilities that are certainly on the data-mining end.

VK Two or three years ago, I wrote a blog called, "Do We Need Doctors?" And I speculated Doctor Algorithm will do most of the work. Amol (the CEO) from is here. They introduced their psychiatric monitoring app at Kaiser—

LP I was talking to them about that last night. It was cool.

VK In the first week, Kaiser believes they saved three suicides, because the app alerted the nurse that the patient was in a suicidal state. That's just the big outcome. But that feels like a software business, mostly. Delivered mostly through mobile, and it's more needed in the least regulated areas - India, Africa, places like that. Go ahead.

LP I was going to say, in the U.S., I think diabetes and heart disease are both about 3 or $400 billion dollars a year in expense. That's of the 1.3 trillion, so that's a pretty big chunk. So definitely, just making a dent in those would be a big deal for people.

VK In fact, most people may not know this, but the first mobile app got approved as a pharmaceutical because it's directly competitive with metformin, which is the principle drug for blood sugar reduction. So it has the same effect, and the FDA approved it. Of course, with the funny caveat that it has to be refilled every three months, and it's priced at $182 a month.

LP Do you want to take any questions from the audience?

VK I'm going to have one question for you, Larry. You lost your voice last year. You've talked a little bit about what you've learned from that.

LP Sergey encouraged me to make all the details public. That was really great, to get a lot of feedback, information, things like that. As a good example, we're talking about medicine, a lot of the angst people have about their medical records is related to insurance. Which if we could just fix insurance-- the point of insurance is to cover medical issues. We somehow worked ourselves into a state around that. Obviously, I don't care very much about that, so I don't have that issue. Anyway, I don't think my voice is likely to get much worse, so I'm happy about that. I can get my job done fine.

Interview transcript reproduced from Khosla Ventures


For now, I am going to leave it at that. But, my next post is titled Google is building a hospital. Stay tuned!

A quick download from today's Connect Digital Health Summit

Jason Berek-Lewis
Social media, content, PR, sales consultant @ Healthy Startups


Today I was lucky enough to attend the Connect Expo 2014 Digital Health Summit in Melbourne, Australia*. It's after 11:45pm on Friday (AEST) as I type this and I'm exhausted, but I wanted to write up a quick post about the day before I jump into some more detailed reflection and analysis of the conference next week:

  • Far and way the most interesting and engaging presentation of the day was the case study The digital hospital in action: a sneak peak of St Stephen's Hervey Bay. The presentation was delivered by Richard Royle, Executive Director UnitingCare Health Queensland

    See more at the Connect Digital Health Summit website 
  • If you have been following this blog for some time you will know of my interests in UI/UX in healthcare and health clinic/ hospital design. St Stephen's Hervey Bay will be Australia's premier digital hospital boasting clinician driven design that delivers enhanced services to patients. The hospital will be a showcase of how digital technologies shape the healthcare experience. The AU$ 87.5 million project is set to be completed in September 2014
  • The chance to hear more from my colleague Lissanthea Taylor from Rise Healthcare Group, and HealthTech Sydney Meetup Group on collaboration and community building to drive innovation in health
  • The 'best' part of the event was the chance to meet so many innovators and champions of digital health. When you live outside the USA you can sometimes develop the impression that innovation, startup, mhealth, quantified self and technology culture is all driven out of Silicon Valley. Yet, all the way out in Australia, there are startups, accelerators, entrepreneurs, doctors, patients, software and IT vendors, cloud technologies, mobile applications that are changing the way, and even leading the way, in which we deliver healthcare in to the future. More on that soon!

I also spent a lot of time on the trade show floor speaking with people from Tunstall Healthcare, uHealth, BluePoint (who gave me a chance to try the awesome Chromebook Pixel!), Ruckus Wireless, Cruiser Interactive and (saved the most awesome for last) GE Healthcare.

All in all, a most awesome day. Now... I must sleep! 


* Disclosure: I received a complimentary media pass to attend the Connect Expo 2014 Digital Health Summit.

10 most popular health startup and social media posts in 2013

Jason Berek-Lewis
Social media, content, PR, sales consultant @ Healthy Startups


I can't quite believe that in November 2013 Healthy Startups turned 3! Here I am, here we are, years after this first post. 2013 was the biggest year yet for traffic to Healthy Startups - and there were many more 'pay offs' from the effort that I have put in to the site: I finally got paid to work with, and consult to, healthcare startups and I was invited to speak at conferences and to attend conferences that I otherwise would never have gone to.

In 2013 my biggest 'ROI' from Healthy Startups was the awesome opportunity to network with, support and learn from entrepreneurs and innovators all across the world who share one dream - to change healthcare for the better.  

Let's work together to make 2014 awesome! 

Here are the 10 most popular posts on Healthy Startups in 2013

10. Regulation, risk and the 'go slow' in healthcare innovation

A post that I am super proud of and likely the most 'political' piece I have written for the site. Why are startups are driving change in healthcare? They are agile, fast and largely free of the red tape and vested interest politics that have caused our health systems to stagnate. 

9. Nutrislice answers 6 for a startup

A great example of how a platform like Healthy Startups can help to promote the awesome work of innovators in healthcare.

8. Attack of the healthcare startup clones

A homage to sci fi and a look at why imitation is sometimes better than innovation.

7. 5 reasons why your health app will fail

A few tips on building an engaging app that helps people to be healthier. 

6. The biggest UI and UX challenge in healthcare (it's not what you think)

Another post that I am incredibly proud of - I know that sounds arrogant, but this is some of my best thinking about design in healthcare (something that I am super passionate about).

5. 7 ways to get more media coverage for your startup - right now!

It's about time I put all that 'spin doctoring' to good use!

4. Doctors are the new search engines

A post that could be about the perils of ePatients or a homage to the intellectual giants in our health systems.

3. Why your medical practice needs a social media strategy

Does a small medical practice really need to be active on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter... Do they really need a social media strategy?

2. 100 trends that will change healthcare

A massive list chronicling the massive changes that technology, mobile networks, ePatients, social media, startups and innovators will bring to healthcare into the future.

1. Startups: Do 1 thing

This seemed like a throw away post. It took me a handful of minutes to write, yet it is the most read post on the site. Is it the headline? You tell me.


I'm excited to continue on this journey in 2014. Please let me know which topics, trends or ideas you think I should explore on the site in 2014. Also, let me know if you would like to contribute to the site in 2014. I can't pay for guest posts, but I can give you access to a world wide audience that is engaged, passionate and excited about the potential to change healthcare in 2014 and beyond.

Thanks so much for all your support!