Saturday, October 5, 2013

Would you take healthcare advice from a hologram? Web app uses virtual coaches to deliver health reminders

by Stephanie Baum,

October 1st 2013 8:01 AM

The gamification of healthcare has produced some interesting approaches to troubleshooting pain points in the industry. Simulation software to train for surgeries and striking the right note with patients to ensurephysical exams are free of medical jargon are just a few examples of this. Health IT startup Health Options Worldwide has launched a web-based application today called Health Intelligence, or HINT, for employer plans and individuals. It’s designed to help people manage their health by reminding them of medical checkups and to help them meet fitness goals.

HINT gives users a health care risk assessment and, based on their age, sex and healthcare background, it prompts a series of reminders for users. They can choose between four personal coach profiles: a drill instructor, a young female Pilates instructor. There’s also a middle-aged woman who sympathizes with users juggling family and work with health commitments squeezed in between. The fourth coach appeals to those looking for clinical feedback, said HINT co-founder and COO Clark Lagemann.

It has identified 27 activities from reminders to get a mammogram or pap smear or prostate cancer screening to taking a walk, going for a run or take a walk and check out the fall foliage.

Lagemann said although the tool will be free for consumers the business model is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. It’s designed to help them manage their employee health and who might not have the resources for a more expansive program. The idea is that by encouraging people to be more proactive with their health and getting regular checkups will catch potential health problems earlier and lead to fewer missed workdays.

Some believe people are more receptive to medical advice if it comes in the form of an avatar or hologram or fictional character because it comes across as “less judgey.” Next year the company plans to release smartphone apps.

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