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HHS picks mobile app for health promotion site

By Rachel Landen
Posted: May 1, 2013 - 3:15 pm ET

The government's efforts to promote prevention through its website took another step forward April 30 when HHS named San Carlos, Calif.-based Lyfechannel and its myfamily app the winner in its Mobile App Challenge.

The myfamily app was chosen from three finalists that came from an original pool of 26 submissions. Lyfechannel captured the $50,000 prize and a one-year contract to run the app.

Lyfechannel, which uses evidence-based research to develop mobile phone-accessible programs that support care for specific conditions, created the app to help people manage their family's health through a single mobile platform.

“This app helps put the power of prevention at the fingertips of Americans,” Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at HHS, said in a release. “Families can now use preventive care information to make informed personalized healthcare decisions right from their smartphone.”

Users of the myfamily app can learn about the benefits and services covered by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, find customized prevention information and tips for each family member, create personal health alerts and keep track of medical check-ups and vaccinations.

“It's a wildly informed set of instructions to help prioritize the health journey and keep track of it,” said Lyfechannel CEO Dave Vockell.

The app is now available for free download on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, and will be rolled out for Android users in June. A Spanish-language version known as mifamilia is also forthcoming in the next few weeks.

The Mobile App Challenge, sponsored by HHS' Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and managed with the help of San Francisco healthcare technology company Health 2.0 and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, asked developers and health professionals to team together to create a mobile application that would make content customizable and usable for preventative care. Developers were required to work with end users—patients and healthcare professionals—through a platform called Health Tech Hatch in order to get feedback on app usefulness during the development process.

“The use of crowdsourcing and feedback loops provided teams with critical information to develop a more useful application—not just another app—but a piece of technology that fulfills the needs of its users and improves health,” Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer at HHS, said in the release.

But Lyfechannel went that much further.

“We sat in the parking lot of a dollar store (in El Cerrito, Calif.) for two days and interviewed 200 women ages 25 to 40 to talk to them about health management in order to understand the unmet need that the immediacy and convenience of a phone could solve,” Vockell said. Lyfechannel found that there wasn't a shortage of health information or resources but that people didn't know what they should be doing next.

“What we did in working with was prioritize recommendations for each age and gender with programs covered under the Affordable Care Act,” Vockell said.

Vockell said the prize money will be used to add additional data sets and increased functionality, including things like a CDC vaccination schedule. They're also exploring ways to integrate the myfamily experience into hospital electronic health records in order to make doctor visits both more efficient and effective.

“We're going to keep on increasing the value of this mobile health experience,” Vockell said.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden

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