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The map below is a representation of my professional career, because I have a soft spot in my heart for both maps and information visualization. I have personally found that the more places I live, the better I am able to understand the world around me.


Click To View Google Map


This is my personal blog… as in my thoughts, coming straight from me and not representing anything or anyone else. Oh, and I completely ripped off the cool resume map idea above from Ed Hamilton, because I read somewhere that “great artists steal.”

What Can The Travel Industry Teach The Health Industry About Data?

By | SoHealth

Last week I became curious about how sites like Travelocity and Orbitz get their information. When I think about all of the different flights, times, locations and prices that I can access in real time with a few clicks of a mouse, it makes me wonder why something equivalent doesn’t exist between Doctors and Insurance companies. You know, like when you need to be referred and nobody can instantly tell you who you can be referred to based on your insurance…

That problem seems like it should be easily fixable, with a large database, like the one the travel industry has created for itself. Here is how it works for the airlines, via FareCompare:

How Travel Data Flows

The relationship between the individual airlines and the ATPCO database is the one that I’m most interested in, as that seems to be how the entire system is able to work in real time. The big difference being that airlines are incentivized to push their data into the system so that end users can purchase tickets. They may also be getting money from the ATPCO for the data, as well. The point is, airlines make money by being part of this system…

So could insurance companies make or save money by establishing a system like this for their provider networks?

Thinking about all of the hands that an out of network bill must touch, the anxiety these types of bills place on their members, and the effort involved in resolving disputes might be an incentive for health insurance companies to be a part of a system like this one. However, I don’t think that would be enough to actually build it. I’ve identified one problem that this type of system could solve, but perhaps there are more. Problems that third parties could build businesses around to supplement its development…

Any other ways that insurance/provider data could be used to make or save money?

Open mHealth

By | SoHealth

Dr. Deborah Estrin is the Jon Postal Chair in Computer Networks at UCLA, and is leading the Open mHealth Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) Project. I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Estrin this morning, and it was great to talk with somebody who is passionate about the “plumbing” that is necessary for all of the data that mHealth services are able to collect. The plumbing isn’t very sexy to talk about, but it’s an extremely important aspect of mHealth utility and innovation. This diagram does a great job of showing the benefits of an open mhealth architecture:

Open mHealth Architecture - Diagram by Dr. Deborah Estrin and Dr. Ida Sim
Diagram by Dr. Estrin & Dr. Sim

Open mHealth is Open Data

I share the belief that health data is owned by the patient and should be portable. As a health consumer, I should be able to mix and match the health applications that are important to me AND view all of my data wherever I want to view it. This means that new value propositions and business models will need to be explored around the movement of data as opposed to the ownership of data by third party services. It’s very exciting to talk with others pushing in the same direction.

To get you as excited about this idea as I am, I will leave you with an excerpt from a paper Dr. Estrin co-authored with Dr. Ida Sim called, Open mHealth Architecture: An Engine for Health Care Innovation. Please feel free to reach out to me if mHealth plumbing fires you up:

By opening mHealth architecture, and thus lowering the barriers to entry, a broad community of patients, clinicians, family, and others could be involved in collaborative, participatory design of mHealth apps, providing new tools for extending care into the daily lives of families and communities.

New Features on Mood 24/7

By | SoHealth

Mood 24/7 has over 3,000 registered users and nearly 150 Medical Professionals using it, and I’m pumped that we’re pushing out some new features for our growing community of mood trackers. Here is what we’ve been up to recently:


charts We’ve updated our charts, so you can now log in and view your personal Mood 24/7 chart from your Smartphone or tablet, with no problems.

Mood 24/7 Mood Chart

notes Now you can update your Mood 24/7 account from either your mobile phone or directly on the website itself. Simply log into your account online, and add your numerical mood rating and a note in the “How do you feel?” box to give an update that day. You can also click on “Add Note” anywhere on the page to add thoughts to previous days. Mood 24/7 will record the first numerical mood rating you provide each day from either the site or your phone. You choose.

User Post Note, Mood 24/7

daily averages If you update Mood 24/7 regularly, you can see which day of the week is best for you, as Mood 24/7 now takes all of your daily numerical mood ratings and averages them by day of the week. This is displayed above your mood chart.  What’s your best day?

Daily Averages, Mood 24/7


notes Now you can add notes to your patients’ Mood 24/7 accounts from the “Record a note about this patient” box when viewing their mood chart. You can also click on “Add Note” anywhere on the page to add notes to previous days. Med Pro notes show up with a stethoscope icon and a different background color from user notes, and they can only be viewed by both the doctor who wrote the note and the Mood 24/7 user. This means whatever notes are added will stay private, between doctor and patient.

Doctor Post Note, Mood 24/7

manage patients We’ve made it possible to sort through patient lists by name, latest mood rating, and latest mood rating date, so that you can take a quick scan through all of your patients at once.

Manage Patients, Mood 24/7

I’m really excited about these updates, and would love to know what you think of them.

How To Get One Million Users

By | SoHealth

The number one million, doesn’t mean what it used to… but it is still an important number in mobile health technology. Mainly because we haven’t heard it used much, in the context of adoption. The fitness and nutrition category has bested the coveted one million user mark, but I haven’t seen any other category touting the number one million when talking about their user base. For example, if 25.8 million Americans have Diabetes, how many of the 590 Diabetes related iPhone/iPad apps have you heard of talking about their one million users?

Being that the one million user threshold is a milestone that I’m interested in, I did some research and charted the amount of time it took some popular Web 2.0 companies to reach one million users:

Chart of Months to One Million Users

I performed this research via Google Search, and tried to pull the information from the site itself, when possible. We can see from the graph that MySpace was an outlier, and immediately start to ask why. If you ask Jonathan Abrams, founder of Friendster, MySpace’s rapid growth can be attributed to the fact that MySpace was a Friendster clone that worked AND that MySpace opened up their electronic doors to minors.

Are Young People the Key?

I find this last fact to be very interesting. Especially when looked at relative to the other services growth rates. Facebook started in colleges and universities and reached one million users in ten months. Foursquare targeted young people who go out on nights and weekends and took a year to reach one million users… While Twitter has always appealed to the over 30 crowd, and also took twice as long to reach one million users.

I think this raises an important question in the adoption of online services. Taking out all other factors, as the age of a user base decreases, does the likelihood for massive, rapid adoption of the service increase? My theory is that it does… and this is a direction we’re headed with Mood 24/7.

If this is the case, then what are the implications for health technologies? And why aren’t we designing more tech-health services for an audience that has the highest likelihood of spreading them?

Are We Thinking Too Small?

By | SoHealth

Person Sitting in Paul Bunyon Statue's HandIf the World Health Organization defined the term “health” as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity back in 1948, then can we really believe that health records only containing information about our physical health will be a panacea for the future of health care in America? Shouldn’t we be looking at more?

Imagine a world where all of your data seemlessly flows into and out of a single interface, and connects with everyone in, and even out in some cases, of your network. Pretty futuristic right? Well, people are working on this today, and I think that’s very cool.

Watch this eight minute video and tell me that we all shouldn’t be demanding something like this in the next five to ten years.


photo by Ken Ratcliff

Healthy Twitter Lists

By | SoHealth

Person writing a grocery listGoing through some old posts on my (seemingly defunct) personal blog for street cred on the topic, I was reminded how much I really liked Twitter lists and niches, as I’ve been rekindling that old flame lately. What I’m enjoying about Twitter lists these days is how far they’ve come toward serving as an all in one pseudo-relationship management tool.

Two Things That Twitter And Lists Make Easy

research Let’s say that you want to find everybody on Twitter related to a specific health condition… and associated niches. My example would be “mental health” but within that general topic there are associated keywords by condition: depression bipolar, etc. by profession: psychiatrist, social worker, etc. and by affiliation: patient, pharma, etc. to name a few, so try not to limit yourself in your searches. There are three ways that I use to go about finding these different people on Twitter within a condition topic of interest. You can search their Twitter bios for key words by using a free service like followerwonk. You can search for keywords that people have associated themselves with in online directories, like WeFollow. Or you can troll other peoples’ lists by keyword using a free service like TLists.  Sidenote: I do recommend some human intervention after you get the initial results, however. Looking at these user accounts will reveal SPAMMERS as well as inactives, neither of which you want on your list. Plus manually reviewing the results begins to get you familiar with the faces of your condition on Twitter.

communication Once you have your topical lists created you can throw them into Tweetdeck to monitor what people in your niche are talking about and join in the conversation when you have something to add. If you have a message that you want to make sure that certain list members see, you can log into Twitter.com, open your list and the list’s followers, click on every individual list member, and look for the “Message” button in their profile. This may sound tedious, but it’s actually a lot easier than attempting to contact people from spreadsheets. It’s an easy way to connect with people you have deemed to be important, in private. Presumably, a percentage of the people you reach out to will reply or retweet your message. So as an extra bonus, you can create a new private list of those people to put into Tweetdeck so you can build on those connections over time.

How are you using Twitter lists to connect with other health professionals?

photo by the Italian Voice

Pennsylvanians In A Better Mood AFTER Super Bowl XLV

By | SoHealth

Super Bowl XLV Mood Infographic
You know that the Super Bowl is a big deal in America when 60,000 plus people vote on whether or not they liked the half time show

So what if you could visualize the relationship between geography, mood and Super Bowl XLV? We got curious about this and averaged the daily mood ratings of anonymous Mood 24/7 users with Pennsylvania area codes, on both the day before and the day after the Super Bowl. Based on the 7% increase in mood in the state of Pennsylvania, over that time frame, we came to the conclusion that the Pittsburgh Steelers won the game… Hooray, Pittsburgh!

The actual results of the game differed from our conclusion, however, as we came to find out that the Green Bay Packers bested the Pittsburgh Steelers on Super Bowl Sunday, by the score of 31-25.

This begs the question, do the positive or negative outcomes of major sporting events really have an impact on our moods?

Mood 24/7 is a free, text message mood tracking service developed by HealthCentral, based on technology licensed exclusively from Johns Hopkins University.

Digital mHealth Breakdown

By | SoHealth

ihealth digital mhealth The term “mHealth” is pretty broad in nature. There are at least two distinct branches stemming from the core concept of mobile health: connected devices and digital applications. Of these two branches, here is a list of subcategories of digital health applications:

Digital mHealth

web The original mHealth application is a web site that allows users to manage their health from their own personal computer or laptop. 77% of Americans have an Internet connection, and websites make it easy for people to keep track of their information in one place, accessible from anywhere there is an internet connection. The downside to the web is that lack of mobility compared to the other two options.

pros – high user penetration

cons – limited mobility

sms Although texts aren’t as sexy as Smartphone applications, SMS is accessible to 91% of Americans… and those Americans send five billion text messages per day according to the CTIA. Besides being nearly ubiquitous, SMS also allows users to pick a time of day to receive a specific message that they can respond to, making it great for tracking things related to health. One limitation with SMS is the time and expense associated with purchasing a shortcode, however services like Tropo and Twilio have brought down that specific barrier to entry.

pros – nearly every American can text

cons – not glamorous technology

apps The number of health and fitness related apps for Smartphones is climbing everyday, and healthy Smartphone applications definitely receive a lot of publicity. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t own a Smartphone today. It’s safe to assume that this will change over time, as processors get smaller, faster and cheaper, but it’s tough to reach a massive audience on a platform that has yet to be widely adopted.  A further limitation to the pure Smartphone health app is that the data is local to the mobile device and not connected in any way.

pros – integrated into smartphone experience

cons – not for everybody, data may not be connected

For a list of tracking applications, be sure to check out Quantified Self

photo by: juhansonin

6 Tips To Turn Support Groups Into Free Focus Groups

By | SoHealth

Support Group MeetingI’m leading the development of an SMS and web based mood tracking service called, Mood 24/7. You may be developing a health product of your own, and really need to get into the heads of your target audience. The traditional approach would be to spend tens of thousands of dollars and a couple months to come up with questions, round up the right people, throw some kind of all day catered event, and analyze the results.

That’s great, if you like spending lots of time and money on something you can do for free. Here are six tips to turn a local condition specific support group into a free focus group for your health product development efforts:

Find A Local Support Group

There are different ways you can go about finding a local support group. My two favorites are to: hit up a search engine with the condition, the word “support group” and your city name OR look on the websites of national non-profits supporting the condition you’re building a product for, and see if they have a chapter in your local area that meets up regularly.

Be 100% Transparent

If you don’t actually have the condition that the support group is supporting, it would be disingenuous to pretend that you do or to say nothing about yourself… so be up front from the start. Support groups, for the most part, seem to go around the room to allow people to introduce themselves. My introduction is that I’m Chris, I work for a company called HealthCentral and am building a free text message mood tracking service called Mood 24/7. And I’m just here to listen if that’s OK.

This is the moment of truth for you. It’s up to the group to determine if it’s OK for you to be there or not, and if it’s not OK with them then you’ll need to find another group to join.


The meetings I attend last an hour, so it’s an hour of me not talking at all. I do this for two reasons: 1. I’m a guest and I always need to remember that, and 2. I want to know what is important to people with the condition my product supports, and people inevitably talk about the things that are important to them.

After attending a single one hour meeting, I was able to glean an insight that is helping me redirect my product development pipeline around a feature that, I think, will lead to an exponential value increase of my product within the eyes of my target audience. I was able to confirm this by doing the next tip.

Stay After To Socialize

You’ve listened for an hour and have taken notes. Now is your chance to introduce yourself to people on an individual basis. This is your target user base after all, so it helps to get to know them better as human beings. Odds are, there are a few members of the group who will approach you. This is the perfect time to ask whatever questions you have come up with as a result of the group discussion. You’ll also want to go around to people that brought things up in the meeting that you may be interested in, to get to know them better and ask specific feature questions.

Staying after to socialize also adds to your credibility, which I think is important if you actually care about the product you’re developing, and the people who will use it.

Connect With the Support Group’s Leadership

This is a follow up to always remembering that you’re a guest, and being totally transparent. The group’s leadership is going to want to know more about you, your product, and what you’re doing in the meetings. Tell them. In my case, I’m offering a free product that I feel can help the members of the group get to know their mood triggers better. So we’re exploring the idea of the local group throwing a link up on their site, which I think would be an extra bonus for both me and the group. Either way though, I’m meeting and talking to people who are passionate about making a difference in the community… which is very inspirational to me as I go through the ups and downs of product development.

Come Back

Similar to staying after to socialize, coming back to regularly scheduled meetings gives you the opportunity to build trust among the group members. My group meets three times a week, and I’ve started attending once per week. The reasoning for this is that I have other commitments at night, plus I really don’t want to overstep my bounds with the group by attending too frequently. I’m looking for the, “it’s nice to see you again” vibe, as opposed to the “not him again” vibe, and have erred on the side of caution.

My Conclusion

I’m now a big fan of support groups as free focus groups for health product developers. If you follow these tips, you’ll not only build a better product; you’ll make some new friends and spread good will from your company through the community.

Life is all about the journey.

photo by: USDAgov

The mHealth Data Dilemma

By | SoHealth

Two charts showing differences in data collection value curve
I talk with people a lot about data collection. After all, when you break Mood 24/7 down to its core, you find a data collection service. When pitching the benefits of tracking a single daily health data point, I’ve found the general response to be quite telling of American culture…

Nine times out of ten I’ll get asked if we can get more data. This response is amazing to me, for two reasons:

The first reason being, we aren’t currently receiving even one health data point on a daily basis from over 95% of Americans (my stat)… And although I have no proof, yet, I personally feel that the level of care in America can be increased exponentially with just a single data point tracked per person per day. Regardless of the data point.

The second reason this response is amazing to me is the implication that it’s trivial to insert a new behavior into an individual’s routine for an extended period of time… let alone a new behavior multiple times per day. The assumption may sound logical, that if we can get one data point, then we should be able to get multiple data points from the same individual. But it is not realistic when looking at a value curve. From a user’s perspective, multiple data entries per day increases complexity, while providing marginal utility gains.

We also know that healthy behavior change just isn’t that easy. If we can use weight as a data point and  obesity as a proxy for American interest in their own health over the past 25 years, then it’s easy to see that we have enough of a challenge on our hands getting people to track even one health data point daily.Which is a big reason why I push back every time I’m asked the question about getting more data.

The other reason is that we can’t afford to look past simple data sets and visualizations because they’re “not as useful” as all encompassing individual health data streams. The truth is there is a lot that can be trended and deduced from a single data point per day, and those health trends over weeks and months are far more valuable than the relationship between multiple daily data points.

That’s my take, anyway.

I’m very interested to read why I’m right or wrong on this one, as I see mHealth and data collection being synonymous moving forward.