Improving Health Choices with Wireless Devices

David C. Mountain, Ph.D.David C. Mountain, Ph.D.
Professor – Biomedical Engineering
Boston University – College of Engineering
Research Professor – Otolaryngology
Boston University – School of Medicine


Daniel Imler, M.D.
Clinical Instructor / Fellow – Pediatrics
Boston University – School of Medicine


In contrast to the entire history of medicine, most clinical disease in the 21st century is directly attributable to the small, daily lifestyle choices humans make rather than infectious or traumatic causes. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and asthma are all clear examples and represent the most common, costly and deadly ailments patients now face. Thousands of guidelines exist encompassing the aggregate knowledge science has to advise health behaviors; however, patients have been notoriously non‐adherent to these recommendations. Our belief is that the best way to correct this pattern and improve clinical and cost outcomes is to affect patient’s intrinsic motivation when making conscious and subconscious decisions. With both the public and clinical concern that 31.9 percent of American children are overweight we have chosen as our initial clinical problem the poor adherence to guidelines for physical activity in children. Until recently this solution was extremely difficult due to the complexity of measuring human activity at a personal level. However, with the disruptive forces of decreasing size and cost of microprocessors, the last two years have seen the explosion of small, cheap wireless devices which can sense human actions and deliver that information to interoperable applications. This data now makes it possible to understand the daily health choices patients make. Our product is a novel software platform connecting real world health actions (activity, nutrition, medication compliance, etc.) to gaming applications where intrinsic mechanics can influence a child’s motivation to make healthier decisions. This is accomplished by the assignment of value to these actions as a currency to be used in mobile and online games. We then broker a two‐sided market where parents and insurers buy “potential” currency, which is activated by the child’s health behaviors and carries monetary value when reimbursed by games and digital media. By aggressively encouraging network effects and building a data standardization for relative values between health actions we believe we can successfully defend our position in this market. In addition, by creating a model for patient engagement fulfilling evidence‐based clinical guidelines we can significantly improve health outcomes.