Apple’s Healthbook is visionary—and parochial

by emily on April 17th, 2014 - Comments (0)

Dirk Knemeyer has a few questions about Apple’s ideas for a mobile medical solution.

This coming June, Apple is expected to announce their “Healthbook” app. In a bold expansion on the concepts of Involution’s hGraph app, Apple is attempting not only to federate all of a user’s important, top-level health and wellness data but also to synchronize with hardware devices that do everything from analyze blood to count steps to monitor heart rate.

Healthbook mockup

Mockup of Healthbook screen published to Behance this past February.

hGraph, your health in one picture

hGraph, the only open source visualization for your complete health, developed by Involution Studios.

There is an enormous need for this kind of software. Right now hundreds of companies are shipping devices that collect or track health and wellness information, but locking that data into proprietary interfaces that they are trying to monetize in order to sustain a business. This bottom-up approach worked in validating the market, but it is not at all consumer-friendly in the aggregate. It is too hard for a user who knows how all of his or her different services work to get a good picture, let alone a doctor or emergency healthcare professional. Having one software interface where all of your data is tracked and displayed is clearly the correct solution. Someone certainly needs to do it. The question is, is Apple the right company to be doing it?

Emphatically: No, for three reasons.

  1. Apple is terrible at software. Can you name one piece of software that Apple makes which is really excellent? From iTunes to Mail to Pages to iCloud, one is worse than the other. OS X? Used to be the best, largely thanks to engineering, not design, but as they try to unify their desktop and mobile operating systems and user experience, it gets worse every day. Keynote? OK, I will grant you Keynote. But Apple has a long track record of being astonishingly good at hardware and cover-your-eyes-bad at software. Maybe they get it right here—I hope they do—but as my Mail app continues to misbehave and iCloud remains unusable after more than a decade of trying, I can’t fathom that they will.
  2. Health information access needs to be universal and consistent, not specific to mobile OS providers. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are locked in a battle for digital supremacy. Rather than search for solutions that are complementary they are each trying to create their own OS, their own devices, and their own mapping programs. If they are now also providing their own Healthbook equivalents, it could present a serious challenge. Do we expect healthcare professionals to train up on three different software environments? What happens to your Apple data if you change to Microsoft, will it be lost or just offline and not integrated? Do these shortsighted competitors have the vision to cooperate?
  3. Apple’s parochial interests will stifle innovation. The totality of this picture is a complex one. Apple, correctly, is trying to bring together a tremendous amount of health data and information from potentially very different sources and devices. Meanwhile, they are rapidly patenting various hardware, software, and input and output mechanisms aimed at the rapidly expanding mobile medical device market. Each success brings Apple closer to developing a Healthbook that is more proprietary, less universal, and infinitely less useful in the long-term and/or outside of the Apple bubble.

Ideally this sort of software would be created by an international non-profit focused solely on health and wellness as part of a blueprint for healthful humanity. Among their initiatives they would make this sort of top-order software as accessible and transferable and standardized as possible. Of course, there is no such organization. It seems like an obvious thing to be funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but how much Microsoft stock does the Family Gates still hold? Around and around we go.

About Involution’s Health Design Practice
For almost 10 years, Involution has been building software for health companies of every shape and size, from household names like AstraZeneca and Walgreens, to research leaders like the Personal Genome Project and Partners HealthCare. We also work with the most exciting and progressive health startups. We’ve made digital healthcare our top focus.

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Involution Principal to Speak at Stanford Medicine X 2014

by emily on April 16th, 2014 - Comments (0)

Stanford MedicineX logo
Stanford Medicine X 2014
Stanford University
September 5-7, 2014

Remember doctor’s visits when you were growing up? The wooden tongue depressor. The well-worn stethoscope. That weird thing they jammed in your ears. And now, my young children are getting about that same treatment. But that is going to change.

Involution Creative Director Juhan Sonin has been invited to present “Design For Life” at Stanford Medicine X in September. Along with other innovators in patient-centered design, Sonin will talk about design-for-health possibilities and responsibilities.

As design harnesses digital, materials and networking technologies, a very new health experience is just over the horizon. Proactive, lifestyle design. Tracking real-time health data. Non-invasive tools. Custom “just for you” treatments based on your actual genome. These are all real technologies, being used by ordinary people. Together they are leading us to “stage zero” detection and treatment which has the potential to double or better the lifespan of every first-world citizen. It’s not science fiction—the children of the 2020s will only know this reality. Tongue depressors will be limited to school craft projects and popsicles. And it is all the product of technology and design.

“Design For Life” will introduces the macro factors shaping these realities, along with an in-depth exploration of the various impacts of and opportunities for design.

About Medicine X
Medicine X is a catalyst for new ideas about the future of medicine and health care. The Medicine X initiative is designed to explore the potential of social media and information technology to advance the practice of medicine, improve health, and empower patients to be active participants in their own care. The “X” is meant to evoke a move beyond numbers and trends—it represents the infinite possibilities for current and future information technologies to improve health. Under the direction of Dr. Larry Chu, Associate Professor of Anesthesia, Medicine X is a project of the Stanford AIM Lab.

About Juhan Sonin
Juhan is the Creative Director of Involution Studios, and has been the creative leader of four different organizations, producing work recognized by the BBC, the New York Times, Ars Electronica, National Public Radio, and Billboard Magazine. Prior to joining Involution, Juhan spent time at Apple, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), a few startups, and MITRE. He is also a lecturer on design and rapid prototyping at MIT.

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OSCON 2014: Design is Medicine

by emily on April 16th, 2014
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OSCON2014 logo
O’Reilly OSCON

Open Source Convention
July 20-24, 2014
Portland, OR

Remember doctor’s visits when you were growing up?
The wooden tongue depressor. The well-worn stethoscope. That weird thing they jammed in your ears.

As design harnesses digital, materials, and networking technologies, a very new health experience is just over the horizon. Proactive, […]

Involution Studios’ Arlington Visual Budget Selected as a 2014 MITX What’s Next Awards Finalist

by emily on April 11th, 2014
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Arlington Visual Budget recognized for innovation, value, and impact.

BOSTON, MAInvolution Studios today announced its Arlington Visual Budget has been selected as a finalist in the Best Doing Good Innovation – Product and Most Insightful: Big Data and Analytics Innovations – Product categories for the MITX What’s Next Awards. This year MITX combined its annual […]

Involution’s Health Axioms Featured on NPR

by emily on April 10th, 2014
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NPR Health Axioms Story

Involution’s Health Axioms are grabbing the attention of the health innovation community.

NPR Health Blogger Nancy Shute posted her impressions of the Health Axioms recently in If A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words, Could It Help You Floss?

After getting her own Health Axioms in the mail — with a personal note — Shute called Involution’s Juhan […]

Designing with Data at UXPA Boston 2014

by emily on April 9th, 2014
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User Experience Conference 2014

May 15, 2014 at 8:00 a.m.
Sheraton Boston Hotel
39 Dalton Street, Boston, MA 02199

The wealth of tools recently released makes it easier to stitch design assets together into “interactive prototypes.” The limiting factor in these tools is that they rely on the static data in your […]