healthfinder.gov website to help consumers design family health plans.
The purpose of the contest was to get consumers more involved in their own healthcare by using a medium that has captured their attention, said Don Wright, MD, deputy assistant secretary for health and director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.
"In light of the fact that mobile technology and the mobile environment are exploding, we thought that we should exploit this technology in our efforts to promote disease prevention and health promotion activities, especially as it's related to clinical preventive services," he said.
The app includes information about the preventive services that, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health plans must cover if they intend to participate in the state health insurance exchanges. Wright noted that the ACA aims to address shortfalls in the utilization of preventive services, "and we wanted to create a tool that would increase use of those services."
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According to an HHS news release, "Submissions were reviewed based on weighted criteria, including usability and design, evidence of co-design, innovation in design, functionality and accuracy, and healthfinder.gov branding. Particular emphasis was placed on the use of plain language and health literacy principles, as well as connecting users to healthfinder.gov information about clinical preventive services."
Lyfechannel's Myfamily app enables consumers to use their mobile phones to enter their age, gender and pregnancy status on behalf of themselves and their family members. Based on that information, the app provides each individual with tailored content from healthfinder.gov on appropriate preventive services. In addition, it sends them monthly alerts about the preventive care they need, helps them track medical appointments and immunizations, and lists preventive services that their plans must cover under the ACA.
The next version of the app, LyfeChannel CEO Dave Vockell told InformationWeek Healthcare, will include health risk assessments related to conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer screenings. "It will augment the healthfinder.gov recommendations and be more tailored to engaging conditions you might already have or helping to surface them," he said.
Lyfechannel's app is available for iPhones and iPads and the firm will soon add an Android version. Its content can be read in English or Spanish.
There are also plans to connect the app with electronic health records (EHRs), Vockell said, adding that Lyfechannel's other apps are integrated with Allscripts. Wright commented, "It's our hope that eventually this app will be incorporated into the EHR. That's the direction the entire country is moving in."
In the first phase of the HHS contest, the 26 participating app developers "worked with end users, via a crowdsourcing platform called Health Tech Hatch (HTH), to build a working prototype," the press release said. "More than 160 individuals registered as testers and provided more than 260 comments."
The value of this crowdsourcing approach, Vockell said, was somewhat limited by the fact that many of the testers were healthcare providers and "technology early-adopter participants." So Lyfechannel's developers augmented this approach by conducting an impromptu focus group in the parking lot of a dollar store in El Cerrito, about an hour's drive from San Francisco, he said.
Presenting the healthfinder.gov content in a user-friendly manner was a paramount goal of the contest, and Wright said that Myfamily does so in a way that can be understand by almost any American. But Vockell added that health literacy is not just a matter of reading level. While the content from healthfinder.gov is at a 6th or 7th grade reading level, he noted, "Myfamily tries to translate the information from the consumer into a clear action plan, which is a core component of the literacy principles."