Wellness 2.0: an evaluative experience

At Health 2.0 we spend a lot of time researching new

technologies. As the new intern, I started my research on a basic and
well-known health topic: wellness and weight loss. It seems most people would
like to lose a few pounds, get a little more sleep and minimize stress. Not
surprisingly, health care technology has caught onto this need and many
companies are coming out with cutting-edge technologies to feed the need.

I took a look at eight or so online wellness platforms and I
found a wide range of services, from consumer facing to business wide fitness
programs.

In oversimplified terms, wellness 2.0 can be categorized
into three rough groups: the first is for businesses that want to be involved
in their employee’s health and wellbeing (and maybe lower health insurance
costs while at it). The second is
for those annoying calorie-counting dieters who want to catalog their every
bite. The last group is those who want a program that is personalized that can
track their every move, meal and mood.

Let’s start with the business-to-business wellness
technologies. The idea behind
these technologies is that a company (of any size really) can buy the service,
get employees enrolled and offer incentives and healthy competition to motivate
employees to stay healthy and happy at work. A few companies are prominent in
this space, including PureWellness, Nutrition Quest and
Limeade
. PureWellness conducts
large-scale health risks assessments for companies and then works to implement
effective company wide health imitative. NutritionQuest’s
website is currently difficult to navigate but it seems they provide in depth
health questionnaires and surveys and subsequent wellness programs for
companies.

The most
comprehensive service I found was Limeade.
Limeade offers a corporate online service (and iPhone app) where employees can
track their well-being, energy level, mood, weight, heart health and personal
goals. Additionally, the employees can challenge their coworkers to fitness
goals (i.e. lose 5 lbs by the company Christmas party or bike to work 3 days a
week) or HR can set up company wide challenges. Employees receive points for
achieving goals or improving health and can cash out for bonuses or PTO.

Limeade also incorporates an “employee dashboard” that lets
HR see aggregated results of employee’s health risks, energy level, and
happiness at work etc. All results are anonymous and summarized so employees
don’t have to worry about their personal information getting in the hands of
their boss.

The second category of wellness 2.0 incorporates one simple
equation: weight loss= calories burned > calories consumed. Calorie counting
will never go away (as annoying as it is to be friends with a calorie counter)
because the bottom line is it works. If you reduce your intake and increase
your output you will lose weight. It’s not enjoyable, but it is effective. The
best calorie counters out there are the ones that include every food known to
mankind and also help you calculate how many calories you burn from typing or hiking
in Yosemite.

This type of platform is easier to understand but can be
more work to develop the calorie counter application. Lots of companies are
getting into this space- especially incorporating with a smart phone
application that allows you to log foods while you are at a restaurant or
grocery store. Livestrong The Daily Plate has an excellent combination of
calorie counting and exercise calorie converter. The service is straightforward
and free. Sign up, input your body stats and current level of activity and your
weight loss goal and bam! it tells you how many calories you need to eat and
burn daily. The most useful
feature is the range of foods and activities included on Daily Plate’s lists.
They will tell you how many calories you burn making photocopies or folding
laundry and can tell you the calorie difference between some brands of chicken.
Daily Plate has conquered calorie burning but has yet to move onto other areas
of wellness.

Dr. J Says is a fairly low
profile soon to be exciting nutrition program/kiosk that also focuses on caloric
intake and nutrition for on campus dining and restaurant owners. Two popular
and user-friendly iPhone applications in this arena are Nutrition Menu and Wellness.
Nutrition Menu boasts over 41,000 food items on their calorie list and 250
restaurants. Wellness is a free service that has some fast food menus readily
available and allows you to customize your favorite meals and includes info on
certain vitamins and supplements.

The last type of wellness application is the
all-encompassing life-managing and tracking platform. There are a few in this
category that we have looked at (and even tried). One I personally like is Sensei: an iphone and blackberry integrated service
that helps you make lifestyle changes to stay healthy. Sensei personalizes your
weight loss by fitting in exercise time into your work day, giving you
individualized health tips, motivational messages and behavioral reminders
(i.e. no snacking past 9pm). Sensei does everything- and does it pretty well.
The only question to ask yourself is how much do you want an iPhone app to take
over your life?

Another notable company is The
Carrot
, a health-tracking web and smart phone application and
incorporates many aspects of health. The Carrot allows you to keep track of
your health by not only using standard measurements such as weight and blood
pressure, but also incorporates mood, medication, job satisfaction, wake up
time, sexual activity and many others. The Carrot also creates comprehensive
reports you can print out or save for your personal health records.

Life Mojo is another tracking
program that gears itself toward athletes with specific goals. While they do
provide calorie counters and general health tips, they place an emphasis on
runners, cyclists and gym rats to share routes, routines and workouts.

Let’s face it: losing weight, getting in shape and setting
fitness goals will never go out of style. Companies have been capitalizing on
it for years and will continue to blossom as the Web and Health realms move
from 2.0 to 3.0 and beyond. Depending on who you are, where you want to go with
your health, how much you are willing to pay and how much you want to know and
track about your health and wellness, you’ve got plenty of options. Most of
these companies offer free trials so explore a few and figure out what actually
gets you up and running.

If you want a first hand look at some of these companies, many will be featured at the Health 2.0 conference in October. More details to come.

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