Using ODL apps to aid medical research

By Brian Dolan
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Mobile health startup WellApps is beginning to explore how its smartphone app, GI Monitor, which encourages its users to collect "observations of daily living" ODLs might be used to help some patient groups inform care providers on how best to treat their conditions. WellApps recently collected a set of data points from 50 ulcerative colitis (UC) patients who use its GI Monitor, which has more than 2,500 active users, according to Co-Founder CEO Brett Shamosh. There are about 1.4 million Americans living with UC or Crohn's Disease, Shamosh said.

The GI Monitor app helps users track stool number, form, blood, and urgency in addition to pain levels and stress levels to determine a quality of life score on a scale of 1 to 10. The data Shamosh shared specifically compared blood and stress levels.

"I have ulcerative colitis (UC) and have read many different takes on whether stress and UC were related," Shamosh told MobiHealthNews. "We thought it would be interesting to have real world data to see if there were any trends there. This is by no means a clinical study but some of the physicians we have shown it to are interested in pursuing one. What this data shows is that this kind of collection of data -- observations of daily living -- can marry to consumer media apps to improve clinical outcomes and treatments for these conditions."

GIMonitorColitisChart

Shamosh said that the raw data is currently in the hands of statisticians the startup has been working with to determine if there are any trends. Shamosh said that researchers have yet to agree whether stress causes blood in these patients, vice or versa or not at all.

"We did this as a thought experiment," WellApps Co-founder Dr Edward Shin said. "We put it together to show interested parties the potential power of mobile health platforms. Health doesn't occur in the doctors office, it occurs in everyday life. The game changer is that this is mobile and people are entering their data as it happens. We think this could be a potential platform for research moving forward."

Shamosh and Shin say that the alternative to an ODL apps like theirs is using pen and paper diaries to track symptoms of conditions like ulcerative colitis.

WellApps has two main criteria for the type of conditions it is pursuing: No clear biomarkers and high morbidity, like constant reminders of pain. The next four apps in WellApps development cue are focused on fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, lupus. Shamosh said the company is in the midst of raising its seed round of funding right now.

For more, check out WellApps' run down of this study here.