Tracking app eyes pharma with clinical trial play

By Jonah Comstock
taptrakCR TapTrak's forthcoming clinical trials app.

Medical micro-journaling startup tapTrak has formally hired pharma veteran Efren Olivares, a hire that signals the company's upcoming expansion into the pharma space.

New York City-based tapTrak, which raised $390,000 in seed funding last July, began its life in 2011 as a consumer-focused quantified self app, to make it easy for people to track and count things in their daily lives. Last year the company launched tapTrak Med, turning the same technology towards patient engagement and adherence.

"For tapTrak Med, we're in two pilots that are diabetes-focused," Olivares told MobiHealthNews. "We're looking at uncontrolled diabetes patients, to remind them to take their medicine, but also to help them manage their eating habits because a lot of the clinicians feel their patients aren't monitoring their diets. So this is a way that every day there's a gentle reminder, that by watching their diets and taking their medicine they can go from being uncontrolled diabetics to patients with their diabetes under control."

On tapTrak Med, patients can track prescriptions, pain and side effects, diet, exercise, vitals, mental health, and appointments. The company also recently launched SurgeryTrak, an app that gives patients recovering from surgery daily surveys and checklists of therapeutic activities. With all the tapTrak Med apps, the data patients enter is uploaded to the cloud so their physician can access it. It's HIPAA compliant and EHR-compatible.

As the company moves into the pharmaceutical space, Olivares will lean on a 22-year pharma background, including work with Pfizer, Lilly, Baxter and Dura Pharmaceuticals.

"As I was finishing my tenure at Pfizer it was clear that the digital world was a world that pharma was quite behind on," he said. "I spent a good part of last year looking at different apps and technology and opportunities."

The company will explore a number of uses for tapTrak's micro-journaling apps, including medication adherence and chronic disease managment, but Olivares said the first applications will be in clinical trials.

"We actually have a new version of tapTrak coming, it's called tapTrakCR, for clinical research," he said. "It will be a take home app for patients in clinical trials whereby the trial managers are able to give all the participants in trials specific questions and answers and then we can get the data back. A lot of times this is done in person by people coming in or filling in a journal or logbook and it's very inconsistent. So we're hoping to give them a tool so they have a simple journal that links back to the trial managers automatically, without having phone calls to the participants."

Olivares said the innovation behind tapTrak is that it combines self-tracking with patient-physician communication, and that the presence of the clinician in the process actually makes patients more likely to track.

"By and large the majority of patients need to feel like there's someone looking out for them, that their clinician is looking for them and using the data in a helpful way," he said. "I would say the real key innovation is understanding patient-clinician communication, and how to do it in a way that's convenient for the patient, but also so the clinician doesn't feel overburdened with extra work."

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