WebMD adds personal health device data to its flagship consumer app

By Aditi Pai
09:20 am
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Healthy TargetWebMD updated its consumer-facing health app this week: it now integrates a user's biometric data from certain activity trackers, wireless scales, and glucose meters. While the app tracks steps, sleep, weight and blood glucose data from devices, if users have an iPhone 5s, they can also track steps passively from their phone.

The app's new feature, called Healthy Target, uses data from these various health devices to provide consumers with physician-reviewed information and health tips. The company will target people who want to manage certain chronic conditions, including diabetes and obesity, as well as those who just want to live a healthier lifestyle. Users can choose from six different goals before they begin using the app: lose weight, eat healthier, be more active, control blood sugar, sleep better, and feel better. While the app does not include nutrition tracking or mood tracking, the company may add those and other trackers in the future.

Healthy Target will then use the imported metrics to offer behavior change suggestions that help users reach their goal. The app will provide users with three different ways to change a behavior -- an easy, medium, and hard way. When a user tracks a certain habit for five out of seven days, they can level up and the behavior change will become more difficult. If users say they didn't make a behavior change as planned, the app prompts them to explain why they didn't. From this data, Healthy Target creates a reading list of articles that aim to help users successfully complete the habit next time. 

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WebMD also plans to eventually enable Healthy Target users to discuss their data with their physicians who are use WebMD's provider-facing app Medscape. WebMD first bridged these two apps last September when it enabled Medscape users to recommend reading materials through the app by pushing it to their patient's WebMD app.

"Part of Healthy Target's plan is really to help people create and sustain healthy habits," WebMD Director of Product Management David Ziegler told MobiHealthNews. "Medscape [has] 625,000 physicians that are actively using the app and we are the number one health and wellness app so we are well positioned to connect these two, it's part of our long-term vision. But initially creating a behavior change program is challenging and that's where our initial focus with Healthy Target is."

WebMD integrated some of the device date into the app as part of a partnership with Qualcomm Life’s 2net platform. WebMD is integrating others, like Jawbone, directly. The WebMD app currently integrates data from Fitbit, Telcare, Withings, and Entra devices too.

Eventually, Ziegler said there is a possibility that WebMD will integrate data from Apple's new HealthKit into Healthy Target.

"Obviously HealthKit is very new and everyone is still trying to wrap their heads around exactly what HealthKit is, but from out perspective it's about storage and making it more accessible for users to have control over their personal biometrics," Ziegler said. "And right now our mobile strategy is to leverage personalized data and layer contextual information and actionable insights on top of that. So if it makes it easier for users to connect this first wave of biometrics, the steps, sleep, weight and blood glucose, [HealthKit's] just another silo of data for us. As we learn more and we play with the newly released SDK, we're figuring out the best way to integrate."

Because Healthy Target is a feature within the company's flagship app, the Healthy Target section will have advertisements on the bottom of the screen as well, but advertisements will also be inserted into the user's Healthy Target data feed.

WebMD's venture into personal health tracking and population health management has been expected for a while. In March 2013, WebMD’s then-EVP and CTO Bill Pence told MobiHealthNews the company planned to integrate devices into the app eventually through their partnership with Qualcomm Life. Pence has since left the company and is now CTO of AOL.

More recently, in the company’s Q1 earnings call last month, CEO David Schlanger announced that the Healthy Target feature would launch soon.

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