University of Michigan children's hospital targets obesity with telemedicine, wearables

By Jonah Comstock
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Fruit StreetThe CS Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan is launching a new telemedicine program to help reduce childhood obesity. The hospital will work with Fruit Street, a recently-formed digital wellness and telemedicine platform, to provide a program for patients that integrates video visits with monitoring via wearable devices.

"Childhood obesity is a significant public health concern," Dr. Susan Woolford, the medical director of the weight management program, said in a statement. "Many children with excess weight will grow up to be severely obese adults and will suffer from obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Our goal is to help teens and their families improve their health through lifestyle changes and we believe that well designed communications technology can help us connect with our patients and increase the likelihood of our patients achieving success. Fruit Street is the software solution we chose to use to accomplish this."

Providers at CS Mott, including physicians, dietitians, psychologists, social workers, exercise physiologists and physician assistants, will use Fruit Street's Virtual Lifestyle Medicine Clinic offering to conduct HIPAA-compliant video visits with young patients. In-between visits, they'll be able to measure patients progress via uploads from devices like Fitbit, Withings, Jawbone UP, iHealth Labs, and even the Apple Watch, as well as connected scales. Patients can choose to share sleep, exercise, diet, weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose data with their clinicians. They can also keep a mobile food diary and share that data with providers as well.

Fruit Street launched in January after raising a $1.3 million in seed funding over two separate rounds in October and January. Most of the individuals who contributed to the seed round were physicians, including Houston Cardiology Consultants Partner Asif Ali, Yampa Valley Medical Center Urologist Stacy Childs, Rapha Family Medicine Practice Owner Frances Ilozue, and Orthopedic Surgeon and Tyrance Group President Patrick Tyrance, Jr.

The San Francisco-based company offers a telemedicine service to providers that allows them to monitor patients via wearables, mobile apps, and virtual visits. The clinician can pull up the patient's aggregated data on a virtual whiteboard during the teleconference and discuss it with them.

"The ability to have a positive impact on treating childhood obesity will help these pediatric patients reduce their risk for chronic diseases that they will face later in life,"Asif Ali, CMO of Fruit Street Health, said in a statement. "This aligns with Fruit Street's mission to treat and prevent disease using telemedicine and wearable technology."