Smartphones, smart cars, smart TVs – but how about smart health?

That is the driving mission behind Ginger.io, a mobile app for iPhone and Android that draws in data from the user to paint a picture of their health, in real-time. Of course, Ginger.io is far from the first ‘health app’ to hit the market. We’ve already seen the likes of Fitbit and Nike’s FuelBand dominate the fitness wearables market, providing their wearers with data on steps taken, calories burned, miles run and hours slept at any given time. But what sets Ginger.io apart from the rest of the competition is the kind of data it draws on to provide users with insight into their bodies – and who it shares that data with.

GINGER.IO IS CALCULATING THIS KIND OF SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR TO PAINT A BROAD PICTURE OF THE USER’S HEALTH. IT’S A NEW TYPE OF HEALTH ANALYTICS THAT FRAMES REAL-LIFE BEHAVIOUR IN A HEALTH- CENTRIC CONTEXT.

Beyond just those very fundamental health and movement metrics, what really distinguishes Ginger.io is its ability to use phone behaviour as a baseline for digging into a more personalised side of a user’s physical and mental health – or in other words, the social side of their health. For instance, calculating how often the user sends text messages, how much time they spend on the phone, when they call a particular friend or relative, or how often they contact or interact with certain people compared to others.

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At first glance, none of this may sound remotely health-re- lated. But behind the scenes of the app, Ginger.io is calculating this kind of social behaviour to paint a broad picture of the user’s health. It’s a new type of health analytics that frames real-life behaviour in a health-centric context.

DATA ISN’T JUST ABOUT MAKING OR TRACKING SALES, IT’S A TOOL FOR ENACTING REAL, PERSONALISED CHANGE ON AN INDIVIDUAL LEVEL.

More than that, it’s interactive. Ginger.io isn’t just keeping track of what your body tells it; the app will also engage you with questions throughout the day to get a sense of how you’re feeling, and then update its own internal diagnoses in real-time based on your responses. In a sense, Ginger.io functions as a sort of pock- et-sized doctor.

And it wouldn’t be a very good doctor if it didn’t take action when your health called for it. Whereas similar apps might tell you what kind of shape you’re in but then leave you to determine whether to act on it or ignore it, Ginger.io will ping friends, family and primary care doctors if it senses something amiss about your health on a given day. This, in turn, gives a person’s caregivers greater agency and awareness in the event there’s something wrong and the user is either unable or unwilling to take action.

To promote both the app and the connectivity between pa- tients and doctors, Ginger.io partnered with hospital systems throughout the United States, as well as American healthcare providers Kaiser Permanente and Novant Health.18 With this level of coverage, Ginger.io can ensure that it is bolstering connections between patients and doctors, as well as providing the latter with greater insight into the former than ever before.

While Ginger.io is predominantly focused on patients living with mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety, the company is also partnering with academic research- ers to look into possible applications for monitoring patients with chronic physical health conditions, ranging from heart disease to post-surgery recoveries.

Ginger.io is a powerful reminder of not just the importance, but social responsibility, that Big Data and digital service providers play in our lives now. Data isn’t just about making or tracking sales, it’s a tool for enacting real, personalised change on an individual level. By strengthening the ties between patients and doctors, and increasing transparency between the two and putting a greater spotlight on deserving health issues, Ginger.io manages to accomplish just that.

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