SXSW Interactive 2012: Health-related start-up roundup.

In 2012 at SXSW, health and healthcare put on a good showing in terms of the panels, talks and companies present and promoting themselves. This document provides a short roundup of start-ups that I saw presenting during the “start-up accelerator” portion of the conference. Here are some thoughts on some of these companies.


Medify claim to be a better way for patients to discover medical research, using an interactive layer over data from clinical trials and making the result interactive and approachable. Medify claim to enable the average consumer to make sense of big data in health, but I wonder how robust the dataset is and how they compare datasets from different trials and avoid data bias. Medify could be seen as a competitor to Medline Plus (, which already has great consumer search outputs. Medify provides an added social layer to the data that Medline Plus doesn’t have by integration of Facebook, which is interesting, but may amplify the issues with data.


Jiff claims to be the “Facebook of Health”, but reminds me more of the “Google+ of health” with its “Circle of Health”. This is essentially a private social network for health and medicine and is currently in private beta. Jiff claim to be addressing the future of health collaboration, but it will fail or succeed on adoption by healthcare professionals and there is little evidence it will be of value to them. The question that springs to mind is why wouldn’t I just use Facebook or Google+ to connect with my family about my health? Personally, I just don’t understand Jiff’s value proposition. That being said, Jiff is HIPAA-compliant (see and was a finalist at TechCrunch Disrupt, so does have some backing.


CellScope make smartphone attachments for home use. The attachments produce high-quality images for physicians to use for remote diagnosis of ear infections and skin problems. This is a nice solution to avoid the need to take a child to see a physician. More and more we are seeing attachments to smartphones that make them viable as diagnostic instruments. The company claims that the costs of the attachments are “very low” and the trade-off between the cost of the attachment and the need to make a physician appointment means that this is a very viable option.


BodiMojo claims to be a healthy social network for teen girls to promote healthy choices. They want to build a ‘tribe’ for young girls and promote positive body image through social story and rewards. I think BodiMojo will be successful only if they can get the incentive right for their target demographic and I wonder if an education or advice component would add greater value. One main query would be the approach of a complete platform – why not build out an app within Facebook?

Another “Big Data” start-up that has been getting quite a bit of traction. provides a mobile app for patients to track their health – much like a patient diary. In addition, they can converse with physicians through the app and end alerts to their care team. On the physician side, the platform claims to allow “effortless” monitoring of the patient and identification of high-risk patients. In addition, has a dashboard for researchers that collate data both from patient-reported outcomes and “passive” data from mobile sensors. It’s quite a compelling offer and they are clear that the patient owns their own data and that all shared data is aggregated and anonymised.


Simplee is a way to manage your health bills and save money (if you are US-based). For me, it seems to be a Mint ( for medical finance. Simplee tracks healthcare expenses and suggest possible health plans to suit patients. I don’t really have much knowledge of this area, so can’t really comment further.

Rx Apps

Could you be popping into your local GP sometime soon and receiving a prescription for an app on your smartphone?


Image courtesy boostmobile, Flickr creative commons

Yesterday, the UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley opined:

“So many people use apps every day to keep up with their friends, with the news, find out when the next bus will turn up or which train to catch. I want to make using apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.”

“Information about your health is a service – just like the GP surgeries, Walk-in Centres and hospitals that millions of people access every week. With more information at their fingertips, patients can truly be in the driving seat.”

“Innovation and technology can revolutionise the health service, and we are looking at how the NHS can use these apps for the benefit of patients, including how GPs could offer them for free.”

It’s nice to see the government acknowledging the ubiquity of mHealth, and a nice move to encourage both the technorati, health firms, startups and Pharma to start producing good quality, helpful native (and mobile web) apps to benefit patients. I expect we have a way to go before the high-quality information becomes the norm, but I applaud the health secretary for his stance.


We should look to financial sector for EHR security

EHRs, or Electronic Health Records have been slowly gaining headway in the past 10 years. EHRs have been implemented in European countries, for example Estonia has established a national EHR for every citizen, which is used by 95% of physicians and 47% of the population. Of course, not all rollouts run smoothly or to-budget (I’m looking at you NHS in the UK).

One huge barrier to use and efficiency is the need for automation of records and the ability for patients to access, and contribute to, their own health records electronically. A large part of this, aside from the technological hurdles, is the security aspect: there is a need to ensure privacy of patient data and a duty of care to avoid any lapse in security.

It is well known that in the banking and financial services industry, transactions over the web and through electronic means are at risk of the same security and privacy invasion, and so measure have been taken by commerce and institutions to combat these. In online credit card transactions, measures taken include addition of the CSV number to ensure the person using the card has the card in their possession. By the same token, some institutions require a unique code for each transaction or login using a ‘dongle’ (or ‘fob’ code generator) that uses a seed code form the institution and an algorithm to determine a code generated at a specific date/time which the institution’s website would recognise when entered within a short timeframe. This kind of security has been in effect for several years, but now has been incorporated into a credit card (Currently only available in South Korea) to replace the inherently more less secure CSV.

We should consider the advances made here in the financial services industry and relate that back to how to grant patients access to their own health records in a secure manner.

MedCrowd re-brands to MedDigital – no relation!

Here’s the interesting news that MedCrowd, the medical crowd-sourcing company is re-branding to MedDigital. I’d like to state that Medigital is my personal blog and it is the pseudonym that I sometimes use for my professional self around the web, and although only one ‘d’ away, I am not an employee or associate of MedDigital.

The announcement

Belatedly, my favourite presentation from Doctors 2.0 and You

Social Media in Healthcare, just another hype?
Presentation by Lucien Engelen – Director Radboud REshape & Innovation Center. – NL (@Zorg20)

Lucien Engelen Keynote Doctors 2.0

View more presentations from Lucien Engelen

I Tweet Your Weight

The nature of communication today means that we are almost always connected to each other in some form or other, whether wired or wireless. We use a variety of methods to communicate about our ‘status’ to our circles, be it through Facebook, Twitter or even good old voice calling. When it comes to communicating about our health, this has traditionally been very personal and private, but increasingly as the barriers to privacy erode through social media, we find companies such as Microsoft and Google want to help us store our health information online (although, interestingly, Google recently halted their Google Health service due to lack of uptake).

So what’s next? Companies are starting to manufacture connected devices that can communicate our health status automatically. I recently saw a demo of bathroom scales that tweeted the user’s weight every day, and a blood pressure cuff that connected to iPhone and transmitted a daily reading over the internet. Of course, we can debate whether people want others to know if they have grown ‘vacation handles’ (or if they trust companies like Microsoft with their personal health information), but this at least illustrates that we need to consider the interfaces and devices with which we share information, and understand that it’s not just our fingers that do the talking when it comes to health status updates.

a Post-IE6 world

As with many large corporate entities, pharma companies rely on their IT infrastructure to keep them in business and it can be a mammoth task to plan an upgrade route for hardware (desktops, laptops, servers etc) as well as software. With this in mind, I expect that if you work in a pharma company, you will be working on a computer that runs Windows XP (or variant), using Microsoft Office 2003, and it is also likely that you are browsing the web with Internet Explorer (IE) 6, or at a stretch, IE7.

Naming no names, at least two of the clients I work with are stuck on IE6, a browser that was launched in 2001. That’s 10 years old! These companies contribute the 11.4% of people globally who are currently still using the browser. There are many reasons to upgrade from IE6, not least the added speed, addition of tabbed browsing and privacy features, but the single most important reason for upgrading is to fend against the security flaws that are present in that browser.

When working on web applications that are for internal use with our clients, we always have to ensure backwards compatibility with IE6, which is becoming increasingly challenging in terms of the amount of coding and testing we need to do. In fact, a number of high-profile websites no longer support IE6, including some Google services. The latest web service to drop support for IE6 is, where this blog is hosted. This is an issue for me at the moment, as it means I am losing readers, but I think anything that encourages companies to speed up their upgrade procedures is a good thing.

To those who no longer are forced to use IE6, welcome to teenhood from the noughties!

About me

Hi, my name is Paul Jacobs and I write the Medigital blog, as well as being the Director, Digital Strategy at Sonic Boom, a digital and social agency. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts about the digital domain in pharma and medical communications/education.
Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are my very own and do not necessarily reflect those my employer, family or pets. Twitter: @PJ_Medigital
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