Wouldn’t it be beneficial if the multitasking smartphone could keep track of a user’s health condition and use the data to figure out if a person is ill and needs immediate attention?
As part of his doctoral thesis in 2009, Anmol Madan led a study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that distributed smart phones to college students to monitor changes in their activity related to health symptoms and stress.
“We looked at 320,000 hours of data and 80 people over the course of the year. We were able to identify patterns and how people behave when they are symptomatic, versus not,” Madan, co-founder of Ginger.io, told India-West via phone.
Madan and co-founder and fellow MIT graduate Karan Singh, were fascinated by the study.
In 2010, they launched the start-up Ginger.io, named for the traditional use of ginger as a health remedy. The behavior analytics company uses a mobile platform to help individuals monitor health conditions and symptoms.
Ginger.io uses algorithms and computerized research to process a large amount of data from a mobile phone without invading privacy or reading text messages to identify behavioral patterns. After extracting data and identifying a user’s typical pattern of behavior, scores and interpretations are evaluated to determine if a person is about to deviate from that pattern. When that happens, Ginger.io can send an alert that a symptomatic episode may occur.
Madan told India-West that mobile phones are useful tools because they contain location sensors, communications data and other sensors.
According to the Indian American data researcher, the Ginger.io application is available on the Android mobile phone and has been distributed mainly through some health providers and hospitals. The behavior analytics company is focusing now on chronic patients, a population Madan says, is “underserved.”
In a few months, chronic patients will be able to download the application directly through the Android application store. The company will eventually launch an iPhone app, he added.
“External sensors and Facebook, Twitter and other data streams are likely to be future additions to our platform. While we’ve tested some of these internally, they’re not currently part of our commercial platform,” Madan told India-West.
“Our goal is to build a platform for capturing objective, real world behavior data. There’s tremendous opportunity in the healthcare system for better data, and the only alternatives today are surveys or patient reports. This will allow patients and caregivers to manage their health better,” he said.
For example, for Type II diabetes patients, Ginger.io is able to send alerts via the phone when a patient has lifestyle and behavioral changes during the week.
“Our system for diabetes allows caregivers and patients to automate alerts, with explicit permission from the patient. These alerts may potentially prevent episodes that would reduce the chances of a readmission or an emergency room visit,” said Madan.
Ginger.io understands and respects patient privacy. “We are dealing with a variety of new data sources and how we make sense of all of this is important. We give our patients the ability to manage how data is used. Their decision ability is important and something we take seriously at Ginger.io,” the Indian American entrepreneur added.
Ginger.io in 2011 won $130,000 from Sanofi-Aventis for the diabetic mobile application that tracks symptomatic episodes and alerts caretakers and patients.
“We live in the era of digital exhaust, all of the data that contains information about your daily activities on the phone,” said Madan.
“The upside is that you can use data in a variety of ways to help make individual lives better and society better.”
Later this year, Ginger.io expects to announce public partnerships with several major health partners.