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Healthy Insights: WebMD Healthy Target App Combines Content and Data for Popular Fitness Wearables

June 23, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy
Member Spotlight

WebMD is bringing insights to wearables with the launch of WebMD Healthy Target. Available within WebMD’s flagship mobile app for iPhone, Healthy Target is designed translate step, sleep, weight and blood glucose data from multiple well-known device manufacturers—including Entra, Fitbit, UP by Jawbone and Withings—into actionable insights.

WebMD director of mobile product development David Ziegler cites the increasing popularity of wearables as one factor in the decision to target this market. However he emphasizes that the move originated from a desire to better serve WebMD’s core audience “with a health improvement and behavior-change program.” While wearables are adept at tracking a range of user activities and behaviors, interpreting the data had been left to the users. With Healthy Target, WebMD helps users set achievable goals and pairs them with content-based insights the help them achieve those goals.

“We went into this knowing that a lot of activity trackers end up in users’ sock drawers. To date the devices only deliver the numbers; we believe that by providing contextual WebMD information and insights we can help users understand the data and learn new habits that will improve their health” says Ziegler. “And we are finding that device makers are also excited about this tool because it will keep people using their devices longer.”

WebMD Healthy Targets App ScreenThe app starts off by letting users set one of six goals: 1) lose weight 2) eat healthier 3) be more active 4) control blood sugar 5) sleep better 6) feel better. Once goals are selected, Healthy Target recommends three habits that can help users reach them.

It then supports the formation of these new health habits not only by tracking and reporting on users’ progress, but also by suggesting content that helps them succeed. For example, if your goal is to sleep better, but your tracker finds you didn’t sleep well last night, the system will offer physician-reviewed suggestions to help and motivate you, or an article on what causes fatigue or a list of the effects of poor sleep.

One of Ziegler’s favorite features of WebMD Healthy Target is the way in which it provides weekly reviews that not only provide insights into users’ progress, but provides encouraging insights to help them improve and stay motivated. “For example, if you didn’t do your habit, we ask why: Were you stressed? Did you forget? Then Healthy Target generates a reading list to help you overcome those obstacles.”

For medical concerns such as diabetes, the tracker not only provides ongoing informational support, but calls-to-action if necessary. “Everything we do is physician- reviewed and for Healthy Target, we worked closely with doctors who are experts in diabetes to develop intelligence on the back end. If your levels are high or low, the tracker interrupts with a big alert on things you should do immediately.”

While the first wave of biometrics stores data in silos, WebMD wants to unify that information in one place so that users can easily gain usable insights from the behaviors they may be tracking on various devices including fitness trackers, wireless glucometers and scales. Now that the devices are beginning to mature and the data automatically updates, Ziegler believes that the time is right to combine personal, tracked data with trusted health content to help users live a healthier life.

“We want to be the central location for your personal data. People will have multiple biometric data points, but they trust WebMD to bring it to one central location.” This data, combined with physician-reviewed, contextually-relevant content and motivational tips, will support WebMD’s goal of supporting users’ in developing healthy habits that last.

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