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Getting Warmer on Wellness Tech

Paul Boal

If you’re familiar with our work here at Amitech, you may recall that we were involved in the development of an innovative health and wellness app that used predictive modeling and analytics to deliver real-time recommendations for meeting a variety of health indicators/goals. Going beyond basic biometric reporting like step counts or hours slept alone was enough to set the platform apart—but where things really got interesting was the app’s use of 60+ billion human psychographic, psychological and metaphysical data points to offer truly useful insights and personalized suggestions through a compelling and context-aware experience. In other words, you set a specific wellness goal and based on what it knew about tens of thousands of people like you, the app interacted with you in the way most likely to actually help you achieve that goal.

It was/is a groundbreaking development in the market – a necessary step towards what seemed to anyone working in health tech as the inevitable march to true AI-assisted healthcare. All that was really needed to reach the tipping point in effectiveness and mainstream exposure was time and money or scale—or (most likely) both. It seems option “C” has arrived. 

The Elephant in Every Room

News that Google is working on a health and wellness coach for its next-gen smartwatches has begun bubbling to the surface in tech media. The development, currently titled “Google Coach,” brings the scale of Google’s vast data stores to bear on the persistent challenge of inspiring lasting behavioral and lifestyle changes to improve health and wellness—THE key weakness of traditional apps and devices, which studies have shown fall out of regular use within 6-12 months of purchase. But it’s not just everything Google knows about virtually everyone’s day-to-lives that makes this a game-changer.

Google’s collection of hardware products (watch, phone, Home, tv…) mean an unprecedented level of access and contextual delivery options. As Christina Bonnington describes in Slate: “If you ask [Google Home] for a chicken parmesan dinner recipe, it could offer a healthier alternative instead; or if you’re streaming music at 10 p.m. and have set a goal to get more sleep, perhaps it could interrupt your music playback to remind you to start getting ready for bed.”

Giving Out Too Much of a Good Thing

Because they know everything, of course Google recognizes the potential for this holistic, around-the-clock approach to backfire by pummeling users with notifications that eventually become white noise. Similar to the rules-engine built into the mHealth platform we helped develop, Google is taking a “conversational” approach to notifications that will also consolidate messaging to prevent overload. Based on data from a pilot program for the platform we worked on, we know this can make a meaningful difference in crossing the effectiveness hurdle.

White Hot Potential 

Will Google be able to reach the promised land in their quest to bring an effective health and wellness app mainstream? Based on our experience and the considerable advantage of their scale, AI expertise and general all-knowing prowess, I think it’s a good bet. Privacy concerns aside, I see Google’s involvement as a net positive for the advancement of AI as a powerful tool in population health initiatives and eventual clinical applications. After all, we didn’t come this far for nothing!