Indiana-Made App Targets Hoosier Health, Research
An Indianapolis-based tech company and a research powerhouse are combining forces to put health at Hoosiers’ fingertips with a new mobile app. While the market may seem saturated with health apps, the creators of LIFE Extend—tech startup LifeOmic and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI)—believe the new tool is one-of-a-kind. The team says it gives Hoosiers easy access to Indiana-based clinical trials, is backed by significant research and personalized with information curated by medical experts.
“This approach gives people an awareness of how various aspects of their life—such as sleep, activity level, dietary habits—impact their overall health,” says CTSI Founding Director Dr. Anantha Shekhar. “Plus, they can access a whole library of information, so in a way, [the app] is your personal site for managing your own health and accessing information about your own health.”
Amid Indiana’s poor health rankings nationally, the free health and wellness app aims to gamify the process of tracking behaviors and learning more about how to become healthier; a user can earn points for positive actions, adding a bit more fun and interactive “play” as they work toward health goals. The app encourages the user to track four key pillars daily: physical activity, nutrition, mindfulness and sleep. LIFE Extend’s ultimate goal is to help Hoosiers lead longer, healthier lives as part of CTSI’s All IN for Health program.
“[All IN for Health] is a partnership between the consumer or patient and the academic and research community,” says Shekhar, who is also the executive associate dean for research affairs at Indiana University School of Medicine. “We see this even as a highway, if you will; you can access expertise, great information, the latest treatments and even some treatments that are not yet available to the community at large.”
A key function of the app is to connect more Hoosiers to clinical trials throughout the state; there are about 1,600 clinical research projects in Indiana each year that focus on various diseases. Shekhar says it’s critical to involve a more diverse population in clinical trials, so the medical industry can get a clearer picture about the “generalizability” of drugs and treatments.
“This has been a big problem. Not enough women, minority populations or children have been involved in research. This is very important, because [the medical industry] has had situations where drugs have worked in traditional populations, but have failed to work in African Americans, or worked differently in children, for example—and we need all of that information,” says Shekhar. “[The app] also helps with accessibility for patients; [clinical trials] are a way to get cutting-edge treatments for your illness without costing the patient a penny.”
LifeOmic, a software startup founded by Indiana tech giant and serial entrepreneur Dr. Don Brown, designed the LIFE Extend app. Its creators say the app is unique because unlike most health and wellness apps, LIFE Extend unleashes the power of precision health.
“No two people are the same, and no two people need to follow the exact same practices to have a healthy lifestyle,” says LifeOmic Chief Scientific Officer Tom Barber. “The app is fully integrated into our precision health cloud platform. That brings together information from the mobile app with [the user’s] clinical data—such as a person’s electronic medical record or genomic data—to customize the content on the app.”
Much like Facebook friends, users can join and create “circles” with friends and family or join other public circles on various topics; experts note community support is a known predictor of improved health.
LifeOmic says, within the first week of LIFE Extend’s launch, the app reached the #1 new health app in the Google Play Store. CTSI is hopeful the app will help drum up participation in its All IN for Health program, which the organization aims to swell to 100,000 Hoosiers in the next few years.
“I think the most exciting thing about the app is really connecting with Hoosiers, inspiring all of us to work as a team to become healthy and make the whole state healthy,” says Shekhar. “If we have all 6 million Hoosiers doing good things to become healthy, we could totally transform our state.”