A patient’s needs drives WellApps social expansion

Things have been busy at WellApps since the startup won our Health 2.0 NYC Chapter “Connect, Create, Cure” Shark Tank event back in January. This week the company announced the launch of Socialize, the latest addition to its GI Monitor mobile app. The app is a symptom tracking program for people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients from all over can now connect with each other through the app. “These people are actually logging their symptoms in real-time and then talking about them. So the conversation is pretty fascinating,” WellApps co-founder and CEO Brett Shamosh said.

Shamosh was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 16. It was his personal experience with the disease and his app designing expertise that led him to create GI Monitor. In 2009, Shamosh experienced a severe flare up, and as he worked with his doctor to get better, he noticed he wasn’t providing good information about his symptoms. He saw that patients needed a way to collect and store objective data about their health. “I thought mobile was the game changer,” he said.

The applications he helped to create allow patients to share their logged information with their doctors through a simple report. But users recently called for the app to do more, and a project called Photo Therapy inspired WellApps to go social. Photo Therapy, a feature within the app, encouraged users to share pictures of the everyday things that make them smile. “Often we get defined as chronically ill patients when people forget we’re just people first,” Shamosh said. Soon enough, users were asking if they could get in touch with the people they saw in the photos. This is how Socialize came about. Also new to the GI Monitor is the option for users to connect with Foursquare, which could help to discover correlations between locations and symptoms. For example, Shamosh suggested that IBD patients might find that they have an increase in pain and other symptoms the day that they visit their in-laws. “That’s sort of a joking way of saying that location definitely affects symptoms,” he said.

The free app has gone global and, in addition to English, can be downloaded in Spanish, Italian, French and German. Right now WellApps doesn’t make an income from GI Monitor, but the company is patiently waiting to see which revenue stream to pursue. Shamosh says that if the app to delivers the way it was designed to, the company will be in a good position to profit when the time comes to adopt a business model. His two goals are to improve quality of life and to reduce periods of active disease in chronically ill patients. WellApps is about to undergo a clinical study with Columbia and Cornell to see how well the app is performing. The study is currently in the enrollment process.

Next, up the company will focus on enhancing the app, taking into account requests from physicians, patients and researchers. “From the perspective of the GI Monitor, we’ve got a very long development queue,” Shamosh said. In addition, more programs are on the way. The platform was created to support other conditions, so you can expect to see apps for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and depression out soon.

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