InsideTracker strives to keep people out of doctor's offices

The service is part of an emerging wave of mobile apps and services focused on preventing diseases and encouraging healthy eating habits.
Written by Beth Carter, Contributing Editor

There are a lot of ways to track health conditions these days. Mobile applications can count calories, monitor fitness and heart rate, diagnose suspicious moles, and help individuals set -- and reach -- goals for personal improvement. The whole healthcare industry, from patients to doctors to executives, is being transformed by the insights that can be gleaned from this personal data and its potential to aid in disease prevention.

InsideTracker, a service founded by Drs. Gil Blander, Christian Reich and David Lester that examines biomarkers in blood, is part of this next wave of healthcare. By using insights drawn from blood work, the service helps individuals design his or her optimal diet and exercise program.

“InsideTracker caters more to the healthy than to the sick,” says Rony Sellam, CEO of Segterra, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company behind the service. “We’re trying to ask your blood, ‘What are you supposed to be doing to be healthy?’ ”

For example, I learned that for how much I exercise, I’m not getting nearly enough potassium, so it’s time to include more broccoli and bananas in my daily regimen. Food’s a good, actionable starting point for change, but don’t worry if you’re low on iron and really hate spinach, because InsideTracker will help you find iron in foods you do like.

It's easy to use InsideTracker. You create an account, order a plan, and get your blood tested at a LabCorps lab in your area. Based on your biomarkers -- such as magnesium or folic acid -- the service suggests a food plan to help you reach optimal levels.

The idea is to prevent diseases and costly procedures, and to identify people at risk. “We’re using science to say there are differences in the way we need to be treated,” Sellam says. “We’re able to tell you based on age, gender, what you eat and physical activity, exactly where you should be on those markers.”

Both the original service and the company's new home kit play nicely into the new trajectory of an American healthcare system focusing new energy on prevention as a means of controlling costs. There is a push for health management, meaning healthcare professionals will see incentives to keep patients out of hospitals, rather than in them.

There’s some friction between the innovations that services like InsideTracker represent. With the focus shifting to the patient -- consider the new pacemakers that connect to a patient's smartphone -- the healthcare industry is being forced to rethink the way it does business.

“In a crass way, hospitals are like hotels -- they only make money when the rooms are taken,” Sellam says. “Everyone is getting ready for population health management. Some are innovative and spending money to understand the future, some that are cash-poor are having a harder and harder time, and many will likely go out of business if they don’t transition.”

Services such as InsideTracker -- and others on the market like WellnessFX -- help people take control of their health. There are many price options, depending on how much data-crunching you want done. If you have your own data and just want it analyzed, a test is $49; six at-home prick test kits that look at six markers are $99; and the regular service, depending on how many blood tests you want included, runs from $150 to $300. There’s also a customizable option for individuals such as professional athletes who want consultation and on-site testing.

“When I first used it I got the same feeling as I did when I first bought a plane ticket without using a travel agent,” Sellam says. “I wasn’t exactly shocked at my results, but it gave me a real motivation to change.”

Photo credit: Photos.com/Jupiterimages

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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