GeoHealthy: A Hub for Location-Specific Health Information

Project Title: GeoHealthy: A Hub for Location-Specific Health Information

Requested Amount: $30,000

Expected Amount of Time to Complete Project: 8-12 months

Team MembersAndrew Davis, Kelly Hall, & Evan Hoopingarner

 

Describe your project.

GeoHealthy will collect relevant health information close to the user’s geographic location from the web and display it in an easy-to-process format. Relevant health information includes (but would not be limited to) weather, air quality index (AQI), pollen counts, nearest drinking fountains, vegetarian restaurants, pharmacies, gyms, crime statistics, and gender-neutral or handicap-accessible restrooms. The vast majority of this information is already available to the public from government, commercial, and crowdsourced databases, but is not centralized.

We will combine the powerful geolocation features of the Google Maps API with geographically relevant health information obtained online. For example, Refuge Restroom and WeTap provide open-source data on gender-neutral restroom and drinking fountain locations, respectively. These locations can be uploaded and displayed relative to the users geolocation through the Google Maps API. In addition to restrooms and drinking fountains, this method would work well for places such as parks, pharmacies, grocery stores, and urgent care/hospital locations. Locations for these places are readily available online.

Information about the local environment, such as weather conditions, pollen, and AQI, is also readily obtainable online. Weather Underground supplements data from the National Weather Service with its own community network of personal weather stations. We plan to overlay this information on the map so users can monitor their external environment and make appropriate decisions for their health conditions. Users could display various elements on the map, for example, combining temperature and drinking fountain locations for hot days, or AQI with pharmacies, hospitals, and/or urgent care locations.

We plan on including push notifications to warn users about local conditions that could be detrimental to their health. For example, GeoHealthy could send users an alert whenever they enter an area with an unhealthy air quality index, or an area without nearby drinking fountains on a hot day. The thresholds for sending a push notification (e.g. minimum AQI to trigger a notification, or maximum distance from a handicap-accessible restroom) would be customizable by the user.

The ideal display of this information on a mobile device would consist of a home screen and an interactive map. The home screen would initially display temperature, much like the standard weather app, only based on the user’s geographic location and not a location that they must manually enter into the app. All other information would be added as the user desires. The user could also input more locations to add to their home screen, in order to alert friends and relatives with health conditions (e.g. a user could monitor the environment of an elderly relative who is vulnerable to heat stroke, or the pollen count near an asthmatic friend). The interactive map would be centered around the user’s geolocation, with displays of any locations and environmental data able to be easily toggled on and off.

The benefits of this approach to displaying relevant information is the degree of flexibility and customizability allowed. As long as local information relevant to a user’s health is available, they can view it with ease.

 

What unmet need does your product meet?

Our product looks to bring together local statistics on public health and the environment. It will be similar to a weather map but include statistics such as pollen count, pollution levels, crime rate, disease outbreak, and food safety. These are things that people look up on different websites in order to be comfortable in their environment. The unmet need that we solve is organizing a central location to gather all information in a local environment. People become too concerned about news and information concerning the whole country. We want to make news more local by focusing our statistics on local regions.

We will also gather news from local news outlets in your area. We will look to show the user the news that is most important to him or her. People currently get their news from multiple sources and those sources tend to sway the reader in a certain way. We are looking to generate an unbiased form of local news and statistics that will help to keep the user up to date and knowledgeable in the user’s area.

 

Interview four potential users of your product about this unmet need.

Lucas Vander Lee is a 22 year old from Holland, MI and a student at University of Michigan. He uses the NY Times and Facebook as his news outlets. He does not follow local news because there aren’t a lot of people that read and talk about local news. He agrees that he would not like to visit a place with high pollution, crime rate, and disease. “It would be helpful to know where these place are.” Contact info: 616-283-6760

Rachel Ryan is a 22 year old from Pittsburgh, PA and a student at University of Michigan. She uses Twitter, the Wall Street Journal, and the New Yorker as her news outlets. She occasionally reads the Michigan Daily. She thinks local news is constantly changing and usually uninteresting or unimportant. Rachel also agrees that it would be helpful to know areas not to visit based on related health statistics. Contact info: 419-705-0066

Neil Kothari is a 28 year old from Scarsdale, NY. He gets his news from Twitter and the New York Times. He is a very health conscious and uses health apps often. He uses them more when he is visits India because of higher levels of pollution. He thinks it would be helpful to know a locations health benefits and dangers before visiting. Contact info: 914-602-6294

Sam Dicker is a 25 year old from Boston, MA and a grad student at University of Michigan. He gets all of his news from Facebook or Reddit. He does not use health apps but does like to read about health issues in certain locations. He thinks that the most important health informations is food safety and crime rates. If he were to choose a new location after college he would look up the standard of living and healthiness of the region. Contact info: 781-854-6021

 

How big is the potential market for your idea?

Data shows that 68% of US adults have smartphones (Pew, 2015). 58% of these smartphone users have downloaded a health app, and 42% of people who have a smartphone and have download a health app are willing to pay up to $2.00 for the app. Users tend to be younger, higher income, more educated, Latino/Hispanic, and with a BMI in the obese range (Krebs and Duncan, 2015). The market potential given approximately 247 million US adults: 41 million people. At $2.00 for the app: High value (50% of market)*$2.00= $41 Million, Low Value (1% of market)*$2.00= $820,000

 

How is your idea innovative?

Our research has shown that all of the information we plan to incorporate into GeoHealthy – temperature, pollen count, flu outbreaks, crime statistics, public parks, etc. – is publicly available. However, this information is scattered across the internet and often difficult to locate. For example to find the flu outbreak numbers for the design team’s home of Washtenaw County, MI, someone would need to go to the health department website, find the “Flu Activity” page, and open a PDF table that is updated weekly – and further, this person would need the technology literacy necessary to navigate large websites and datasets. The innovative aspect of GeoHealthy is that it consolidates all of this important health information into one clean, easy to navigate place.

Our closest competitors attempt to make some of this information available, but within narrow silos. The Weather Channel app, for example, allows users to easily swipe between weather information for different cities and sends extreme weather alerts. Apps called HealthMap and FluNearYou allow users to track disease outbreaks near them. CleanSpace and AirBubbles are apps that show air pollution levels for different locations. However, GeoHealthy is the only app that brings all of this information together.

 

How will your idea be financially sustainable?

While the primary goals of GeoMap are public health and information access, not profit, we recognize the importance of remaining financially sustainable post-grant. One of the strengths of GeoMap is that it can be expanded to include a near-limitless variety of information streams, and several of these information streams could be monetized to capture “2017’s trillion dollar industry” of health and wellness (Euromonitor). For example, the app could use GPS and geo-fencing to list nearby fitness centers, health food stores, and healthy restaurants. These businesses – especially chains – could pay to be listed on the app or to be listed first in search results. Additionally, the “freemium model,” where users who want premium information can pay a small additional fee, could be explored, where “premium features” might include push notifications or multiple locations. In this way, our app could be an asset to the public while remaining financially viable.

 

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?

As students at the University of Michigan, the members of our team bring a wealth of public health, business, and app development knowledge, as well as access to resources like the Center for Entrepreneurship (http://cfe.umich.edu/) and Innovate Blue (https://innovateblue.umich.edu/). We believe our passion for public health and information access can help get critical and contextually-relevant health information into the hands of those that need it most.

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About Kelly Hall

Senior at the University of Michigan studying Global Health and Statistics. I'll start my public health MPH in fall of 2017!

4 Responses to “GeoHealthy: A Hub for Location-Specific Health Information”

  1. Andrew, Kelly, and Evan:

    I see a lot of potential in this idea, especially due to the trillion dollar industry that is health care. As our health care system moves from medicine that treats to medicine that prevents, apps that promote healthier living will see an explosion in the marketplace. As the app gains a foot in the market, I think partnering with health organizations that promote healthier living would be key.

    One great example of an organization that promotes wellness through positive lifestyle changes is the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). They currently have over 12,000 physicians as part of the organization and they all strive to change the way our health care system operates; Physicians at PCRM prescribe lifestyle interventions over pills. Due to the reach of the organization and the alignment of values between GeoHealthy and PCRM, I think that this partnership would serve both the organization and app well. Through a partnership, physicians could promote the application in order to help people locate healthy restaurants, parks, gyms, and other important information. Not only would it help people follow through with the healthier lifestyles that PCRM prescribes, but it would promote your app at the same time.

    What other health organizations do you think would be good partners for GeoHealthy?

    I can envision Yelp being a stark competitor in this field if your app gains success. This is mainly due to their huge user base and the information that they have in the application. They already have information on healthy restaurants, gyms, health food stores, and parks. Also, they have recently expanded their app to include events based on one’s location. For this reason, I don’t see it too difficult for them to incorporate weather and other health related information at a much grander scale than your app. While the focus of Yelp may not be on health like your app, as culture changes Yelp may naturally progress to include this information.

    What angle can your app take that Yelp cannot fulfill?

    Overall, I’d really like to see this on the market!

  2. Hi Andrew, Kelly, and Evan. I think this is a wonderful idea for an app. The importance of environmental safety is under-appreciated, and I find its coverage underwhelming. Having a place to view all of these factors simultaneously would be extremely helpful, especially to those at high risk or in vulnerable areas.
    Because this would serve as such a broad and complex hub, I think it has lots of potential, that potential including capacity to be used in very different ways. I don’t just mean using the app for pollen counts vs. ozone holes, but I also wonder how this app would manifest itself socially. Though you mention that the product would serve people well because it gives them comprehensive coverage of local issues, I also wonder to what extent this app would or could feed the environmental justice movement. I think providing such information could be a powerful tool for social organization and protest, as well as broader community action.
    I agree with Aaron’s point that Yelp already has a few aspects covered, and I think that is important to consider moving forward, but I do think their vision is very different. I think if you are to move forward with this idea, it will be important to emphasize what about your idea is unique, and make sure you develop a strong argument for why this is important for public health on a level greater than individual empowerment. Good work so far, I’m glad you all are addressing an issue I think will only grow in importance in the coming years.

  3. I think the biggest thing that is really going to make your project stand out over any possible competitors is it’s ability to conveniently layout all those features you proposed. Having all those options to filter through and access at the touch of a fingertip may be overwhelming if not properly presented in the most user friendly way possible.

    I’m not sure who exactly your target market may be. I understand you wish to reach out to individuals who are in desire to keep track of their health in every possible aspect, but proposing things like pollen count, flu outbreaks, and crime statistics may lead to a narrow group of users. I believe all those things can be helpful to address via GeoHealthy but certain features, I believe, should be heavily more emphasized over others. You want to be able to asses what features of the app users are most frequently reliant on and then possibly through updates be able to evolve your app around those concepts. One thing I may suggest is that instead of laying out everything on a map, it may be more user friendly to promote the smaller features as a side view in a pull down option or different viewing option.

    Things like crime statistics, flu outbreaks, and pollen count may be targeted towards families with younger children, while other features like weather, healthy eating options, and gyms can be targets towards a much larger user base.

    Overall, I really like the concept of this project and I believe it can be a one stop shop for all health related services. Seeing it come together will hopefully lead to a more lucrative app-design that will benefit society in through your vision.

  4. Hi, Team GeoHealthy. Great idea! I like the way you envision combining existing information in one place.

    Your need section would be a lot stronger if you could include statistics about how many people use various sites that you are referencing. If you decide to take this idea to the next level – which I hope you do — can you talk to the people running any of those sites to find out how many users they attract? Also, how are these sites or apps financially sustainable? Are any of them potential partners?

    Speaking of potential partners, are you aware that Weatherunderground is based was founded at the University of Michigan by professors Perry Sampson and Jeff Masters? They might be great mentors and partners if you decide to move forward with this idea.

    Kindly,

    Emilia

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