Digital Health Science Digest: Issue 16

Posted | Posted in Digital Health Science Digest

Fitbit raises money for charity…and now you can earn real money for walking! The USDA is expanding its rural telemedicine programs, and more!

The Digital Health Science Digest is a bimonthly newsletter compiled by Duke Digital Health. We bring you the most interesting research publications, policy news, and other fun digital health science stuff.  

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Issue 16



  • This month, Fitbit users walked a total of 25.1 billion steps to raise $1 million for 3 charities: the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the National MS Society. Fitbit users simply had to walk, and their steps were “donated” to the charity of their choice. They could also earn bonus steps by sharing their steps on social media. Who says walking isn’t good for you?
  • …and speaking of walking and money, check out Bitwalking, an app that pays you for steps. The app converts your steps to “Bitwalking dollars ($BW)” that can be spent in an online store or converted to dollars. Could this new economic model be viable in developing countries? Considering 10,000 steps are equivalent to $1BW, it has the potential to double the income of people who live in the poorest countries in the world.
  • What if, instead going to the ER, you could request a nurse to come see you? That’s the goal of the newly launched FRND app – for $99, a nurse will come to your home or office to provide urgent care, deliver IV therapy, and other general nursing services. 
  • Quintiles has partnered with Validic to increase its digital health capacity. Connecting participants in clinical research studies to the vast network of connected devices that work off of Validic’s platform will enhance Quintiles’ ability to communicate with and track clinical research participants, monitor the efficacy of drugs, and assist with data analysis. 


  • Alive-PD was a fully automated, algorithm-driven behavior change intervention for diabetes prevention. It was tested among 339 obese, mostly male participants. Half were randomly assigned to get the Alive-PD app, as well as weekly emails, an individualized web page, and automated phone calls. The participants who got the intervention experienced significantly greater reductions in fasting glucose, HbA1c levels, and weight, compared to the control group. At 6 months, the Alive-PD group reduced their Framingham 8-year diabetes risk from 16% to 11%.
  • A recent JAMA article presents recent examples of Twitter as a data source on everything from attitudes towards prescription drugs, to reporting adverse events, to predicting the next zombie apocalypse. (Ok, not really that last one, but definitely the first two.)


  • The AMA had planned to publish guidelines for ethical practice in telemedicine at its recent meeting, but it will defer, so that the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs can implement revisions. 


  • Do you have an idea for a technology-based solution to facilitate data exchanges between primary care providers and public health professionals?  Submit it to this challenge! Deadline is 12/7/15. 

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