The USC Center for Body Computing (CBC), part of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Medable Inc. announced today the Biogram app.  Biogram takes health metrics, monitoring and research to a new level allowing users to embed heart rate data into a photo distributed to social media via a photo-sharing network.

Developed using ResearchKit, the Biogram app will help researchers better understand how publicly sharing biometrics influences personal relationships and experiences in a social community. Biogram will be available for free on the App Store. Researchers at the USC CBC led by Dr. Leslie Saxon will use Biogram to collect heart data along with other biometric information such as weight and steps taken, directly from HealthKit, the centralized location on an iPhone where users store health data. The study has the power to capture data on millions of Biogram users, exponentially increasing the number of medical research study participants, which traditionally average under 1,000.

There are more than 70 million people in the United States using photosharing apps and according to Pew Research, about half of young adults (ages 18-29) post to Instagram with 49 percent posting daily photos. Biogram offers users a unique social photo-sharing app to record their heart rate and embed it into the photo they took at the time. These posts will seamlessly create a personal collection of health data, capturing user emotion and experience that can be shared to social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. For instance, users can share photos of a new pair of shoes, playing with their dog and hugging their grandparent – all with their heart rate data embedded at the time the photo was taken.

The Biogram research study will capture biometric data for adult participants over the age of 18. Researchers will analyze the data to better understand how publicly sharing biometrics, such as heart rate, influences personal relationships and experiences in a social community.

“Wearable devices and apps realize the full potential when the user has an emotional connection and even dependence with the technology – it becomes contextualized biometrics leading to greater empowerment and education about an individual’s health and behavior,” said Leslie A. Saxon, MD, founder and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing. “As a researcher, one of the advantages of developing Biogram using ResearchKit is that we can now not only scale our medical studies to capture possibly millions of participants and give us groundbreaking observations but because ResearchKit is an app platform where we can engage users socially and emotionally with their health and study it.”

An essential partner to the Biogram development is Medable Inc. which created a cloud platform for building HIPAA-compliant healthcare applications.  Medable’s platform enables developers to build apps with scalable analytics functionality, an important feature given the sensitivity of health information and the size of datasets from ResearchKit applications.

“Biogram provides a unique opportunity to study a population level dataset,” said Ingrid Oakley-Girvan, PhD, MPH, Medable’s Chief Scientific Officer.  Dr. Oakley-Girvan is an epidemiologist with a focus on population health.  “More and more researchers are using ResearchKit and medical grade app developer tools to re-think how to study—and positively impact—worldwide health.”

ResearchKit is also providing an unprecedented national, and eventually global, access to health data through its direct link to Healthkit.  The USC CBC study takes extra steps in privacy protection asking participations through each step of the process to allow researchers to access activity and health data passively collected via the Biogram app and other data stored in HealthKit on their iPhone.

“Technology advances are driving us to transform medicine and using tools such as ResearchKit takes our biomedical research at USC to a whole new level,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “By inspiring researchers to harness the power of smartphone technology and scale that to a potentially huge population of research participants, together we can revolutionize medicine for everyone’s benefit.”

News of Biogram was a highlight of the 9th Annual USC Center for Body Computing Conference held October 9 on the USC downtown Los Angeles campus. The one-day summit convened some of the most influential visionaries in digital health, industrial and mobile design, patient advocacy, as well as leaders and experts in entertainment, data analytics, elite athletics and venture investment to discuss and showcase the latest innovations in digital health and patient empowerment that is the future of medical advancements.

by Sherri Snelling