Health Care, Meet Foursquare
I’ve been using Foursquare for almost two years now, and have amassed nearly 2000 checkins, 40 badges, and (at my peak) nearly 20 mayorships. As a result, Foursquare knows where I’ve been, how often I go out to bars, my favorite restaurants, where I work, and what I do for fun. It knows more about me than many of my friends do, and certainly more than my physician.
So, why isn’t Foursquare actively being used to improve health? It has enough data about me to provide personal recommendations to improve the way I live. Many people have recognized the potential impact Foursquare could have, but there are very few (if any) health-related applications developed around this service.
Tony and I, in consultation with our resident behavior designer (Steph), worked to address this issue during the first-ever Foursquare Global Hackathon. In less than 40 person-hours (and, combined, 10 cans of Mountain Dew Throwback), we created Fourhealth.
The goal is simple: we want to help users make healthier decisions about where they eat out. We do this in a couple of ways. First, when a user signs up for Fourhealth, we ask them for height and weight information (and continue to collect weight via text message on a weekly basis). Then, about 90 minutes after each checkin to a restaurant, we text the user to find out how they’re feeling after eating there. This information is aggregated to the food venue, giving us a data source of objective (i.e., BMI) and subjective (i.e., feelings) health elements.
Immediately after each checkin (thanks to Foursquare’s new Push API), we look for previous feelings the user has had about the venue, and try to find a potentially healthier restaurant near where they are. If we find either, we immediately text them to let them know, giving them the knowledge to make a potentially healthier decision:
Of course, you can’t always just leave a restaurant because you got a text message telling you to go somewhere else. Maybe you’re meeting a group there, or the suggested venue is closed, or you just really want a triple whopper with cheese value meal. But, there are times when you’re just hungry and go for the first place you see (only to find the organic cafe just around the corner). Or are sorta thinking about your health, but just need a gentle nudge. Or are in a completely new city and don’t know where to go. We can help with all those situations.
What I’ve described so far is our first iteration, and was completed in less than two days. It’s live, and you’re welcome to sign up and try it out
However, there are many more things that need to be developed/thought out/changed, including:
- Improved analytics. Imagine a Klout-esque score, only for how healthy a restaurant is.
- Ability to search. We want to help people find healthier restaurants when they’re in unfamiliar cities.
- Personalized visualizations and data. Some people really like exploring how their data affects their health.
- Withings integration (so you don’t even need to enter your weight).
- Weekly email summary.
- Venue-specific healthy food recommendations.