Auckland-based Healthphone Solutions has developed an application to help people stop smoking, and it has been picked up by Microsoft as part of its global HealthVault launch.
The STOMP (stop smoking over mobile phone) application is designed to work as a motivational tool, delivering reminders and personalised information via text message.
The application will be connected into Microsoft’s recently launched HealthVault platform for a direct-to-consumer model, but it will also be available from, for example, healthcare providers, says Matt Hector-Taylor, president and chief strategy officer of Healthphone.
STOMP will come up when users search for information about quitting smoking on the HealthVault site, which is a free service that lets users upload and maintain medical information in a Microsoft server, and enable specific people to access that information.
Users wishing to sign up for the smoking cessation programme will be able to do so online, says Hector-Taylor. “It’s an interactive solution where people can specify the sorts of things they are interested in, for example music or sports, and select their goals,” he says. STOMP gives users an alternative thing to do with their hands and can provide motivation to get over “weak moments”, he says.
The STOMP smoking cessation programme was developed by the clinical trials research unit at the University of Auckland. A year-long clinical trial in New Zealand with 1,700 participants showed a doubling of quit rates after six weeks, from 13% to 28%, with the STOMP programme, says Hector-Taylor.
Healthphone is currently finalising contracts with a group which is founded by the Ministry of Health — Hector-Taylor did not want to name the group at this stage. “We are also looking at implementing [STOMP] in Singapore, Canada, Australia, France, Spain and the UK,” he says.
In New Zealand, STOMP will initially be a sponsored programme, free to users, says Hector-Taylor. Canada is also looking to implement a similar programme. In addition, users will be able to sign up for the programme through healthcare providers, and it will also be promoted to employers, particularly in the US and Canada, he says.
Through Microsoft’s HealthVault direct-to-consumer model, the service will cost something like “a pack and a half” of cigarettes a month, he says.
The STOMP application is the first of what Hector-Taylor calls the myHealthphone suite of products, which is aimed at consumers, he says. Over the next six months the company will introduce more services, for example a diet and exercise-version of STOMP, he says.
Healthphone has more than doubled its research and development staff this year. In April, the company had 20 R&D staff in its Auckland centre, today it’s got 42. In total the company has over 60 staff, and offices in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Singapore and the US.
The company appointed Debbie Gillotti, a former senior director at Microsoft in Redmond, as its new CEO earlier this year. Gillotti had been with Microsoft for six years, and before that she was the CIO of Starbucks and of Duracell.
There are three components to HealthVault — a specialised search engine designed to give the most relevant online health content; a repository account, an encrypted online e-health record that users can share with doctors; and a Connection Centre, where users can find drivers for health monitoring devices such as sport watches or blood glucose monitors to connect to the HealthVault accounts.
One of the potential issues with HealthVault is privacy concerns. “Consumers are quite wary of having their personal health information available and accessible over the internet,” Lynne Dunbrack, programme director at Health Industry Insights, a US market research and advisory services firm, said about HealthVault last week.