Mayo Clinic to provide "Better" health info via new mobile app

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Dr. Paul Limburg

Mayo Clinic and a Silicon Valley partner are launching a new phone application to provide better health information on the go.

The mobile app, Better, was rolled out to the market on Tuesday in Palo Alto, Calif. Mayo Clinic and the startup firm, also called Better , have been working on this project for more than two years, said Mayo's Dr. Paul Limburg.

"People consistently tell us they want more convenient access to Mayo Clinic knowledge," said Limburg, the medical director for Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions.

That's just what this new mobile app, available for iPhones and iPads, is designed to do. The idea is that members can use it as a conduit to tap into Mayo Clinic's expertise.

While there are more than 43,000 health-care information apps available on iTunes, Limburg explains this one provides more than others.


"Better has a broader array of knowledge resources than in a typical app," he said. "This is a platform for more two-way communication with Mayo Clinic."

This is Mayo Clinic's latest entry into the estimated $9 billion "mhealth" market. While many departments have launched apps, Global Business Solutions focuses on Mayo Clinic-branded health information services.

The app can be downloaded for free from Apple's App Store. It then delivers "personalized health information from Mayo Clinic" based on the new user/member's medical history and personal interests. The free membership level provides basic access to Mayo Clinic resources and a "symptom checker" feature.

The $49.99 per month premium membership pairs a member and their family with a "Better Personal Health Assistant."

Better Health Assistants are described as "trained health professionals who can quickly provide information or direct any necessary next steps, including making an appointment with someone's existing physician or connecting with a Mayo Clinic nurse."

They also can offer help selecting a doctor, finding a trainer or advising on health insurance.

"From finding the right doctor after a job change, to managing your child's symptoms in the middle of the night, to getting the most value out of your health-care plan, that's what a Better Personal Health Assistant is all about," explained Better co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Geoff Clapp.

Clapp first introduced the Better app concept at the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital conference in April 2013. At that point, he talked about the app reading data from third-party wearable sensors such as FitBit and others.


That's not an active feature yet, but Limburg said that's a goal for the future as is more two-way interaction between Better members and Mayo Clinic.

Beside being a collaborator in the creation of this new app, Mayo Clinic is also an investor in Better, as is the venture capital firm, Social + Capital Partnership. Social + Capital, which leases space in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, is also an investor in Mayo Clinic's Emergency Room software startup called Ambient Clinical Analytics. Al Berning, the former CEO of Pemstar and Hardcore Computing, is Rochester-based CEO of Ambient.

Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, who founded Social + Capital, speaks enthusiastically about working with Mayo Clinic on projects.

"What's the point of giving Stanford or Harvard another couple hundred million dollars? So they can build another building?," he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference last year. "Mayo is a nonprofit that just saves people's lives."

Palihapitiya added that at one point he had made Mayo Clinic "a bunch of money." While visiting, he then was shown a cancer treatment wing that had been refurbished with that money.

"I hope I make them billions of dollars," he told the TechCrunch interviewer.

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