The Eatery iPhone app : Massive Health Experiment 01

A healthy day at the KP Center for Total Health (@kptotalhealth)

I don’t normally take the time to download and review an app on request, but since the CEO of the company asked me, I thought I’d give it a try.

Sutha Kamal (@SuthaKamal)  was at the Healthcare Innovation Summit at KP Center for Total Health in June, 2011, and made great contributions to that conversation.

Massive Health itself has been getting quite a bit of buzz in the business literature given its heritage, (people from Mozilla and Apple) and it’s quirky, over-the-top name.

You can find the app here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-eatery/id468299990

The paradigm is less calorie counting, more visual tracking, with social critique of the health of your food.

What I thought

I agree with other reviews who say it’s thoughtfully designed. Minimal friction to input data – Sign-in process easy/transparent.

I am leery about the Facebook connection and haven’t enabled that.

I liked the app stating that it will never post on my behalf. A lot of apps don’t declare themselves this way, it’s a nice trust touch. – Social part is well implemented

Dietary issues

Cheat Day, a la “four hour body”, Just don’t do it every day.

As with some of the reviewers on iTunes, I share the feeling that the science is squishy so fit-or-fat is too relative, even though I know the app manages this a little with the crowd ratings. People on Atkins-type diets could be penalized.

A person on the Tim Ferriss 4-Hour-Body diet may one day be on snickers the next it will be lean turkey, so I take the ratings with a grain of salt (or should I say Mrs. Dash).

This could be mitigated by joining social circles who share the same dietary habits, so less fit or fat, more “disciplined” vs “undisciplined”

A few minor wishes

Would love the app to store the photo on the camera roll and allow for uploading to Flickr – this is part of the Tim Ferriss approach, the food gallery-

Would love the app to import a photo from the camera roll as well

Stickiness

The front end here is as good as any I have seen, however what is it connected to? I’m not sure that a group of strangers or non-professional facebook friends is going to build the trust that would cause me to come back.

In an ideal world, coupling this front end to the things that are sticky, like the care delivery system/one’s doctor would be a differentiator, in my opinion. However, that’s the hard part/last mile, since few health care systems have capabilities to interact with apps and the data they generate. I think the TuAnalyze team is doing good work to figure this out….

Uber crazy idea

I am always thinking about social determinants coupled with individual behavior, and if it would be possible to use an app like this to call out unhealthy environments, i.e. a mashup with glassdoor.com our countyratings.org to compile evidence about employers/communities and the food choices that they make available. Would it impact your choice of employer if you knew one made healthier food easier to access during the work day?

I think stickiness is probably the biggest issue that will impact any novel app. It’s the question I asked at the mHealth summit when I was told, “we know that may delete an app after 2 weeks” – what are the ways to manage this?

I think there’s no clear answer…outside of integrated care. I spoke to Andrew Rosenthal ( @AndrewRosenthal ), from the Massive Health team at the mHealth Summit and he told me about their approach to develop this app, which was not sitting down with experts, creating requirements, and building. It was starting with an idea from a user perspective, and gradually iterating and improving that experience. I think the usability of this app shows that, in a good way.

If anyone else has tried this and/or has ideas about the “2 weeks and it’s deleted” issue, post in the comments. As it says on the splash screen for the App, it’s Experiment 01, and they are learning as they go, see what you think.

5 thoughts on “The Eatery iPhone app : Massive Health Experiment 01”

  1. I am now using the Eatery app for about a week, and it is really funny and addictive in a way. However, I not snapping every food that I eat, I notice that I pick the more extreme foods I eat in terms of healthiness.

    It is definitely a cool app; but as I wrote at my blog; I do not trust the crowd on their opinion of what is healthy and not; they are quite biased: http://foodintakecontrol.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-top-3-of-free-apps-that-support-you.html

    1. @evkleef99 Dear Ellen, Thanks for the healthful review and the information on your blog, I was especially intrigued by the research on negative calorie illusion. It seems that in this case mHealth is opening up a whole new set of questions about visual display of data and how they affect decision making. And maybe in this instance, the people doing the studying are incentivized to reduce consumption rather than increase it. Is that a change you are seeing in your work?

    2. @evkleef99 Dear Ellen, Thanks for the healthful review and the information on your blog, I was especially intrigued by the research on negative calorie illusion. It seems that in this case mHealth is opening up a whole new set of questions about visual display of data and how they affect decision making. And maybe in this instance, the people doing the studying are incentivized to reduce consumption rather than increase it. Is that a change you are seeing in your work?

      1. Yes, mHealth’s food pictures could indeed influence decision making. I am not sure whether people will reduce consumption. People make these healthiness decisions in less than a second and they may oversimplify the relative healthiness of foods by categorizing them into either good or bad foods (dichotomous thinking).

        It would be interesting to study how using these apps helps you to improve your diet. But I have the feeling that the information about your diet is more ‘nice to know’ than ‘need to know’.

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