Eric Huynh (@erichuynh_) is a graduate of UC Berkeley in Molecular and Cell Biology.
He has been the project manager at SkyHealth in the development of iOS and Android health applications.
Additionally, he is currently a Senior Project Manager of Azumio, based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Azumio (@azumioinc) is a start-up that works on biofeedback health apps, working with research scientists from academic institutions such as Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco. Four of their apps are in the top 15 lists of apps in mobile app stores.
We spoke with him to find out what it’s like working in the mobile health industry.
You were a pre-med student at UC Berkeley. How did you get involved with Azumio?
Eric Huynh: It was all by chance. During my senior year, I wanted to take a gap year but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was during a conversation with my fraternity brother, Tom, that I was first introduced to mobile health. He had already established a successful app called Glucose Buddy, one of the top diabetes management apps on the market, and was looking to expand his company SkyHealth. He asked me if I wanted to join and create additional apps with him, and since then, we have been working closely together creating and updating health apps.
Would you say it has been a steep learning curve?
Eric Huynh: Absolutely. Coming from a biology background, I had limited exposure and knowledge to the inner workings of a start-up. I went from having no business background to holding meetings with representatives from major companies. As the only non-programmer and non-designer on the team, I was also expected to be the swiss army knife of the company. I had to quickly expand my skill sets to fit the needs of our apps from audio production to video directing. It has been a challenging but also a very rewarding experience thus far.
What apps are you working on?
Eric Huynh: I have worked on Fitness Buddy, Instant Fitness, and Instant Heart Rate. Fitness Buddy is a weight training app for gym goers, allowing users to develop their own workout and track various parameters of their progress. Instant Fitness is a home-based fitness app with step by step voice keys for each workout. This provides users with the ability to workout anywhere and anytime they want. I have also worked on a new update for Instant Heart Rate in which we added the stand-up test which helps users more accurately track their heart health.
I know these apps are focused on the consumer market and geared towards patients. What does Azumio base their therapies and apps on? Research, data, or perhaps consumer feedback?
Eric Huynh: All of these apps are based off of scientific research. For instance, Instant Heart Rate was developed off of a series of studies related to pulse oximeters. After creating an algorithm to use the smartphone’s camera to detect heart rate, we perfected our app by testing it against different reputable heart rate monitors to ensure accuracy and precision.
We also developed the stand up test, which is Azumio’s version of the orthostatic test, in the most recent version of Instant Heart Rate. This new feature is used to test for fatigue and stress. Our apps such as Fitness Buddy also relies on consumer feedback to create a more intuitive and user friendly interface. As a company we try to incorporate as many resources into our apps to ensure the highest quality and level of satisfaction for our users.
What kinds of projects and opportunities are there in the mobile health industry, for those who are in the medical world and are “stuck” there?
Eric Huynh: Mobile health is a relatively young industry. As a result, there is a great deal of untapped potential and opportunities for any medical professional. Those involved in the medical world possess a unique perspective both as a consumer and provider of care. Therefore, they are able to better understand and bridge the gap between patients or consumers and the medical world. This ability is a highly sought after asset by many start-ups who are looking to improve the access of care. Those in medicine can act as a liaison between the hard science and the general public.
Many individuals that I have met in the mobile health industry are medical professionals who have taken years to develop their products. However, due to the recent prevalence of mobile health, it is becoming easier to get your foot in the door. There are many routes that an individual can take–from using social media to connect with a start-up or even working with an established company for clinical and research purposes. Even for Azumio, we are currently partnering with UCSF to use Instant Heart Rate as part of a large scale health study.
I’m sure iMedicalApps’ readers have app ideas. What can physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and others working in the healthcare industry do to get started on an app?
Eric Huynh: There are many additional venues for those who want to start on an app. There are prominent incubators such as Rock Health who can get your started with many valuable resources. You can also use crowdsource funding platforms such as IndieGoGo to get the funding you need for your project.
All in all, I believe that there is a need for increased partnerships between medical professionals and mobile health companies. Medical professionals understand how to connect patients and consumers to the healthcare field. Mobile health companies understand how to make great health products for consumers. I think instead of focusing on creating separate private companies, we should combine our skill sets in order to focus on creating better products for patients and consumers alike.
You just mentioned that health professionals can work with mobile health companies. Where can physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and others working in the healthcare industry find these developers?
Eric Huynh: The quickest way to find developers in mobile health companies is through the app stores. All apps will have developer information in the app details, including an email to reach the developer. If you like a certain application and you feel the company is going towards a direction that interests you, emailing them through their developer email is a great way to start any future collaborations.