The Future of Self-Monitoring Health Devices; An Interview with BodyMedia CEO Christine Robins

August 5, 2012

2:00 pm

Some entrepreneurs assume the role of their startup’s CEO with little to no tangible leadership experience.  For these individuals, it’s a combination of being able to learn on the job quickly and surrounding themselves with with the right mentors and a strong team.  Later stage startups, however, typically opt for a commander with big-league experience.  Such is the case with BodyMedia‘s CEO, Christine Robins.

Robins, the former president and CEO at Philips Oral Healthcare (i.e. Sonicare), now sits as the head of Pittsburgh-based BodyMedia, the creators behind the FIT Armband, a wearable monitoring device that tracks how many calories a user burns during his/her daily activities.  With the explosion of self-monitoring health tools, most notably the FitBit, it’s not a big surprise there’s so much money being poured into this industry – as evidenced by the $12M the team raised in May of this same year. 

We caught up with Robins to learn more about BodyMedia, the future of self-monitoring health tools, and the biggest mistake people make in regards to their health.

Tech Cocktail:  What was the inspiration behind BodyMedia?

Christine Robins:  The company was conceived on a soccer field of Carnegie Mellon University as Astro Teller, Chris Pacione, Chris Kasabach and Ivo Stivoric tried to answer the question, “How can we create a wearable computer that helps people lead healthier lives – not just by building another gadget, but for real”.

Tech Cocktail:  What do you believe for the reason behind the increasing trend of self-monitoring health tools?

BodyMedia CEO, Christine Robins

Robins:  Lots of societal changes are hitting all at once.

First, the rapid changes in healthcare costs, and insurance coverage is convincing Corporations, Insurance carriers, and Health Care groups to encourage more lifestyle management and to expect patients to take more control over their own health.

Second, the youngest end of the Baby Boom generations and all the generations behind them want to control their healthcare more and are comfortable in using technology tools to do that. Finally, lots of smart minds are focused on how to combine the learnings of technology adoption, consumer behavior change and healthcare provider integration to tackle the puzzle of how to make this space work.

Tech Cocktail:  What is the greatest limitation with self-monitoring tools today? What does the future hold in store?

Robins:  Self monitoring tools need to stop thinking of themselves as devices and start thinking of themselves as solutions. They need to make the regular use of their products as easy as possible. The harder the products are to use, the higher the drop offrates. They also need to think about how to build Motivation into their product.

In the future these tools will be built into programs that can break down the many facets of lifestyle behavior change into digestible, do-able chunks that will increase the likelihood of long term adoption and – therefore – the likelihood for successful outcomes.

Tech Cocktail:  In your experience, what is the biggest lifestyle mistake made in regards to people’s health?

Robins:  Everyone says that good health is the most important thing in their lives and – for those that don’t have good health – they want to change their habits and become healthier. But wanting to change your lifestyle is only the first step. Most people are overwhelmed with what to do first, second, etc. They try to change everything and then find that they are disappointed when they either don’t see rapid improvements or aren’t able to maintain their new habits.

To learn more about BodyMedia, check out their website.

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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