New York City health technology startup Kinsa Health has unveiled its Smart Thermometer and an iOS mobile app to allow users to connect personal health data with the community to monitor the spread of illnesses such as the flu and strep throat.
Kinsa’s goal is to create a real-time map of population health to stop illnesses from spreading.
The company developed the thermometer because fever is often the first indication of illness, said Inder Singh, Kinsa’s founder and CEO.
He wanted to revolutionize “the world’s most common medical device,” Singh told eWEEK. By collecting geo-located data on the time and location of a fever breakout, populations of people could benefit from the data rather than just a single person, he said.
Kinsa’s medical data could supplement information provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with data mining from Google and Facebook, he said.
Singh’s work as former executive vice president of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) inspired him to form Kinsa. An initiative of former President Bill Clinton’s foundation and now a separate nonprofit organization, CHAI helps to increase care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, expand access to life-saving technologies and facilitate rollout of new vaccines. At CHAI, Singh worked to reduce the price of drugs for malaria, AIDS and other illnesses.
In addition to its appearance at Demo, Kinsa launched the company at TEDMed, where a program called The Hive highlighted 50 health startups.
Companies such as Beijing-based medical device company Raiing have also developed thermometers that connect to smartphones.
Kinsa’s platform incorporates technology from Edo Segal, a technology entrepreneur and investor who has worked on apps with singer Will.i.am. The company was able to minimize the amount of electronics in the thermometer by connecting it to a smartphone, Singh said.
Parents can track a child’s temperature over time and monitor the health data from the child’s school using the free mobile app. It also lets users search for urgent care facilities.
Through the app, patients can compile information about their illnesses and share the data with doctors. Users store their data in the mobile app, but they can opt in to store data in Kinsa’s cloud platform, Singh said.
Data shared on community health maps is de-identified, Singh noted. “For acute illness, we don’t take personally identifiable information unless you register for certain features,” he said.
The Kinsa app is connected to a server compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Singh said. Users may choose to share data with a spouse or a child’s babysitter, he said.
In the future, data from the Smart Thermometer and mobile app may link with personal health platforms such as Microsoft HealthVault, but connecting to health record platforms is not Kinsa’s goal.
“We’re not trying to be a system where we track individual health—we’re not that system,” he explained. “We’re trying to create the global good. We’re trying to create that ability to understand when illness is spreading and when it’s not.”
The app’s “Health Weather” allows users to monitor the contagiousness level for a community and the illnesses spreading in the area, including common cold and stomach flu. Through Kinsa Groups, users can track anonymized data about a community’s symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing and illnesses like flu and strep throat.
By finding out data about strep-throat outbreaks in schools, parents may instruct their kids to wash their hands more often, Singh said.
“If influenza is starting in your area, we can push notification to get your shot,” he said.
“Your health is linked to those around you,” Singh said. “We can be healthier together if we just participate in this kind of system.”
Although the Smart Thermometer works with both the iOS and Android operating systems, Kinsa needs to test additional phone configurations before it can design an Android app, Singh said.
The company has had to overcome the hardware challenges of diverse headphone jacks, which must tolerate high temperatures and ensure an “ASTM [American Society of Testing and Materials] level of accuracy,” he noted.
“We still need to test various hardware configurations,” he said. “For example, dynamic compression phones create challenges; alternative pin formulations do, too.”
Kinsa plans to bring the Smart Thermometer to market in November or December following Class II clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which will conduct a review process that takes 90 to 120 days, Singh said.