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This is a guest post by Robin Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times.

As medical costs soar and as our health insurance systems falter, technology is offering some new tools for taking your health into your own hands. Many of these solutions have a strong social component. And for many, the social aspect seems to be working.

Sharing, it turns out, can help you stick to your diet, manage exercise, blood glucose levels, drive more safely and, of course, let you look in on the health of others. Businesses are also starting to look at sharing and connectedness as a way of helping their workers stay healthier, too. Here’s a few that are standing out within various areas:

For the Little Ones

GeoPalz ibitz: Kids and their families can share and compare fitness goals using ibitz, a small clip-on fitness activity monitor that comes in both adult and children’s styles. Wear them all day and they’ll record your physical activity. Bluetooth connects them to the cloud, where the data is recorded. Kids can earn cool prizes from places like Disney’s Club Penguin or other rewards, just for “moving.” And by sharing activity information, movement can become ingrained in the family lifestyle. The family that moves together, stays together.

Fitness Communities

This area abounds with services. Runtastic has a robust collection of apps, hardware devices and services that work on everything from building six-pack abs to a scale that records, tracks and shares your weight. Because all of your workout data can be recorded and shared, your motivation to succeed increases.

Another social exercise app, Activebudz by GOTRIbal, lets you find workout buddies or trainers in whichever city you happen to be traveling to. Then, there’s SparkPeople, a community-based fitness program harnesses the power of community to motivate and educate. The site has information on nutrition, workouts and training. SparkPeople has nearly 16 million users who they claim have collectively lost 23 million pounds.

For the Elderly

Independa solves many problems that the aging population faces by allowing them to monitor everything from pill reminders to medical recorders. The hardware is available on tablets, and now, it’s even being built into LG televisions. Understanding that seniors need to feel connected and engaged with family, friends, and current events, the Independa systems include video chat, photo-sharing, Gmail, Facebook, and broadcast messaging.

Other systems like Great Call’s 5Star Urgent Response Transponder take a different tack. It’s a pendant that can be worn by an elderly person, and should they have a fall or need assistance, all they need to do is press a button. A service then uses SMS to contact family, friends, or even doctors.

Corporate Health

Corporations are also tapping into the power of social media to improve health outcomes. Virgin Pulse counts on employee engagement to promote a healthier workplace. They use reward systems, tools and social strategies to motivate workers to stay healthier, offering bonuses and rewards.

United Healthcare offers similar social systems, including one used to espouse adherence to diabetes control (a rising epidemic). The Diabetes Health Plan offers financial rewards for following medically proven preventive steps such as having regular blood sugar checks, routine health exams and preventive screenings. The end goal? Comply with the plan, and you’ll eliminate out-of-pocket expenses.

The social component of digital healthcare should not be underestimated. Like social networking, crowdfunding, and other social behavior, it’s been increasingly clear that communications is key.

Want more on what’s changing in health? Merck is presenting a special three-hour track during SMW NYC exploring innovation in health. Get more here.

Robin Raskin is founder of Living in Digital Times (LIDT), a team of technophiles who bring together top experts and the latest innovations that intersect lifestyle and technology. LIDT produces the annual Digital Health Summer Summit, as well as the Digital Health Summit TechZone and two-day conference at International CES each year.




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