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Oakwood Medical Avatar Brings Your Health To (Virtual) Life

DEARBORN (WWJ) -- A new iPhone app sponsored by Oakwood Healthcare means to make it easier to manage your health and connect to health services.

Oakwood's Medical Avatar app can be personalized to show a three-dimensional image of the user's body. Users can also download a photo of their face that is melded onto the body image.

The app is now available free at the Apple App Store. (An Android version is in the works, and should be ready before Dec. 31.) You don't have to be an Oakwood patient to download it.

Said Susan Hanchett, corporate director brand strategy and market development of Oakwood Healthcare: "We see this as a great way for patients and prospective patients to connect with us and to learn about the high quality services we provide."

The Medical Avatar is designed to help educate users about their health and find available treatments to ease their symptoms through direct links to Oakwood doctors and services. Users can become more informed about medical issues, prepare better for medical procedures and help family members adhere to discharge instructions. The free app includes short videos that illustrate about 200 common health concerns and procedures.

"I see this as an art form that we've created as an app to allow you to visualize your health information in the past, present and future," said Virgil Wong, co-inventor of the app and CEO of New York-based Medical Avatar LLC. "It's a way to help people understand and learn about their health in an easy and visual way."

Wong said his company and the app is an outgrowth of his graduate studies at Columbia University on health information. He said an official of his company met Oakwood's senior adviser for strategy and growth, David Campbell, at a conference early last year, and "we found a perfect partner."

Oakwood is the first hospital in the nation to launch the Medical Avatar app. The company is also working with several other institutions in New York, Wong said.

Wong said his research shows that "we tend to care about and relate to information that is visually and directly related to us -- it's a key component of personalization and connection to our health information. Hopefully this will motivate users to make changes to improve our health and well-being."

Dave Stanis, director of digital communication at Oakwood, said the app "is loaded with a lot of health information about a lot of areas in the body. And we've tied it into information from the National Institutes of Health, and video content to describe symptoms and conditions. And that information is tied to information on doctors and services here at Oakwood to help you treat parts of the body you may be focused in on, or information on events and classes in that particular area of health concern.

Soon, Wong said, the app will be upgraded with the "ability to time travel through your own body -- you'll be able to see where you're going to be in five years or 10 years, as well as make short term future predictive analyses, based on the decisions you make on diet, exercise, fitness and sleep patterns. You'll be able to see yourself change if you're trying to lose weight, for instance, and the medical and health implications of all that going forward."

Because, Wong said, "at any moment in time we can make these small incremental changes that can lead to increased vitality, increased energy, even reversing chronic decisions. Or you can make these little daily decisions that lead to heart disease and diabetes and arthritis and cancer."

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