Stanford updates app for sharing data on heart health

January 6, 2017, Stanford University Medical Center

Resolved to improve your heart health in the new year? A newly updated app could keep you on track.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have launched MyHeart Counts 2.0, a major update to the popular research app that allows users to share heart health and activity data with researchers. The upgrades include the Stanford Coaching Module, which will test a series of four health interventions—prompts and suggestions aimed at improving heart health; more user feedback; graphics showing user data; and an improved user interface.

"I'm excited to be able to deliver more data back to the patient," said Euan Ashley, DPhil, MRCP, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine and of genetics at Stanford and the principal investigator for the MyHeart Counts study. Ashley's team is also aggregating and analyzing heart health data from app users and using it to improve methods of preventing heart disease.

MyHeart Counts 2.0 is the result of Stanford's collaboration with Oxford University and co-developer LifeMap Solutions, a digital health company.

The original MyHeart Counts, launched in the spring of 2015 on Apple's ResearchKit platform, has enrolled more than 54,000 participants—more users than any other ResearchKit app.

The research app allows willing participants to share measures of day-to-day activity levels, cardiovascular health, blood pressure and cholesterol levels with medical researchers at Stanford. A consent module also allows participants who have a 23andMe account to share their genetic information securely with Stanford researchers.

MyHealth Counts 2.0 will present users with graphs that show how they compare to other users in terms of how many steps they take each day, how happy they are, how much they sleep and the quantity of vegetables they are eating. Users will get prompts to learn more about what contributes to .

Coaching module

MyHeart Counts 2.0 features the Stanford Coaching Module, designed in collaboration with Abby King, PhD, professor of medicine and of health research and policy. "We know when it comes to changing key health habits, such as physical activity and daily sitting time, one size definitely does not fit all. Yet, until the advent of mobile apps and other e-health programs, we've had few options for customizing messages and feedback to individuals in real time," she said.

The coaching module will guide participants through a week of baseline measurements, followed by four one-week behavior-change interventions. One intervention, for example, suggests that sedentary participants take a moment to stand up or find ways to increase their daily step count, with the aim of helping them become more active. Participants are randomized into each of the interventions, so the coaching module can act as a randomized trial that will show which interventions are most effective.

The new version of MyHeart Counts "lets us begin to customize feedback to users, and also discover which types of information might be most useful or motivating for different groups," said King.

The app won't look very different to participants during the first, baseline week, said LifeMap Solutions CEO Corey Bridges. But in the second week, the new features "really come to life. They engage you and become your personal health coach," he said.

"The most unique thing about the new version is its ability to randomize patients and intervene," said Ashley. For example, depending on which week of the four-week intervention you're in, the app might notice you've only taken 2,000 steps and suggest that you plan a walk later in the day.

Such randomized interventions, said Ashley, will give researchers a handle on whether a particular intervention for an individual is prompting a change in behavior for the better. Ultimately, he said, future versions of MyHeart Counts will make it easy for participants to see and analyze their own data.

The app is an example of Stanford Medicine's focus on precision health, the goal of which is to anticipate and prevent disease in the healthy and precisely diagnose and treat disease in the ill.

A secure platform

Inspired by apps like MyHeart Counts, many Stanford faculty are now building apps of their own. In response, Stanford Medicine has created a HIPAA-compliant platform to store data from research applications built on smartphones.

Explore further: Genetic research now integrated into MyHeart Counts app

More information: MyHeart Counts 2.0 can be downloaded from Apple's App Store at … nts/id972189947?mt=8

For more information about MyHeart Counts, go to

Related Stories

Genetic research now integrated into MyHeart Counts app

March 25, 2016
A phone app developed at Stanford to study heart disease risk and help ordinary people manage that risk has teamed up with 23andMe to add a genetics option.

Smartphones could be game-changing tool for cardiovascular research, study shows

December 14, 2016
Widespread ownership of smartphones around the world could potentially transform cardiovascular research by providing rapid, large-scale and real-time measurement of individuals' physical activity, according to a new study ...

MyHeart Counts app to study heart health

March 10, 2015
A free iPhone app allows users to contribute to a study of human heart health while learning about the health of their own hearts, and uses a new software framework developed by Apple.

Smartphone apps may help study cardiovascular health, behaviors

December 14, 2016
In a study published online by JAMA Cardiology, Euan A. Ashley, M.B., Ch.B., D.Phil., of the Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., and colleagues assessed the feasibility of measuring physical activity, fitness, and sleep ...

Apple announces advancements to ResearchKit

March 22, 2016
Apple today announced advancements to the open source ResearchKit framework that bring genetic data and a series of medical tests typically conducted in an exam room to iPhone apps. Medical researchers are adopting these ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.