From The Daniel Island News|
LiveWello: DI parents devise health app
By Jennifer Johnston
Jan 9, 2013 - 8:51:19 AM
There are people in the world who, when faced with a problem, prove themselves to be plenty resourceful. With the advent of Internet browsers, social media, and scores of consumer apps, answers are often at the fingertips of the casual Googler or the seasoned Pinterestista. But when these searches fail to unearth the right answer, these resourceful folks either concede, compromise, or do something truly remarkable: they create their own resolution. And while it may not be clear whether inventiveness is handed out when we are born, or borne out of circumstance, it seems that for Florence and Kwame Iwegbue, it was a little of both.
In 2009, the lives of the Daniel Island couple took a sharp, and permanent, turn. Their young son, Dilibe, was diagnosed with autism and a seizure disorder, and within a week they found themselves navigating a team of 20 physicians, therapists, and teachers. In addition to parenting Dilibe’s two older sisters, Annabel and Gabrielle, as well, Kwame was running a practice as a Roper St. Francis physician and Florence was working in real estate law. It became clear in short order that something would have to give, so Florence left her career to dedicate more time to Dilibe and the new complexities of his development.
But even with her dramatically adjusted schedule, Kwame noted that his wife was barely keeping her head above water coordinating, attending, and administering all of their son’s care, appointments, and medication. Kwame, a rare breed of doctor with techie talent, had the idea to devise an electronic tool to give Florence some relief and peace of mind. The self-taught computer programmer toiled in secret for months, and delivered his gift on Mother’s Day 2010. When Florence turned on her iPhone that day, the LiveWello Health app was installed and ready for action!
“Kwame told me he had developed it to enable me to keep our family and our son’s providers apprised of his daily progress and regress.” Florence recalls. “His hope was to ease my burden as a caregiver, and improve communication and the quality of care our son was receiving.” The notion of putting all of Dilibe’s information into a one-stop-shop on his wife’s phone, where it would always be just a tap away, proved efficient and stress-relieving, but it was just the beginning of what would become a multi-layered, publicly-available application.
In an effort to further her understanding of autism and seizure disorders, Florence had poured through research articles and attended autism conferences. She also joined several autism groups on Facebook and Yahoo, but soon found herself feeling completely overwhelmed trying to keep up with these connections and filter through them to uncover that which was most relevant to Dilibe. “I got a lot of valuable advice, but it quickly became obvious that these social networks were not designed to provide the tools I needed to adequately care for my son,” Florence relates. So she replaced these groups with a more intimate network of trusted moms, mentors, and coaches who shared similar experiences and goals for their children. The Iwegbues did not wish to use existing social networks to hold what were often sensitive conversations with this circle of friends, so they added the social component to the LiveWello app, referring to it as the “health village.”
The village concept was then expanded to the professionals who helped care for Dilibe, including the multiple therapists with whom he works on any given day, as well as physicians, educators, and even a nutritionist. Bringing them into Dilibe’s LiveWello village seemed to make sense on many levels. “We don’t have any family members around and have little time to invest in friendships, so we rely heavily on these people for support,” Florence explains. “The more I relied on them, the more they supported me, much like family members. Dilibe became their child because everyone was more connected to him and invested in his day-to-day progress.”
With a solid social base and fine-tuned task administration and data tracking, the Iwegbues were ready to share their app with a wider audience. Now available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, the LiveWello Health Social app is a public tool for anyone needing to track care of a loved one, whether a child, an aging parent, or even a pet. The primary features of the app allow a patient’s “villagers” to view or edit records, including medications, therapies, and past/current condition. But it also allows for upload of video, health documents, and pertinent news articles.
The patient, parent, or caregiver who sets up a LiveWello profile is known as the account holder, and is the individual responsible for management of information within that profile. The account holder invites members into the village, and can control the amount of access – edit versus view-only – that each member is permitted. “Every section in the app allows for village members to make comments, which is the primary way in which they communicate with each other,” Florence expounds. This means that village members who accompany a patient on an appointment can upload video into the journal or make comments in the “condition” section of the profile. Within the “tasks” feature, members can indicate that medication or supplements have been taken. And, of course, the social aspect of the health village means that loved ones and well-wishers can check in and stay apprised of progress without keeping caregivers tethered to phone or email.
The Iwegbue’s have received tremendous feedback from the LiveWello Health Social app, though they admit that medical professionals have been on the slower side to adopt it as a health management tool. A physician himself, Kwame is not surprised by this. “He knows all too well the time constraints that doctors are under,” concedes Florence. But the couple hopes that, over time, practitioners will discover that it actually allows for a wider, more efficient window into a patient’s health and will become more broadly-used within the medical community. In fact, Florence and Kwame are now reaching out to health care providers who may be interested in collaborating with them in building software to automate aspects of the patient interaction process. “Any health professional that sees the benefit in making the extra effort will certainly find it to be an invaluable tool,” the Iwegbues maintain.
Right now, the LiveWello app runs on what is known as a “fremium” business model; this means that the basic version of the software is available for free, while more advanced features and additional storage are offered to paying customers. More customized software will become available to health practitioners in the months ahead, and the couple hopes to build a version of the app to run on any mobile device. The Iwegbues anticipate that they will recoup their start-up costs once the premium features become available, but acknowledge that the rate at which they are able to expand services is in large part at the mercy of their ability to secure additional financial backing. “We went into this as a necessity for our child, so we self-funded the project before seeking funding,” states Florence. “This is something investors are not accustomed to seeing, which makes us a bit of an anomaly.”
Still, Dilibe’s parents are steadfast in their drive to get the word out about the tool that has changed their own lives. “We were desperate to do all we possibly could to give our son a shot at an independent future because we knew that one day, we wouldn’t be there to care for him anymore,” Florence explains. “But until we started sharing the app with others, we never realized how ambitious our goal was.” The couple even hopes that, with funding, the LiveWello app can become a means for allowing members of the medical community in Western nations to become “villagers” of those in more health-challenged regions of the world.
Along this hybrid entrepreneurial/philanthropic journey, the Iwegbues believe they have truly found their calling. Or it found them. Reflects Florence: “If our son hadn’t led us down this road, we could have become caught up in worldly inconsequentials and never gotten the opportunity to become grateful and grounded in the things that really matter in life: good health, relationships, and stewardship to those in one’s community.”
To learn more about LiveWello, download the free app, or use limited features online, visit www.livewello.com.
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