Weight loss app aims to help obese patients

Siobhan Murray

Writer

A team of University students has developed the iPhone app Get~2~Goal, which aims to help obese people determine whether bariatric surgery is right for them, as well as track the personal weight loss goals of gastric bypass patients. Elaina Miller ’13 and Yushan Zhang ’15 worked under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Computer Science Rick Zaccone to create this app, which was released to the Apple App Store on Sept. 5. The project is a collaborative effort with Geisinger Health System’s Obesity Institute.

Geisinger contacted the University’s biomedical engineering program looking to develop a mobile application that would make information about gastric bypass surgery easily available to those considering the surgery. They had just created a program that put together data from thousands of gastric bypass surgeries performed at Geisinger and across the nation to help people compare their weight loss success and set realistic post-surgery goals.

Although Geisinger and the University’s biomedical engineering program have worked together for a number of years, this project is the first time there has been collaborative effort between Geisinger and the University’s computer science department.

They were referred to Geisinger by Zaccone. He asked computer science majors Miller and Zhang to work on the app over the summer.

“Elaina worked with me on the iBucknell app, so I expected she would be good for the job. I had had Yushan in a course, and she was a very good student. Both of them exceeded my expectations,” Zaccone said. He added that although he served as mentor for the project, Miller and Zhang did the heavy lifting.

The team started work on June 15 and finished on Aug. 15. They met with the director of Geisinger’s Obesity Institute, Christopher Still, DO, and Craig Wood, a biostatistical analyst at the institute, weekly to discuss progress and ensure that everyone involved was on the same page.

The app allows users to customize graphs and charts of their weight loss and easily email this information to physicians, friends and family.

The iOS app then had to be submitted to the App Store, a process that Miller describes as “tedious and complicated.” This process was not completed until Sept. 5, when Get~2~Goal arrived on the market as a free download for iPhones and iPads.

The app has already received positive feedback from users at the Geisinger clinic and from a medical blog discussing the app.

“When patients use the app and enter their needed information, their actual progress is oftentimes better than what was expected, making the patients extremely excited and motivated. Before, patients knew their current weight and how much weight had been lost total, but they could not see this in graphical form. Now, patients are able to monitor their weight loss over time more easily at home, and have a better chance of losing weight and keeping it off,” Miller said.

Zhang notes that the program is very user-friendly and allows users to track their progress alongside of averages.

“Users are able to actually see how they are doing with the graph and chart view. They get to know what level they are at compared to others,” Zhang said.

“I think its great that our school is getting involved in such a dynamic, new market,” computer engineering major Tyler Clark ’15 said. 

Zaccone also notes that he sees “great potential for collaborating with [Geisinger] on other projects,” and Geisinger and the University’s computer science department have already discussed developing another app for preventing obesity.

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