Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

See How a Healthy Heart Works — And an Unhealthy One, Too — With New iPad App

As a medical patient, it’s often hard to retain all the information a doctor is throwing at you — much less understand and explain to someone else what’s happening to your body.

Maybe an interactive 3-D model would help. That’s what a little Utah start-up called Orca Health offers — through some 13 apps, primarily for the iPad, that each focuses on a different part of the body, like the spine or the knee.

Apple named Orca Health’s EyeDecide its best medical app of the year in 2011, in part for its clever augmented-reality feature that shows what it looks like to view the world with macular degeneration or “floaters.”

Orca’s newest app, released today, is called HeartDecide. Users can view a pumping heart from all different angles, and modify it to fit their own demographic information.

Then they can see how the heart functions with various conditions, including rheumatic heart disease and mitral regurgitation. Or, they can see what various medical procedures look like, including percutaneous valve replacement and annuloplasty.

HeartDecide is free, unlike Orca’s other apps, which usually cost about $5.

The Orca apps are usually bought by patients, who can then better understand and illustrate their own conditions and procedures to themselves and their friends and family. They’ve also become popular with doctors, who use them for in-office show and tell.

Orca CEO Matt Berry told me that he plans to make all the Orca apps free of charge, starting in September.

That’s after an experiment with removing the $5 fee earlier this year brought in 450,000 downloads in three days, which is about half of the company’s total downloads to date.

Even though Orca was doing a pretty good business selling the apps, it’s now going to try to make money from advertising and from referring app users to relevant medical specialists, Berry said. The company also plans to start releasing its apps for Android in the coming months.

Berry started Orca in 2010, after making his first app, SpineDecide, for his father, an orthopedic spine surgeon.

Salt Lake City-based Orca has 12 employees and has raised $400,000 in seed funding, with $1.5 million more on the way, all from individual investors who are mostly physicians, according to Berry.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus