Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly sophisticated and is now being used in everything from creating art to measuring vitals using AI. Enter Together by Renee.
Together by Renee is a free iOS app aimed at helping aging people — or those that care for them—manage their health. Unlike other health apps, Together by Renee uses artificial intelligence for some clever applications.
But how do Together by Renee’s features stack up against other apps on the market, including Apple’s own built-in health features? Let’s find out.
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What is Together by Renee?
Together by Renee is the brainchild of Dr. Renee Dua and Nick Desai, the duo behind the app Heal. You can think of Heal as an on-demand primary care app that allows users to access virtual medicine visits and house calls easily.
Dr. Dua is an internal medicine specialist based in California, while Desai has experience building startups across various verticals.
In a press release, the team behind Together by Renee calls the platform “the first app to use generative AI to complete and manage cumbersome healthcare tasks for aging adults, those with chronic diseases, and their overwhelmed caregivers.”
Instead of aiming to be an all-in-one health tool, the team built Together by Renee to help users keep track of several key determinants of physical health — such as regularly taking vitals, keeping track of medications, and seeing their doctor at regular intervals.
How the Together app tracks your vitals
The app captures your vitals by taking a 1-minute selfie using your iPhone’s camera.
To work, you must remain still, hold the phone’s camera at eye level, and be evenly lit so every part of your face is equally illuminated. We also found that removing your eyeglasses for this selfie is better.
The app looks for movements and changes in the color and size of the blood vessels in your eyes and face.
Once it detects blood movement, the app uses artificial intelligence and its own algorithms to measure your vitals, such as your pulse, respiratory rate, heart rate variability, and even your blood pressure and blood oxygen level.
You can also set up reminders to take your vitals or invite a loved one or caregiver and share this important information with them so everyone is on the same page.
And because it takes just a minute of your time and uses your phone’s camera, it’s easy to monitor your vital signs throughout the day, week, and more.
Together by Renee features
When you first open the Together by Renee app, it guides you through several introductory steps. These steps include taking pictures of your medication, adding information about your current health routine, and using a selfie mode to measure your vitals.
The Together by Renee app isn’t meant to replace any of your caregivers. Instead, the goal seems to centralize important information such as your prescribing doctor, local pharmacy, and more.
When you take pictures of your medications, the app intelligently sends you refill reminders. Additionally, the app can automatically call in refills, which can be useful for those who are prone to forget to top off their medicine.
Based on your medications, height, weight, gender, age, and other factors, the app also gives you a list of preventative exams in its Insights tab that you should take in order to stay in tip-top health.
Since the app is aimed at elderly adults, those with chronic illness, and their caregivers, there are also what are essentially built-in social features. For example, with the right settings, a person might be able to see their family member’s vitals right from the app.
The app’s most notable feature is the ability to take vitals based on a one-minute selfie video. According to its developers, the app uses generative AI to intelligently measure some key vitals using nothing but this selfie.
How accurate is Together by Renee?
Based on a one-minute video selfie, the Together by Renee app gave a range of vitals, including:
- Pulse rate by beats per minute
- Blood oxygen levels
- Respiratory rate (breaths per minute)
- Heart rate variability
- Blood pressure
As a reminder, the app did all of this without any additional sensors, accessories, or devices. All it took was a short video. You stare into your iPhone’s camera at eye level and hold it still for a single minute.
But just how accurate are these vitals?
First, nothing beats your doctor! So remember that any app, smart device, etc. is not a substitute for medical care. This type of technology is meant to help you and your healthcare team manage your health, not replace it.
Compared to an Apple Watch Series 7, the heartbeats per minute and blood oxygen saturation were just slightly off.
For example, the Together by Renee app gave these vitals: a pulse rate of 64 beats per minute, a blood oxygen level of 99%, a respiratory rate of 15, a heart are variability of 50, and blood pressure at 115/73.
At approximately the same time (within a minute or two), the Apple Watch showed a pulse rate of 77 bpm and a blood oxygen level of 97%.
Currently, Apple Watch models only measure respiratory rate while sleeping, but a Prana breathing device measured a respiratory rate of 16 breaths per minute based on a one-minute tracking session.
The Apple Watch also does not measure blood pressure (at least not yet), so we used our Withings BPM Connect smart blood pressure monitor to compare. That measurement showed a 105/77 reading.
The difference between the Apple Watch and external accessories like the Withings BPM Connect and Prana device and the Together by Renee app was pretty close, within an acceptable margin of error.
It’s also important to note that the Apple Watch and Withings BPM Connect both have clinical trials backing up the reliability of their sensors, and both received FDA and CE clearance as medical devices.
The Together by Renee app has no available clinical research corroborating its accuracy, and the app’s developers haven’t offered any insight into the mechanisms behind its artificial intelligence system.
The benefit of the Apple Watch’s passive monitoring
Additionally, one of the main benefits of an Apple Watch is that it measures your vitals passively, meaning you don’t have to do anything other than wear the watch.
The watch then collects your information in the background and sends it to the Apple Health app to help detect or monitor medical problems.
Apple Watches also collect and store your health data history and can identify things like a hard fall, irregular heart rhythm, collect Afib history, cardio fitness, menstrual cycle, and even things like time in daylight and sleep stages. Most Apple Watch (Series 4+) can also take an ECG!
Together by Renee app privacy
According to the Together by Renee app, the app is HIPAA-compliant, and all the information you enter stays private unless you share it. There’s no information on encryption or secure storage standards.
There may be a difference if we compare that to Apple’s Health app.
Apple collects hardly any personal information, processes a lot of data on-device, and strives for transparency. Whatever information you do choose to share is stored in an encrypted form on secure servers.
Should you use the Together by Renee app?
At this point, there’s no reason not to use the Together by Renee app. The app brings together some key features for older adults or those who are living with chronic illnesses.
According to interviews given by the app’s developers, even more features are coming to the app in the future — including finding providers that work with your insurance and analyzing your voice for signs of anxiety or depression.
At this current moment, however, there doesn’t appear to be anything that Together by Renee can do better than your iPhone and Apple Watch in conjunction.
Additionally, Together by Renee currently stores just your blood pressure history, so you cannot identify trends in your other vitals.
There’s a good chance that the app’s AI improves over time, but the Apple Watch’s sensors were more accurate — and have actual clinical backing.
The Health app also has features that allow users to track their medications and keep their family and care providers updated on their vital statistics.
The AI portion of the Together by Renee app is nifty, but there’s not enough here to justify foregoing your Apple Watch and the Apple Health app for a third-party option. At least, not yet.