New ONC consumer eHealth chief eyes low-income populations

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 19, 2014        

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Lana MoriartyLast week, as part of its Health IT week, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT announced that it had hired Lana Moriarty as its new acting director of consumer e-health. Moriarty steps into the shoes of Lygeia Ricciardi, who departed in July after holding the office for three and a half years, during which the bulk of the work was done on the ONC’s Blue Button project for consumer access to electronic health records.

“I have a keen interest in … keeping the consumer angle at the top of ONC’s list,” Moriarty told MobiHealthNews. “We work very closely with every office at ONC, and that’s really where I see my role, is focusing on keeping that consumer piece on everyone’s agenda and just helping them to [ask] — whether it’s policy, whether we’re looking at any type of issue — are they considering consumers within that?”

Moriarty comes from elsewhere in the Department of Health and Human Services. She previously worked at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), where she oversaw the Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps, a federal loan repayment plan Moriarty described as “sort of like a Peace Corps for medical professionals.” Although the position did not have a technology focus, Moriarty says she’s always kept up with health information technology academically. The real tie from that job to this one is the focus on not just the consumer, but on every kind of healthcare consumer, from the wealthy to the underserved. Keep reading>>

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iHealth scores $25M from Xiaomi Ventures to expand global reach

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 19, 2014        

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Picture iHealth Align - Device with iPhoneiHealth Labs, the Mountain View, California-based subsidiary of China’s Andon Health has raised $25 million, a strategic investment from Chinese investor Xiaomi Ventures.

The funding will coincide with a corporate restructuring that will transform the subsidiary into a more globally decentralized company. iHealth Labs will become simply iHealth and will be split into three regional operating groups based in Mountain View, Paris, and Hong Kong. Existing iHealth personnel, technology, patents and assets will remain with the new company.

“We are very pleased to have Xiaomi Ventures as a partner in our business,” Yi Liu, chairman of Andon Health, said in a statement. “This investment and partnership should help to extend our global leadership in the mobile health category by providing new capabilities to accelerate growth and new user acquisition.”

According to a press release from the company, iHealth will use the funding “to continue expanding iHealth’s global reach, accelerate growth and innovation, and invest in additional sales and marketing resources.” Xaiomi Ventures will also join iHealth’s board of directors.  Keep reading>>

Congressmen reach out to HSS on behalf of app developers for HIPAA clarity

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 19, 2014        

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Official portrait of the Secretary of Health & Human Services Sylvia Mathews BurwellRep. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR) sent a letter to US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Burwell asking her to help make HIPAA regulatory guidance clearer for app developers.

The congressmen wrote the letter a few days after ACT — The App Association and a number of its mobile health company members sent a letter to Marino encouraging him to do so.

In the letter to Marino, ACT’s Executive Director Morgan Reed argued that the language of HIPAA is not easy for software developers to parse in terms of how it relates to their apps. The app association also wrote in the letter that publishing information about HIPAA and other relevant health IT policies in the Federal Register is not the best way to disseminate this information to developers. Instead, HHS should seek other channels to publish this information, ACT argues, and it should also proactively seek out developers instead of expecting them to come to them.

The group offered three suggestions to Congress for clarifying the guidelines: Make existing regulation more accessible for tech companies, improve and update guidance from the Office of Civil Liberties (OCR) on acceptable implementations, and improve outreach to new entrants in the healthcare space.

In a statement discussing his letter to Burwell, Marino said that “HIPAA regulations and guidance have been a hindrance for this emerging economy”.

“This is why Congressman DeFazio and I teamed up in a bipartisan letter to Secretary Burwell urging that she and her staff upgrade their operations to be more user-friendly for small and large healthcare companies,” he continued. “I hope the Secretary will take our suggestions to heart and earnestly strive to update the HHS offices to continue to maintain patient privacy while allowing breakthrough mobile health developments to get to market more quickly.”  Keep reading>>

Verizon, Ginger.io help pilot mobile intervention for high-cost Medicaid patients

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 18, 2014        

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GingerioVerizon has teamed up with smartphone health monitoring startup Ginger.io in a pilot conceived and run by Centerstone Research Institute to create a mobile health intervention that’s already been tested in one small study, with larger studies in the works.

Initially, Centerstone launched a three-month pilot of 10 high Medicaid-utilizer patients (those with more than $25,000 in annual healthcare-related expenses) who had some combination of mental health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or personality disorders and physical conditions like heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) or diabetes. That pilot began in April.

“Five percent of high-utilizer Medicaid beneficiaries represent more than half of the state Medicaid dollars spent each year,” Tom Doub, CEO of Centerstone Research Institute, said in a statement. “These individuals typically have co-occurring mental and physical disorders that make managing their care difficult. Understanding their needs and finding ways to help them better manage their health is critical in controlling healthcare costs.”

The intervention is known as coactionHealth. Patients were equipped with smartphones, with connectivity supplied by Verizon and various health tracking applications, that they could use to contact a support team. The support team included a consultant, an on-call nurse and a supervising licensed therapist, as well as a wellness coach.

Ginger.io tracked participants’ phone use passively and also sent them daily survey questions about their mental wellbeing. Certain answers to these questions would trigger alarms and inform members of the care team, who could then respond to depressive symptoms or suicidal ideations they might otherwise have missed.  Keep reading>>

Bug delays Apple’s HealthKit launch, partners’ updated iOS 8 apps

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 18, 2014        

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Epic hospitals HealthkitAlong with the official launch of the new iOS 8 operating system yesterday, a large number of health and medical app developers intended to launch apps that integrated with Apple’s HealthKit platform. However, because of a bug in HealthKit that Apple apparently discovered at the last minute, the iPhone-maker did not grant approval to any updated health app that integrated with HealthKit.

“We discovered a bug that prevents us from making HealthKit apps available on iOS 8 today,” Apple said in a statement. “We’re working quickly to have the bug fixed in a software update and have HealthKit apps available by the end of the month.”

While Apple indicated that it expects the bug to be fixed within the next two weeks, the failure to launch such a high-profile initiative on time is embarrassing for the tech giant. Apple hasn’t given any clues about the nature of the bug that is causing the hold up.

Apple first announced HealthKit at its developer conference in June.  Keep reading>>

Barriers for digital health startups: Too many stakeholders, slow pace

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 18, 2014        

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Chris Gordon Bain Capital

Bain Capital’s Chris Gordon

One of the biggest barriers to innovation in healthcare is that, unlike other industries, there are several key stakeholders who must be addressed before a company can successfully bring their product to market, according to a recent panel at The Economist’s Health Care Forum in Boston this week.

“Any established company in any industry is always faced with the ‘established company vs. innovators’ dilemma,” Bain Capital Managing Director Chris Gordon said. “Do you want to transform your business and potentially cannibalize yourself and put your business at risk or do you want to be too stagnant and wait for someone else to do it for you? I think it’s a particularly tough thing in healthcare, though, because it’s so much more complicated than companies making products and selling them to people who want to buy them or companies who want to buy them. There are so many stakeholders between the regulators, payors, clinicians, and the patients.”  Keep reading>>