Small study: Text message-based cancer screening education may help at-risk minority groups

By: Jonah Comstock | Aug 28, 2014        

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DoctorDyerIn a recent JMIR study, a team of researchers in Minnesota explored the potential of mobile health to reach people who sometimes fall through the cracks of the healthcare system. They found that a text message intervention could help Korean American women, a group that has one of the highest cervical cancer mortality rates in the United States, seek preventative screenings (Pap tests).

“A variety of structural and cultural factors act as barriers to screening for Korean American women,” the authors write. “Structural obstacles include health access due to inadequate health insurance, expense, time constraints, and language limitations. Cultural barriers to cervical cancer screening encompass lack of knowledge regarding cervical cancer and cervical cancer screening, a wrongly held belief that screening is unnecessary in the absence of symptoms or at young ages, cultural modesty or embarrassment, lack of culturally appropriate health care providers, and fear of receiving negative screening results.”

Researchers designed a text message based intervention for a study group of 30 Korean American women, 90 percent of whom had been living in the United States for less than 9 years and nearly two-thirds of whom had a family history of cancer. Based on a screening conducted ahead of time, women received messages tailored to their specific needs; for instance, a woman who had scored high on a pre-test scale for cultural embarrassment might receive the message “We understand it is a bit embarrassing to get it done. But do it for you! Your happy cervix will appreciate it!” in addition to the other messaging. Participants received messages for seven days, and many of them were interactive, prompting responses from the participants.

Results were mixed. A week after the intervention, participants were generally more knowledgable about cervical cancer and the importance of screening. Significant differences were observed in general knowledge, knowledge of risk factors, and knowledge about and attitudes toward the Pap test. But when asked whether they planned to get a screening in 1 year, 3 months, 1 month, or not at all, the increase wasn’t statistically significant, though this could be owing partly to the small sample size. At a three month follow-up, just seven of the 30 women had actually gone in to get screened for cervical cancer.

Nonetheless, researchers are hoping to follow up the study with a larger RCT, possibly modifying the experiment design to deliver the messages over a shorter time or to incorporate a smartphone app.

“Given the widespread use of mobile phones (98 percent) and smartphones (83 percent) among young adults, a mobile phone-based health intervention could be a cost-effective method of reaching hard-to-reach populations with tailored, individual messages that cover broad content areas and overcome restrictions to place and time of delivery,” they wrote. “Our developed model could be expanded for delivery to different age groups of Korean American women to promote additional types of cancer screening, such as colonoscopy or mammogram. It could also be used with other underserved minority groups. Vietnamese, Hmong, and Laotian American women face similar barriers to cancer screening and report high cervical cancer incidence and mortality. It is likely that these populations may also benefit from a similarly tailored intervention approach.”

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Ralph Lauren, OMsignal team up for health-sensing designer shirts

By: Jonah Comstock | Aug 27, 2014        

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ralph laurenThis week the New York Times broke the news of a surprising new entrant in the wearable activity tracker space: Ralph Lauren, the fashion label known for their polo shirts and ties. At the US Open, the Times reports, the clothier equipped ball boys with form fitting black tee-shirts, emblazoned with the Ralph Lauren logo, that track users’ biometrics. Ralph Lauren has teamed with OMsignal to make the garments.

“Everyone is exploring wearable tech watches and headbands and looking at cool sneakers,” Ralph Lauren executive vice president for advertising David Lauren told the Times. “We skipped to what we thought was new, which is apparel. We live in our clothes.”

The shirts measure heart rate, stress, breathing, distance, intensity of movement, and calories burned, and send that data to a user’s smartphone. Ralph Lauren expects to make them available by the beginning of next year, along with a dress shirt version, according to the Times.

Back in July when OMsignal raised $10 million, CEO and cofounder Stéphane Marceau told MobiHealthNews that the company planned to use some of the funds to explore partnerships with fitness and sportswear apparel companies.

“Smart clothing will become a pervasive and normal aspect of consumers’ lives,” he said in a statement at the time. “Following the recent launch of our Biometric Smartwear collection, we are continuing to receive orders from all over the world, developing new designs and working with top partners to bring our technology to an even wider consumer base.”

That Ralph Lauren is interested in health-sensing clothing speaks powerfully to the idea that this technology is moving into the mainstream, and it follows several recent developments in a similar vein. Last month, Tory Burch introduced a line of designer jewelry for wearing Fitbit activity trackers. In April, Misfit Shine added Bloom, a jewelry-style pendant, to its product lineup.

Last year, mPERS maker QMedic said it was in talks with Cartier to design a version of its device, and almost exactly a year ago, Vogue magazine dedicated a page to wearables as a celebrity fashion statement.

Crowdfunding roundup: New trackers, speech impediment app, and more

By: Jonah Comstock | Aug 27, 2014        

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SenseThere may be a lot of fitness trackers on the market, but the enthusiasm for supporting new trackers on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo hasn’t died down. At MobiHealthNews, we periodically check in on the health, wellness and medical devices on crowdfunding platforms that relate to digital health and wearable technology.

Our last roundup included sleep tracker Sense, whose maker Hello just raised another $10.5 million from some big name angel investorson top of the $2.4 million the startup crowdfunded. Also included was Quantified Care, the startup formerly known as The Smartphone Physical. That company is still at about $10,000 of its $15,000 goal to launch its connected health marketplace.

Read on for seven more mobile health projects being crowdfunded right now, including three fitness trackers, a smart water bottle, a smartphone-connected microscope, and two new products for staying safe at bars. Keep reading>>

Withings Aura sleep coach system goes on sale

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 27, 2014        

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withings auraThis week France-based Withings began selling its sleep coaching system, Withings Aura, on its website and through Amazon for $299.95. After about one day of sales the Aura sold out, but Withings wrote that it would begin taking orders for the sleep tracker again in a few days. Aura was first revealed at CES in January when the company said it expected to begin selling it come spring.

Aura takes a different form than most other sleep tracking and coaching offerings on the market today since it does not require the user to wear a device while they sleep. Instead, the system consists of a sensor placed in the user’s bed and a bedside device that serves as both lamp and alarm clock, which are controlled by a companion iOS app. The bed sensor monitors body movements, breathing cycles and heart rate, while the bedside device senses ambient environmental factors like noise, light, and temperature. The bedside device also emits light and sound to help users fall asleep or wake up. The program is designed to help relax users as they fall asleep and help them wake up more easily in the morning by facilitating the release of the hormone melatonin into the body.  Keep reading>>

Gartner puts mobile health monitoring in the “trough of disillusionment”

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 27, 2014        

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Gartner Hype CycleAs it does every year, analyst firm Gartner updated its famous Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies this summer and, according to the firm, “mobile health monitoring” is approaching the bottom of the so-called “trough of disillusionment”. Mobile health monitoring will need another five to 10 years before reaching its “plateau of productivity” and steady market adoption.

Back in 2009 Gartner placed “home health monitoring” in almost the exact same place on its visualization with a similar time frame required for maturity.

While its for Gartner clients only, this summer the firm also created a more specific analysis of the technologies and trends in the patient-facing digital health market by placing them on various points of its Hype Cycle chart. Some of the newer trends that are on the rise and moving toward inflated expectations include bring your own wellness, patient decision aids, quantified self, and Blue Button+. Among those that the research firm believes to be already at the peak of hype: OpenNotes, mobile sports and fitness, medication compliance management, and medical shopping transparency tools. Those sliding into the trough along with mobile health monitoring include PHRs, care coordination apps, health insurance marketplaces, and — still there five years later — home health monitoring.

Patient self-service kiosks, online consumer health education and advice, and patient portals are among the few technologies climbing out of the trough of disillusionment and medical device connectivity was the only mentioned as having already moved into the entering the plateau phase.

Gartner’s analysis is good fodder and one of the few analyses that organizes so many of digital health’s subcategories on a spectrum of maturity and market-readiness.

Check out this year’s macro emerging technologies Hype Cycle from Gartner below:  Keep reading>>

Tricorder X Prize announces 10 finalists for hands-on diagnostic tests

By: Jonah Comstock | Aug 27, 2014        

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Aezon lab boxThe finalists have been announced for the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, lowering the field from 22 companies that had not yet dropped out to just 10 that will compete for the $10 million prize in a series of hands-on trials of their handheld, smartphone-connected diagnostic devices designed for consumer use.

“This is an extremely hard competition,” Dr. Erik Viirre, technical and medical director for X Prize told MobiHealthNews. “It’s for 10 million bucks, so we’re not making it easy. And all the various elements that are in the competition are pretty difficult. So really the charge to the judging panel by X Prize, and I think the stand that they took, was ‘Are the teams that were invited to be finalists, is it plausible that they’re going to be ready to have technology available, built and complete by next spring?’ That was fundamentally the question that was used and this was the list they came up with.”

The 10 teams selected span the globe — less than half of the final cut are from the United States. They also represent a mix of large companies, startups, and smaller “garage” operations.

“That’s really the spirit of X Prize, and we see that in so many of our competitions,” said Viirre. “A high school team building a fuel efficient car, a fisherman building an oil cleanup technology. We see these things and in fact we use those stories in our charge to the judges to encourage them to keep an open mind.”

Scanadu, the California team that made headlines for a successful crowdfunding campaign, made the cut. But so did Aezon, the student team from Johns Hopkins, and Final Frontier, a team made up of two brothers from Pennsylvania — a doctor and an engineer.

On the other hand a few of the more talked about teams didn’t make the cut: Jack Andraka’s high school Team Gen Z dropped out and, surprisingly, Nanobiosym, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based team that won the Nokia Sensing X Prize, a smaller, affiliated competition held last year, didn’t make finals. Here’s the full list of finalists in alphabetical order, from X Prize’s press release: Keep reading>>