Mayo Clinic study finds app reduces cardiac readmissions by 40 percent

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 1, 2014        

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Vector computer screen isolated on white backgroundAccording to an as-yet unpublished study, the Mayo Clinic has found that incorporating a smartphone app into cardiac rehabilitation can reduce emergency room visits and hospital readmissions by 40 percent.

“The takeaway is that digital health, mobile health, can be used for cardiovascular disease prevention, especially in a high risk group,” lead researcher Dr. R. Jay Widmer told MobiHealthNews. “But the success of an intervention does depend on the use and the amount of use. This is something that can be used to reduce disease burden across the healthcare system at times when paying for value is going to be at a premium.”

In the study, which was funded by the BIRD Foundation and recently presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session in Washington, D.C., the Mayo Clinic designed an online and smartphone-based program for patients recovering from stent placement for a heart attack. Forty-four patients participated in the study — 25 used the application and a control group of 19 had regular cardiac rehabilitation without the app.

Patients used the app for three months, and it had two functions: tracking patient vital signs and providing educational content. For the former, patients tracked weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, physical activity and dietary levels. The educational content was aimed at showing patients things they could do to help them avoid a secondary heart event, such as eating more fish or adding exercise into their daily routine.

“The application is really set up as a patient-centered self-monitoring system,” Widmer said. “We ask the patients when they first log in to insert all of their own metrics so when they start cardiac rehab, they input their own blood pressure, weight, glucose, minutes of physical activity, and their diet so they can get a good idea of where they stand with cardiac disease prevention. Then the patient can log in either on a day-to-day or every other day basis and they are asked to again log some of those numbers, as well as perform a few educational tasks.”

Around 60 percent of the control group was either readmitted to the hospital or admitted to an emergency room within 90 days. In the group that used the app, that number was just over 20 percent. In addition, the average weight for the app group was about 9 pounds (4.1 kg) lighter than the control group and the average blood pressure was about 8 mmHg lower. Widmer said there was also a correlation between how often patients used the app and how much they improved on most metrics.

“Patients who had a more frequent number of logins and the amount of time they logged in, as that increased, the patients’ blood pressure dropped more precipitously,” he said. “So there was a dose-response [relationship] between the use of the intervention and the secondary measures of cardiovascular disease we examined. … Patients were less stressed as they used the application more and had a better diet and more physical activity as they used the application more.”

This study was unrelated to last year’s iPad study, also conducted at the Mayo Clinic, for patients recovering from heart surgery in the hospital. Widmer said this study will be followed up by a larger trial, but there’s no reason public and private hospitals can’t start incorporating apps into cardiac rehabilitation now. He said several groups, including the VA, have expressed interest.


Study shows smartphone app can help nurses screen, counsel smokers

By: Aditi Pai | Apr 1, 2014        

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Doctor breaking cigaretteNurses who use a smartphone-based clinical guidelines program about smoking screen patients more often and are more successful at helping patients quit smoking, according to a Columbia University School of Nursing study published in Oncology Nursing Forum.

The study looked at the screening rates of 185 registered nurses who used the smartphone based system to treat patients during 14,000 clinic visits. All nurses were enrolled in advanced degree programs at Columbia’s School of Nursing.

When patients displayed a willingness to quit smoking, 99 percent of the time, nurses using the program followed up with the patient and gave them teaching materials, counseling, and referral interventions. The nurses also asked patients about their smoking habits in 84 percent of the clinic visits. The researchers found that using the smartphone-based program helps educate nurses about resources they would need to treat patients and reduce discrepancies when nurses are screening patients in different settings, in this case, acute and ambulatory care.

The study also looked at predictors for when nurses would ask patients if they smoked. Here, researchers found nurses were more likely to screen female and African-American patients. They were also more likely to screen patients who were members of a private insurance company than those insured by Medicare, Medicaid, or uninsured.

“Screening for African-Americans, and men in particular, has traditionally lagged other populations, and the higher screening rates that we found for African-Americans suggest that mobile health-decision tools can help address health disparities,” lead study author and Columbia research scientist Kenrick Cato said in a statement. “The technology can serve to remove any unintended bias clinicians might have about which patients are most likely to benefit from intervention.”

Still, compared to previous research, the survey authors explain, screening rates were higher for all races and ethnicities.

The survey authors write that in future studies, research should be done to analyze the use of smartphones in a clinician’s workflow; the effects on patient outcomes when nurses use the smartphone-based program; and how helpful this study would be for nurses with advanced degrees.

Withings launches wireless BP cuff with Android support

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 1, 2014        

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Withings BPMWithings has secured FDA 510(k) clearance for its previously announced Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor and it has launched the device in the United States.

As announced at CES 2014 in Januarythe blood pressure cuff is similar to the one Withings released in 2011, but adds Bluetooth connectivity and Android support (the previous device was iOS-only and had to be plugged into the Apple device). When the user presses the button to inflate the cuff on his or her upper arm, the Withings Health Mate app opens automatically, displaying instructions and saving data on the phone. The device will sell for $129.95.

“What we’ve seen is that there are two worlds [for health sensors],” Withings CEO Cedric Hutchings told MobiHealthNews. “One is the Quantified Self or wellness world and the other is more healthcare and connected health. We believe that these two worlds will merge in the future and it is very important for us to be ready to go into medical devices in complement to our consumer devices.”

The company will continue to support its older blood pressure monitor but will stop selling new units. With the addition of the new blood pressure cuff, all of Withings’ health sensors — the cuff, the Withings weight scale, and the Withings Pulse activity tracker — will be wireless and both iOS and Android compatible. The data from all of those devices will be aggregated in a single app — the Withings Health Mate app.

In conjunction with the launch, Withings announced a partnership with the American Medical Group Association’s “Measure Up Pressure Down” campaign, an initiative to get 80 percent of hypertensive patients in control of their blood pressure by 2016. Withings will donate 150 of the new devices to AMGA and fund an 18-month investigative study of home blood pressure monitoring.

“We are proud to bring again to the market a disruptive design that is an attractive BP monitor that is the first, to my knowledge, to have both Android and iOS compatibility,” Hutchings said.

The other device Withings announced at CES, the Withings Aura Sleep System, was originally slated for a spring release. Hutchings said the device is now due out in the summer, at the end of the second quarter.

Official Boston Marathon running app helps anyone virtually participate in the event

By: Aditi Pai | Apr 1, 2014        

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Boston Marathon World RunOrganizer of the Boston Marathon, the Boston Athletic Association has created an app for the upcoming marathon, which happens in April. The Boston Athletic Association released iOS and Android apps that offer runners a way to participate in the marathon even if they aren’t in Boston running in the event.

The free app, called Boston Marathon World Run, was created created thanks to sponsorship from John Hancock Financial.

“This year, the Boston Athletic Association is inviting people from around the world to participate in their own Boston Marathon,” the Apple App Store description reads. “Maybe it’s not 26.2 miles, and maybe it’s not in Boston, but there is a marathoner in all of us. We encourage you to bring it out – and to be a part of the first ever Boston Marathon World Run.”

The app was developed after the Boston Athletic Association received an “unprecedented” number of inquiries from runners who wanted to participate in the marathon this year. It allows users around the world to pledge to walk, run, or bike a specific distance in the time leading up to the marathon. The app requires users to manually track their distance. Users also have the option to share photos, videos, and messages in the app. If a user completes their self-determined goal, they will receive a virtual race bib number, finisher’s certificate and medal.

Users can also use the app to contribute to the One Fund, which was created by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to raise money for the victims of the bombings that took place during the marathon last year. Contributions can either be rate-based (like $10 per mile run) or a flat donation, both made online.

“While we were able to increase our field size by 9,000 to 36,000 runners, we can only physically accommodate so many runners on the course and we were nowhere near meeting demand,” Tom Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association said in a statement. “Through technology, we wanted to create something that engendered that same sense of community and resiliency as the race itself, ensuring that no one would be denied the chance to have their own 2014 Boston Marathon experience. The app does just that.”

Caterna offers prescribable, reimbursed eye-strengthening gaming app in Germany

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 31, 2014        

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Caterna Vision TherapyBerlin-based Caterna Vision Therapy will soon become the developer of the first mobile medical app in Germany to be prescribed to patients by physicians and that has reimbursement in place from a health plan, Caterna’s founder Dr. Markus Müschenich told MobiHealthNews. Beginning tomorrow — April 1st — Caterna’s online program for children with amblyopia, a visual impairment condition, will be reimbursed by health insurance provider Barmer GEK and available through a partnership with Ocunet, a nationwide eye care center and practices chain.

Caterna’s therapy was originally developed at the University of Dresden and it secured a CE Mark in 2011. The app is intended to be prescribed along with occlusion therapy, which is an eye patch worn over the child’s stronger eye in an effort to strengthen the weaker one. With Caterna the child has regular training sessions via the app where the weak eye is stimulated by “therapeutic light stimuli” displayed on the computer screen or mobile device. (The company’s app recently became available in the Android app market Google Play.) Caterna says that ophthalmologists can personalize the stimuli for each patient’s particular needs. Caterna has combined the therapeutic stimulus with “exciting games” to keep the children interested in the training program.

The prescribing physician can also track the child’s adherence and progress because each session of Caterna that the child plays at home or on-the-go is recorded automatically.

Caterna explains that amblyopia is a functional disorder of the eye that typically come from squinting and can lead to severe visual impairment. The company says that because the condition is caused by a processing dysfunction in the child’s brain, eye training can help. About 5 percent of the European population is affected by amblyopia, Caterna says.  Keep reading>>

TrueVault gets $2.5M to help health app startups with HIPAA-compliance

By: Jonah Comstock | Mar 28, 2014        

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Money TreeMountain View, California-based TrueVault has raised $2.5 million in seed funding according to TechCrunch, from a range of big name investors including FundersClub, Paul Buchheit, ScoreBig founder Joel Milne, and an LLC that includes Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst, Maverick, and Khosla Ventures, and Immunity Project founders Reid Rubsamen, Naveen Jain, and Ian Cinnamon.

The company, which recently graduated from the Y Combinator incubator, aims to support startups that work with patient health information. TrueVault offers HIPAA-compliant data storage and a HIPAA-compliant API, which allows health data to be both encrypted and searchable.

“TrueVault provides a simple REST API that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web,” the company writes on its website. “It gives developers the freedom to create applications that require regulatory compliance without worrying about regulatory compliance.”

TrueVault will sign a business associate agreement, which under the new HIPAA omnibus ruling puts them on the hook for any data breaches, with its customer. The company charges between $100 and $1,000 per month depending on how many API calls the company’s software makes. According to TechCrunch, the company has about 300 customers.

While TrueVault focuses exclusively on healthcare data storage, Box, a high-profile general purpose data storage startup, has said healthcare is its fastest growing vertical. Last April, Box announced post-Omnibus HIPAA compliance and several health startup customers, including Doximity, drchrono, HealthTap, and TigerText. Since then, Box has added a number of provider customers including the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins HealthCare Solutions and Mt. Sinai Health System.

Box brought on two high-profile healthcare advisors earlier this month — former US Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and former Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman.