Malpractice insurer turns to digital health to reduce claims

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 29, 2014        

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HealthLoopMIEC, an Oakland, California-based medical malpractice insurer, has teamed up with HealthLoop to turn the startup’s mobile and web-based communication platform toward a new use-case: decreasing the number of malpractice claims brought against a doctor or hospital.

“It is well known that most litigation cases are not due to actual malpractice or ‘bad surgeons,’ but rather because patients felt that they were not treated fairly as individuals or they didn’t understand the treatment recommendation,” Dr. Wendy Levinson wrote in a JAMA study in 1997. “Patients tend not to sue doctors they like and with whom they feel rapport; they sue doctors who never took the effort to get to know them and understand their beliefs and desires or who treated them without respect.”

With HealthLoop, MIEC will run a study to see to what degree increased doctor-patient communication via HealthLoop affects the number and cost of malpractice claims to a physician. According to Forbes, the study will be run with 60 orthopedic surgeons, a group that typically has a high number of malpractice claims. MIEC will give the surgeons access to HealthLoop tools to connect with their patients between visits, including automatically generated phone calls, emails or text messages.  Keep reading>>

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Former Proteus VP’s stealthy startup, Mousera, raises $8.8M

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 29, 2014        

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Timothy L. RobertsonSan Mateo-based startup Mousera raised $8.8 million from undisclosed investors, according to a report from MedCity News. The company cryptically states on its website that it’s “accelerating medical advancement by bringing 21st century technology into living systems research”.

Although the company hasn’t released investor names, former Pfizer CEO and Lux Capital Venture Partner Jeff Kindler was listed as a director of the company on the SEC form. Michael Weiksner, the CEO of TV app company EndlessTV, and Jim Greer, founder of an online community for players and game developers , called Kongregate, are also Mousera investors, according to AngelList.

The company’s CEO, Timothy L. Robertson was previously the VP of Product Applications at Proteus Digital Health. Proteus offers a medication management and adherence system that includes sensor-enabled pills, a peel-and-stick biometric sensor patch worn on the body, and companion smartphone apps. The patch records when a pill is ingested and also tracks other things like sleep patterns and physical activity levels.

Mousera’s CTO, Joe Betts-Lacroix, was the technical founder of OQO, which developed handheld computers.

Three other professionals from the bioscience and pharmaceutical industry list Mousera as their employer on LinkedIn.

Across Africa, relief organizations use texting to fight Ebola

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 29, 2014        

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text message IBM ebolaWhile a tiny percentage of Ebola cases are popping up in the United States and Europe, the epicenter of the disease is and remains in West Africa, an area where mobile health initiatives are often deployed, especially those that take advantage of text messaging and other short message services. Texting is a good way to educate a large swath of the population so they can identify symptoms of the disease early, seek medical care, and avoid contaminating others.

Already, the latest Ebola crisis has seen efforts from IBM, the Red Cross, UNICEF, the UN World Food program, and the BBC, all using texting or mobile messaging to help contain the spread of the disease. Here’s a round-up of the texting-related efforts in West Africa today.

TERA

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the international organization of which the American Red Cross is a part) has teamed up with mobile operator AirTel to offer TERA, the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application system, which according to an NPR report, has sent out about 2 million text messages per month in Sierra Leone. The text messages are delivered for free to every phone in the region and contain messages about washing hands, avoiding physical contact, and seeking early treatment for any symptoms. The same system was used previously in Haiti following the earthquakes.

NPR reports that 69 percent of Sierra Leone residents have a cellphone. And the messages can reach even more people, as people can share the information with friends or even with a town crier who can disperse the information through a village.

UNICEF’s U-Report

In Nigeria, UNICEF has launched U-Report, a texting service that conveys information about Ebola safety and preparedness by taking advantage of existing social connections. UNICEF signs people up to be U-Reporters, and to receive information and safety tips via text message. Then, that person can text their friends and family with the messages, and even encourage them to subscribe. UNICEF reports on its website that when there’s an information vacuum, misinformation tends to spread in the form of home remedies that supposedly cure or prevent Ebola. These placebos, if not replaced with better information, can actually promote the spread of disease by making people think they’re cured while they’re still contagious.  Keep reading>>

Doctors are pushing Google Glass to its engineering limits

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 29, 2014        

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AugmedixDoctor2At Partners HealthCare’s Connected Health Symposium last week, Beth Israel Deaconess CIO and SVP Dr. John Halamka led a small panel discussion about the rise of wearables in healthcare with a particular focus on the early days of Google Glass adoption by doctors. In his introductory remarks Halamka briefly laid out a vision for why data from patients’ wearables will become increasingly important to healthcare providers.

“It’s really because in Boston today at Beth Israel Deaconess we have $1 billion in terms of global capitated risk and contracts,” he said. “Fee for service is dying. We are now reimbursed for keeping you healthy. It is far better for you never to come for a readmission to the hospital and rarely come to the emergency department. We want you to come to the right place of care at the right time. If we can treat you at your home and prevent you from becoming sick, we’re looking at continuous wellness rather than episodic sickness. That’s actually better aligned by our economic incentives… It is actually interesting for us from a big data perspective to look across our population and use patient generated health care data and use that in care management and care planning.”

Halamka noted that the recently acquired Continue Health Alliance did not succeed — unfortunately — in its quest to convince home health device makers to all adopt standards that would make universal data aggregation from the devices easier. But with HealthKit, Apple may have largely succeeded where Continua couldn’t:  Keep reading>>

Google X developing cancer-scanning pill that transmits to a wearable sensor

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 29, 2014        

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Google's in-progress contact lens.

Google’s in-progress contact lens.

Google X, Google’s department of long-term “moonshot” projects, has revealed another health-related undertaking. According to the AP, the tech giant announced at a Wall Street Journal event that it is developing a smart pill that could scan for cancer and send the results to a user’s wearable sensor device.

The AP reports that the pill, which is in the early stages of research, is packed with tiny magnetic particles that can go looking for malignant cells in the bloodstream and report findings via Bluetooth to a wearable device. The team working on the system reportedly consists of doctors, including an oncologist, electrical and mechanical engineers, and an astrophysicist.

According to the BBC, the sensor’s potential isn’t limited to cancer: it could be used to detect early risk factors for heart disease or kidney disease, for example.  Keep reading>>

Google launches Fit app, its answer to Apple Health

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 29, 2014        

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Google FitGoogle has released the fitness app for Android devices it announced in June, called Google Fit.

“When it comes to improving our fitness, every little effort counts,” Android Director of Product Management Sabrina Ellis said in a blog post. “That’s why we’ve created Google Fit – a fitness app that helps you to start tracking your activity effortlessly and become more active, aware and motivated.”

As expected, the app uses sensors in Android smartphones to track walking, biking, and running. The app also aggregates data from other apps and fitness devices including Strava, Withings, Runtastic, Runkeeper, and Noom Coach. Google Fit users can also manually track their weight.

Unlike Apple’s HealthKit, Google’s platform, at least currently, is focused solely on fitness.

Google Fit is not just available for smartphones. Google explained that the platform is available on Android smartphones, tablets, the web, and Android Wear devices.

In August, Google released a preview software development kit (SDK) for Google Fit. Google explained that the preview SDK contains three different APIs. The first, a Sensor API, allows a developer’s app to talk to sensors either embedded in an Android phone or in a connected wearable.

The other two APIs are a Recording API, which allows an app to work in the background of the phone to detect other kinds of data, like location, continuously without using too much battery, and a History API, which allows the app to access similar data after the fact. The History API pulls batch data from pre-existing apps on a user’s phone.

Other companies that partnered with Google for its fitness platform include LG, Polar, Basis, Asus, Adidas, and — somewhat surprisingly — even longtime Apple partner Nike.