Vitals adds fourth doctor appointment booking partner

By: Aditi Pai | Feb 27, 2014        

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VitalsVitals, a website for reviewing and finding doctors, has partnered with DocASAP, maker of an online appointment scheduling platform for patients. Vitals will include DocASAP’s appointment booking feature on its profiles of physicians who are DocASAP users.

This is Vitals’ fourth deal with an appointment booking company. The first was a partnership with EMR maker drchrono. In 2011, Vitals’ parent company MDx Medical acquired appointment booking company HealthLeap. Then in 2013, Vitals partnered with HealthPost to offer online scheduling on all profiles for physicians use HealthPost’s scheduling offering.

“We’re pleased to be working with DocASAP to offer a better, more efficient way to book appointments with doctors,” Jeff Cutler, Vitals’ executive vice president, said in a statement. “Vitals strives to improve the patient experience. The relationship with DocASAP allows us to offer our 13 million monthly visitors greater value and convenience with online scheduling.”

DocASAP will also offer Vitals’ PatientLink, a service that aims to deliver more patients to providers through branded physician directories and a stronger presence on Vitals sites, to providers who use the DocASAP scheduling platform.

According to the company’s website, Vitals PatientLink has connected 50,000 patients to doctors through the program.

DocASAP graduated from Blueprint Health, a mentor-focused health incubator that offers co-working space in New York City and is also a member of TechStars’ Global Accelerator Network. Through the program DocASAP received mentorship from big name companies that include Humana, Verizon, and Aetna and $20,000 in funding for participating.

While Vitals currently has an app for iOS, DocASAP has plans to launch an iOS and Android app.

This partnership pits Vitals against other companies in the space that also offer both appointment booking and physician locators. One company, ZocDoc, added a remote check-in feature taking it a step beyond appointment bookings. Another, EHR-maker Practice Fusion, launched a patient-facing appointment booking and physician review website, called Patient Fusion, last year.

Vitals also recently raised $22 million in third round funding to improve its consumer offering.


Survey: 70 percent of clinicians use mobile devices to view patient information

By: Aditi Pai | Feb 26, 2014        

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2014.02.21_Himss_Mobile_InfographSixty-nine percent of providers use a mobile device to view patient information and 36 percent use mobile technologies to collect data at the bedside, according to HIMSS survey of 170 individuals who held a wide variety of positions in healthcare organizations.

In order to participate in the survey, respondents were either responsible for developing the organization’s policy on mobile technology, a member of a committee that is responsible for developing the organization’s policy on mobile technology, or responsible for ensuring that the organization’s mobile technology was implemented and operational.

Clinicians use mobile devices most to view patient information (69.4 percent). After that, clinicians most use mobile devices to look up non patient health information (64.7 percent), educate and train others on the device (48.8 percent), and get clinical information (41.8 percent).

The least used features of mobile devices include management of chronic care diseases at 22.94 percent, analysis of patient data at 21.18 percent, and facilitation of remote patient monitoring at 20 percent.

Additionally, when respondents were asked to identify the extent to which organizations leveraged technology to impact patient care, they were most likely to indicate that mobile technology was leveraged for pharmacy management, which includes tasks such as medication reminders and medication reconciliation.

Sixty-nine percent of clinicians said their organizations supplied them with smartphones, 67 percent were supplied with pagers, 56 percent were supplied with cellular phones, and 43 percent were supplied with tablets designed for healthcare. When clinicians were asked to identify the areas in which they would either add to or expand the use of mobile devices at their organizations, a majority, 63 percent, wanted tablets designed for healthcare. Another 30 percent wanted smartphones, 14 percent identified cellular phones and 8 percent pointed to pagers.

According to the respondents, 77 percent of the apps they used were developed by third parties, 52 percent indicated that clinicians used apps developed by the organization’s HIT vendor and 32 percent of clinicians indicated they used apps that were developed internally.

Thirty five percent of people said their organization supplies at least one app for patient or consumer use.

mySugr raises a few million euros for diabetes app

By: Aditi Pai | Feb 26, 2014        

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mySugrDiabetes app maker mySugr, which is based in Austria and the US, raised a few million euros in an investment round led by XL Health and Puspok. Johann Hansmann, an angel investor that has previously invested in Runtastic, also participated. mySugr had previously raised another round from Hansmann and Austria’s state owned investment bank, AWS.

mySugr’s app recently topped 100,000 registered users, and about half of them are in the United States. The company also has non-direct-to-consumer revenue sources including deals with Sanofi in Austria, Abbott, and Telecom Austria. (Correction: An original version of this article incorrectly stated that Sanofi was mySugr’s only B2B customer.)

“Currently mySugr is an application that encourages people with diabetes to take more and active care of themselves,” CEO and cofounder Frank Westermann told MobiHealthNews. ”The product as it is today is focused on people who need to inject insulin and in the next couple of months you will see more and more products that are developed to help people with type 2 diabetes who do not inject insulin. We will also connect to heart rate devices such as pedometers and scales. That’s something that’s on our roadmap for the next couple of months.”

mySugr offers users two apps, mySugr Junior for children and mySugr Companion. Both apps are designed to help users manage diabetes by logging food, completing challenges and getting reminders. mySugr companion also offers a pro version, which cost $10, and provides users with extra features such as taking pictures of food entries, allowing multi-device sync, and offering multiple report formats for exported data such as PDF, CSV and Excel.

mySugr Junior is meant to be synced to a parent’s smartphone so they can keep track of how their child manages diabetes.

“Diabetes is a very complex disease and children are sometimes not able to handle their disease on their own,” Westermann said. “What we do with the mySugr Junior application is we connect parents and caretakers with children. Children can calculate blood glucose values or take photos of the foods they eat and whenever they are active with the mySugr junior application, information is pushed to the smartphone of the parents who can then directly see what the child wants to eat. They can see the photo [of the food], and they can react on these events.”

One of mySugr’s investors, XL Health is a subsidiary of EHR maker CompuGroup Medical, which the company expects will help it become better integrated into healthcare systems.

“Through this connection now with XL Health, we get direct access to more than 400,000 doctors’ offices and hospitals,” Westermann said. “So very soon when you enter data into your mySugr applications, data is aggregated and you can make it available for your hospital or for your doctor.”

Ohio medical center discusses mobile first strategy and Epic’s MyChart Bedside iPad app

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 26, 2014        

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OSU Medical Center AppThe Ohio State University Medical Center has seen a considerable spike in mobile visitors to its website. In January 2012 the medical center noticed that about 13 percent of its website visitors were viewing it on their mobile devices, but by January 2014 that percentage has jumped to about 40 percent. Those and other data points helped convince the medical center to move away from text-heavy website designs and to a “mobile first” strategy, Megan Stanley, the senior director of digital strategy at OSU Medical Center explained to attendees during a presentation at HIMSS 2014 in Orlando this week.

“Even these numbers from two months ago have already changed,” she said. “The experience for mobile visitors can be very frustrating — where nothing is legible on the screen. We wanted to move away from that, but we also didn’t want to manage separate sites [for desktop and mobile]. So we looked into responsive — also known as adaptive –design, which is an approach to design your templates and tools to adapt to any screen size. It looks at the thousands of different screen sizes that are out there and adapts your website accordingly.”

OSU Medical Center is also working to drive uptake of its patient portal, OSUMyChart — the patient-facing health record app and portal developed by Epic Systems. Stanley said that because Meaningful Use Stage 2 requires that five percent of patients be actively using their MyChart tool and that 50 percent of new in-patients must be offered the tool, it was important for OSU to rally its marketing and IT teams as well as its clinicians to get the word out.

“While this could just be considered an IT project working with the clinicians, marketing has a very important role to play because we want to connect that experience with them online,” she said. “We want to help them learn more about the benefits of MyChart and that they can come to MyChart to do ‘x’ and continue on to do other things as well.”

 Already the OSUMyChart has about 65,000 registered users and about 20 percent of OSU’s in-patients signed up last year. Stanley said the portal handles about 9,000 messages between patients and clinicians each month.

The medical center is also piloting a new iPad app from Epic called MyChart Bedside.  Keep reading>>

Necklace sensor could be early warning system for heart failure

By: Jonah Comstock | Feb 26, 2014        

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Necklace-21-Fev-043-2-300x221A startup called Perminova is developing a necklace for clinical use that can track a number of vital signs including thoracic fluid levels, an early predictor of congestive heart failure that isn’t currently monitored by most connected sensors. Patients at risk for CHF could use the device in place of or along with a weight scale.

“You have weight gain four days before a heart failure event,” VP of Marketing Susan Pede told MobiHealthNews from the floor at HIMSS. “About seven days before that you can detect fluid build-up that’s trending upward. About 18 days before that you can see changes in stroke volume and cardiac output.”

The system, called the CoVa monitoring system, is a large decorative necklace, with adhesive on the back of it, which patients are instructed to wear for a few minutes once a day. It sends a Bluetooth signal to either an Android tablet or a Qualcomm Life 2net Hub, which then sends the data to the cloud via cellular or WiFi. Sensors in the device track fluid levels, heart rate, respiration rate, heart rate variability, stroke volume, cardiac output, single-lead ECG, and posture.

“The tagline is we’re trying to do for congestive heart failure what a glucometer [does] for diabetics,” Pede said. “We’ve talked a lot about congestive heart failure, but we have had some interest from other industries, in terms of a low acuity necklace for stroke monitoring.”

It might seem odd to have a wearable, fashion-forward device for a brief, daily check-up. But Pede says the necklace form factor both allows the company to be flexible in the development of future use cases and makes it easier to ensure consistent placement of the electrode.

The company isn’t ruling out consumer use cases for the $300 device, but they intend to start out going through hospitals, for whom preventing cardiac events and their associated hospital costs could be a major driver. Perminova will submit FDA 510(k) clearance in April, after which they can start to secure more hospital partners.

Perminova is currently funded by a single angel investor according to Pede. The company is also partnering with remote patient monitoring analytics company Jointly Health.

A few years ago, the FDA cleared a similar product, Corventis’s Piix sensor, for cardiac monitoring including fluid monitoring. Corventis, which was one of the first companies to be tested at the West Wireless Health Institute, has been quiet in recent years. Several other products, like the ZIO patch or Vital Connect’s Health Patch, are peel and stick sensors that monitor a number of vital signs, but not fluid or stroke volume.

Geisinger CIO: Patients like texting, portal better than apps

By: Jonah Comstock | Feb 26, 2014        

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GeisingerPatient engagement is about giving patients communication channels they want as well as the ones they need, according to Chanin Wendling, Director of eHealth at Geisinger Health System. And from her experience, patients are still more interested in useful web-based patient portals than they are in apps.

“We did a study this past summer on women’s health where we were trying to figure out if we could do a mobile app in that space, around lots of issues in women’s health and taking care of the family members,” she said in a presentation at HIMSS in Orlando, Florida. “And the feedback we got was ‘No, I’d really just like you to use the stuff in the portal, and text messaging would be great, but we’re not so interested in the mobile app space.’ We do have a mobile [version of the portal] for the iPhone and Android, but the adoption has been low.”

Wendling said the most important thing about engaging patients was giving them a voice and a chance to interact with their own care.

“Patient engagement is one of those catchphrases everyone’s talking about — patient engagement this, patient engagement that. In reality, though I think we’ve done a lot of cool stuff in this space, but I think we’ve barely scratched the surface. … We tend to think in a paternalistic way: this is what the patient needs, versus thinking ‘What will work best for the patient?’ and ‘How will the patient relate to whatever we’re prescribing?’. And that’s extremely important because at the end of the day, if you can’t get the patient to help, if they don’t take their meds, if they don’t lose the weight, if they don’t do their exercises, there’s nothing you as a clinician can do. You need the patient to help you.”

She shared a few examples of successes Geisinger has had with this approach. Using the portal and tablet applications in the waiting room, Geisinger was able to screen all adult primary care patients for depression, something that Wendling said would have been impossible without digital engagement tools. In another example, they used the patient portal to follow-up with patients and make sure the medication information on file for them was accurate.

“We found out that 50 percent of our patients aren’t taking a medication we think they are taking. Twenty-one percent are taking a med differently than we think they are, and 25 percent are taking a medication we didn’t even know about. This is a way, again, that doing something interactive with the patient can help you get information you’re struggling to get and help you get a better clinical outcome.”

Geisinger has also found success with text messages. They found that using motivational text messaging for patients trying to lose weight reduced BMI about half a pound on average, and they have 73,000 patients signed up for text message appointment reminders.

Wendling also shared some stories of mobile initiatives tried and failed by her department in the last year. One project, a game designed to increase engagement in under-40 men, failed because of internal logistics — making a game was more complicated than she anticipated and she missed her pilot deadline. Another project was a mobile app meant to supplement cardiac rehab. Though promising, this one failed because Wendling couldn’t get a physician to sponsor it.

“For them, they couldn’t figure out how to introduce this change,” she said. “They had a very set program, they were used to the program, and it was very hard for them to fathom how to set this up with their patients. And they put up a lot of resistance and barriers. I tried to get an executive sponsor to help and I couldn’t get one, so ultimately I pulled the plug. … I don’t treat patients. I need the people who treat patients to work with me.”

Tension between clinicians and the innovation department is not uncommon, according to Wendling. She also said she meets resistance when she tries to make additional patient data viewable in the patient portal.

“If I want to make my clinical teams crazy, I try to add additional data into the portal,” she said. “I usually get ‘Chanin, the patient won’t understand that’ or ‘The patient’s just going to call us, it’s going to create more work.’ That’s all bunk. … This past May, we made a decision to display Open Notes, the provider’s process notes. … We have about 1400 providers displaying their notes to patients now. In our March 10th release I’ll have over 85 percent of the outpatient providers on board. I have not gotten a single complaint. Not a single comment from a patient or provider that says ‘You’ve ruined my life’.”

Wendling shared a lot of general advice for innovators. She said to be selective in dealing with vendors, and to be aware of your own health system’s size, strengths, and limitations. She extolled the virtues of having a dedicated innovation staff, saying she doubted the efficacy of putting innovation responsibilities on the shoulders of people with full time operations jobs. Finally, she re-iterated that not every project will succeed.

“When you innovate, you mess up sometimes,” she said. “You’ve just got to learn, discard what didn’t work, move on.”