WebMD, Medscape to take on app prescribing, discoverability

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 9, 2013        

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WebMD MobileIf WebMD has its way, in a few years time it will be clear that one of the biggest announcements to come out of HIMSS 2013 was its partnership with Qualcomm Life. In an interview with MobiHealthNews, WebMD’s EVP & CTO Bill Pence explained that the initial partnership sees WebMD’s consumer sites and apps serving as a place to collect data from the health devices and services that connect to Qualcomm Life’s 2net platform. (Some 220 partner companies now partner with Qualcomm Life.) Pence said that WebMD’s mobile health plans go well beyond this partnership though.

“Tools and apps have been a focus at WebMD recently,” Pence said at HIMSS13 in New Orleans this week. “As we look at the evolution of wireless health and mobile apps, sensors are becoming increasingly important. Initially, consumer will use them on their own but soon these will be more tethered to physicians.”

Qualcomm Life’s Vice President of Global Strategy and Market Development Don Jones said that WebMD could shake up the patient-physician relationship, just as it did in the 1990s when patients began using WebMD to research their own health conditions and bring in printouts to share with their doctors.

“That same thing will happen again,” Jones said, “that same phenomenon will effectively repeat, but only this time patients will show up with their own data.”

Pence noted that WebMD’s mobile apps now have more than 16 million downloads. The company continues to rollout new mobile apps — just this week it announced the launch of the WebMD Pregnancy app. The newest addition joins a surprisingly short list of mobile app offerings from the company: its flagship WebMD Mobile app, the WebMD Baby app, and the WebMD Pain Coach app. While it’s clear the company sees opportunities in topic specific apps, WebMD is setting its sights much higher.

“Moving forward we can package any number of wireless health services under the WebMD brand,” Pence said. “We can educate people what wireless health is outside of fitness. For example, working with Qualcomm and [companies in the 2net ecosystem], we can suggest to consumers the top 12 best in class devices and apps for diabetes. We could enable them to buy it within the apps through a simple, seamless onboard process. Then we could help them gain insights from those devices and set their own triggers and thresholds and alerts based on their own data.”

Pence expects that WebMD’s flagship mobile app will have a curated mobile health store built right into it. While WebMD has a strong consumer user base, it also has a number of physician-facing properties with Medscape. Pence believes that the consumer-facing WebMD and physician-facing Medscape will come together to enable physician recommendations or prescriptions of mobile apps and wireless health devices.

“That will be the first connectivity solution to allow consumers and Medscape doctors to connect,” Pence said. “That platform will include a lot of different use cases, including the ability to prescribe apps.”

Pence said that mobile health has been “a cottage industry for a while” and WebMD’s contribution will not only be exposing it to a larger audience but also taking the pain out of it for consumers by layering in additional insights and actionable information alongside the data.

“This will accelerate the prescribing of apps — and remember — I define apps as any combination of hardware, software and pharmaceutical.” Jones said. “It will be consumer-driven, not top-down.”

MobiHealthNews coverage of the HIMSS13 event in New Orleans is sponsored by AirStrip Technologies.

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Kentucky primary care provider launches MeVisit after two-year study

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 9, 2013        

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MeVisitDr. William “Chuck” Thornbury, the CEO and Medical Director of Medical Associates of Southern Kentucky, gave one of the livelier and more passionate presentations at HIMSS13 this week. The Glasgow, Kentucky-based primary care doctor discussed how offering his patients online visits and consultations over the phone has helped him mitigate the primary care provider shortage in his area — and how a simple setup like that could help primary care providers meet increasing demands around the country — while cutting costs.

Thornbury told MobiHealthNews in an interview following his presentation at HIMSS that the idea for “mobile e-visits” came after he trained in the “lean” strategy principles pioneered and championed by automaker Toyota, at the University of Kentucky three-day Lean Executive Leadership Institute program. After attending the program a few days ago Thornbury’s team began discussing ways to fix the growing problem of having so many patients that they had to turn people away.

After trying real-time online visits with patients, Thornbury decided the process was too cumbersome and that a more elegant solution would only require that he or another physician use their smartphone. The patient could have the flexibility to access the online questionnaire via their PCs or mobile devices. In Thornbury’s practice most patients do choose to use their home or office computer, he said.

Thornbury began a one-year study of the offering, which asked established patients to pay $32 per e-visit in lieu of an in-person visit at his clinic. Patients were educated about the service’s availability via handbills, websites, and telemarketing. Thornbury made the service available 24 hours, which is why sending it to his phone was crucial. After patients filled out a form online, a brief call (2 to 3 minutes on average) was scheduled with the doctor, who could then complete an assessment and contact the pharmacy if need be.

Thornbury noted that while the median age of the patients was about 43 years old, the range was from 16 to 89 years old. Typically, those on the older end of the spectrum were using the service with the help of an adult child, he noted. Perhaps not surprisingly, 78 percent of the e-visits took place after his normal office hours, however, very few patients contacted him very late at night. Thornbury said he believes his patients understood he worked hard and did not want to disturb him if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

In all, Thornbury studied the mobile e-visits offering at his practice for two years and believes the results are glowing. After two years, about 20 percent of his patients are using the service. At that adoption level, Thornbury said he has increased his capacity by 15 percent, which enables him to provide care for more patients or spend more time with those that need it. He said it works out to about an extra hour in his day. He also claims that the system has lowered per capita cost by 15 percent in his practice.

Interestingly, Thornbury has only used video visits on a handful of occasions over the past few years.

“If I really need to see the patient, I just ask them to come visit me in-person,” he said. “Our platform allows for up to five photos that the patient can include, too.”

Thornbury has leveraged his experience and the two years of study to launch a startup, called MeVisit, to make the platform available to other physicians.

MobiHealthNews coverage of the HIMSS13 event in New Orleans is sponsored by AirStrip Technologies.

HIMSS13 Roundup: Nuance, AT&T, AirStrip, Philips

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 9, 2013        

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Vidyo Healthcare PhilipsNuance’s MD survey on voice-enabled, virtual assistants

Ahead of the big event in New Orleans, Nuance Communications surveyed 10,000 doctors in the US about how virtual assistants, think Apple’s iPhone voice query tool Siri, might affect healthcare. Based on the survey, 80 percent of US physicians believe that they will “drastically change” how they interact with and use EHRs and other healthcare apps within five years. Of course, that is Nuance’s flagship product for healthcare — voice input.

The survey found that about 65 percent of physicians believe a virtual assistant would provide them with more accurate, timely information to support care or alert them to missing information in records and 80 percent believe virtual assistants will help patients by engaging them in the care process and helping them develop healthier behaviors. Read More

AT&T to power cellular-connectivity in Numera’s Libris mPERS offering

AT&T announced at HIMSS that it would provide M2M cellular connectivity for a mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS) it is developing with Valued Relationships Inc. and Numera Libris. Like other wireless-enabled mPERS systems, AT&T’s would automatically send for help when a fall is detected. Read More

TigerText offers up secure messaging API to mobile health developers

At HIMSS secure messaging vendor TigerText announced that it has begun offering an API that enables developers to add its secure messaging to their mobile health apps. TigerConnect is an “open API that lets any organization use the power of secure messaging to reach any colleague, customer or partner in real-time,” according to the company. TigerText already has API integrations with Dropbox and SpotMD. Read More

AirStrip One launches for cross-platform, mobile-enabled EHR, HIS interoperability

Ahead of the HIMSS13 event, AirStrip Technologies announced the launch of its AirStrip One offering, which is first being implemented at Dignity Health. AirStrip describes the offering as an “enterprise-wide, data- and vendor-agnostic mobility solution to securely deliver patient data from medical devices, electronic medical records (EMRs) and patient monitors to clinicians anywhere across the care continuum.” AirStrip describes it as a key to mobile healthcare interoperability. Read More

Meritus Medical Center taps PatientSafe Solutions for mobile health rollout

PatientSafe Solutions, which offers iPod touch-based point-of-care platform called PatientTouch, announced that Meritus Medical Center in Maryland had tapped it to implement PatientTouch throughout the 272-bed hospital. Read More

Philips and Vidyo expand partnership for video-enabled remote patient monitoring

At HIMSS13 Philips announced that its IntelliSpace eCareManager 3.9 will incorporate Vidyo’s VidyoRouter technology to better enable remote video monitoring of patients who are in the hospitals or at home. Read More

MobiHealthNews coverage of the HIMSS13 event in New Orleans is sponsored by AirStrip Technologies.

HIMSS-backed health accelerator Avia to launch soon

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 9, 2013        

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approach-1Chicago-based health accelerator Avia announced that it had partnered with HIMSS to help connect health startups to hospital systems, according to a report in MedCity News. The accelerator plans to announce its first hospital partner by the summer. Avia plans to work with its hospital partners to first understand their needs and then seek out promising startups that might fill them. The obvious benefit to startups is the customer match-making, and providing capital is a secondary concern.

Avia’s team includes CEO Eric Langshur, co-founder Ted Meisel, COO Eric Jensen, and Chief Strategy Officer Leslie Wainwright. Langshur is also a co-founder of Abundant Venture Partners, social networking site CarePages, and Rise Health. Meisel is a partner at venture capital firm Elevation Partners, which was co-founded by U2’s Bono. Prior to Avia Jensen was with McKinsey and Wainwright was with Sg2.

Avia told MedCity News that they see their team acting like a business development group for its hospital clients. Avia is initially focused on startups working on patient engagement (including mobile health), analytics, clinical decision support, and telemedicine. Ideal startups would have a little more traction than those currently participating in one of the health incubators, but graduates of those programs might be a fit.

According to Avia’s website, the team will help hospitals not just identify promising startup partners, but also “evaluate, select, and implement” the best ones that “align with their innovation priorities”.

Avia’s board of advisors includes HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Innovation for Northwestern Memorial Hospital Dr. Lyle Berkowitz, and the Founder and Former President of hospital alliance Premier Alan Weinstein, among others.

Beyond Lieber’s role as an advisor, the specifics around how HIMSS and Avia will work together have yet to be announced.

MobiHealthNews coverage of the HIMSS13 event in New Orleans is sponsored by AirStrip Technologies.

Mobile slowly becomes a path to health information exchange

By: Neil Versel | Mar 9, 2013        

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commonwellInteroperability clearly was one the main themes at the just-concluded Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference in New Orleans.

Probably the biggest vendor-related news to come out of HIMSS13 was the launch of CommonWell Health Alliance, a partnership between Cerner, McKesson – including McKesson health information exchange subsidiary RelayHealth – Allscripts, athenahealth and Greenway Medical Technologies to promote interoperability based on open standards.

While the participants did not give specifics of how their collaboration will work, they apparently are taking mobile technology into consideration. “Allowing data to flow more freely fits the needs of a mobile society just as providers are taking on more financial risk in coordinating care,” Greenway President and CEO Tee Green said in a press release.

Still, mobile is just starting to make its way into HIE. As MobiHealthNews reported earlier from HIMSS13, Dr. Kate Christensen, medical director of Kaiser Permanente’s Internet Services Group, said that 22 percent of traffic to Kaiser’s patient portal comes from mobile devices. “The use of smartphones is also skyrocketing among older people, and I don’t really think it’s a barrier until about [age] 85,” Christensen added.

Kaiser, of course, tends to be ahead of the curve when it comes to all sorts of health IT, connectivity and interoperability – and it has an advantage over other healthcare providers because it is a tightly integrated organization that also includes a payer side. But others will have to catch up soon because the “meaningful use” electronic health records (EHR) incentive program requires them to in order to earn Medicare and Medicaid bonus payments. Keep reading>>

Ford: Health sensors in car won’t alert impending heart attacks

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 9, 2013        

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Ford Allergy Alert AppAt the HIMSS13 event this week, an executive from the automaker Ford recapped the company’s now well-documented vision for how to transform the car into a next generation platform for mobile health apps, devices, and services. For the first time, however, Gary Strumolo, Ford’s global manager for health and wellness, interiors and infotainment research and innovation, drew a line between his company and similar moves made by the competition.

“To an extent we have pioneered this area of mobile health,” Strumolo said in New Orleans this past week. “Others are starting in on infotainment [services in the car now]… but Toyota, for example, has a research project for a steering wheel that will do heart rate monitoring… they might have a galvanic skin response sensor for stress… and they are interested in doing this as well.”

Strumolo said that Toyota “may do more in terms of alerting driver to their physical condition,” and that Ford is “reluctant to do that” because it doesn’t “think the sensors are necessarily good enough for that,” he said. “We do want to use data but don’t want to say ‘Pull over now because you are about to have a heart attack’.” Strumolo said he doesn’t believe the data collected would be able to determine that “with any level of certainty.”

Ford now has 5 million cars on the road with its Sync technology embedded. This allows drivers and passengers to connect their smartphones to the car via Bluetooth and control apps via the car’s built-in touchscreen or from the buttons on the car’s steering wheel. Developers can tweak their apps to work for Sync by using Ford’s AppLink API.

MobiHealthNews first reported on Ford’s mobile health vision in May 2011 when we visited Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan along with a few dozen automotive trade industry press. At the time Strumolo explained — as he did again at HIMSS this week — that Ford has architected three ways for mobile health services to interact with its cars: Bluetooth connectivity between the car’s computer and personal medical devices, remote access to cloud services via the car’s computer, and syncing up to the health apps users already have on their smartphones. At HIMSS Strumolo shortened this to mobile health services can be “built-in, beamed in, or brought in”.

Strumolo also discussed Ford’s partnerships with Medtronic, WellDoc and IMS Health. Medtronic is working with Ford to show how a continuous glucose meter (CGM) that connected to the car via Bluetooth allows users to hear alerts about their blood glucose readings instead of having to fumble with their monitor’s screen while driving. Strumolo stressed how this could help ease the minds of drivers who have children with diabetes napping in the backseat. Ford is also working with WellDoc to connect its cloud-based DiabetesManager service, which could encourage drivers to double check their blood sugar right when they get behind the wheel if they had a low reading earlier that day. SDI or IMS Health has already launched its Pollen.com-powered Allergy Alert app for the iPhone that syncs up to Ford cars to keep drivers aware of allergy, flu and asthma alerts in the areas they are driving through.

Strumolo spent some time discussing the future of cars intelligently routing around areas with poor air quality, especially if the driver or a passenger has a health issue that makes them more sensitive to air pollutants.

“Smaller side streets have far less [air pollution],” Strumolo said. “You often don’t have to go too far to avoid it. Going through certain areas might be a better way to get around. Gary Indiana really smells and if you have breathing problems it might be a problem for you. It’s not a big detour, but there is a simple way to get around it.”

Strumolo also recapped Ford’s joint partnership with Healthrageous and Microsoft to pull in coaching services from the wellness company’s programs into the car. Microsoft is contributing access to its HealthVault PHR, help translating the data from the car-based sensors into the platform, and integration with its cloud offering Windows Azure.

Most mobile health app developers are creating apps for “0 miles per hour”, Strumolo said. Developers need to always keep in mind the HMI, the human modified interface, and what “is relevant at 0 miles per hour” might not be “at 70 miles per hour”, Strumolo said. “You can’t have them lose focus on their primary task, which is driving safely.”

Ford believes that this eventual push into mobile health in the car will help to redefine auto-safety. Today the automotive industry often thinks of auto-safety as crash-worthiness, Strumolo said. How well a car holds us in a serious crash. While that’s important, he said that most people will never get into a serious car accident. Auto-safety should be about keeping the driver and passengers safer and healthier on a day-t0-day basis.

Citing Department of Transportation data, Strumolo said that Americans spend 500 million hours in their cars for their daily commutes each year. Within those many hours might be a window for a health check-up, according to Strumolo. Services like those offered by WellDoc, IMS Health, Medtronic, and Healthrageous might make that possible soon.

MobiHealthNews coverage of the HIMSS13 event in New Orleans is sponsored by AirStrip Technologies.