Few SMS health applications have been evaluated

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 7, 2012        

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Text4babyPhoneThe Journal of Medical Internet Research recently published a research paper called, SMS Applications for Disease Prevention in Developing Countries, that found while there have been many text message-powered health initiatives, very few of them have been sufficiently evaluated.

“Those that did conduct evaluations reported process evaluation and uptake, providing limited data about behavior change. Moreover, with a low number of documents found in the peer-reviewed literature, it appears that, to date, little is being done to advance our understanding of what works and what outcomes could be achieved in using SMS for disease prevention in a developing country context. Major opportunities are perceived, evident by the number and wide variety of projects… However, the need remains for evidence-based dissemination of information about using mobile phones and SMS for improving health in the developing world. The limited evidence found in this systematic review highlights the need for research that assesses behavioral, social, economic, and health outcomes of mobile phone interventions aimed at promoting health in developing country contexts,” wrote the three Switzerland-based researchers: Dr. Dr. Carole Déglise, Suzanne Suggs, and Peter Odermatt.

The study reviewed 34 SMS applications (excluding those not launched in developing markets or that focused on disease prevention) but only five had made available evaluation study findings. The researchers stated that most of the applications they reviewed were pilot projects “in various levels of sophistication” with “modes of intervention varying between one-way or two-way communication, with or without incentives, and with educative games.” Of those five SMS applications that did have evaluation findings available, the researchers said that the “primary barriers identified were language, timing of messages, mobile network fluctuations, lack of financial incentives, data privacy, and mobile phone turnover.”

Efficacy studies for all mobile health services — not just those for developing markets — is shaping up to be one of the big trends of 2012.

Be sure to read the entire research paper over at JMIR here.

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March launch for SkyLight’s smartphone-microscope adapter

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 6, 2012        

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SkyLight smartphone microscopeSkyLight, an adapter that claims to connect almost any smartphone to any microscope will go on sale in March. The device’s designers received funding to create the device via crowdsourcing funding site Kickstarter. The devicemakers designed the adapter so that it could upgrade older microscopes for the digital age with an eye on community healthcare workers in emerging markets as well as science classes. It fits any microscope eyepiece that has an outside diameter between one inch and 1.75 inches.

The device enables users to leverage their smartphone’s camera to capture photos and videos through the microscope’s eyepiece. Those images can then be uploaded, emailed, and shared. Users can also share the captured images in real-time as well as through collaborative video conferencing software.

The SkyLight adapter aims to be intuitive and easy to use. Here are the four steps given by the device’s makers: 1) Use one or more rubber inserts to size the SkyLight to the microscope eyepiece and tighten the thumbscrew so that the SkyLight fits snugly over the eyepiece of the microscope. 2) Place a smartphone on the stage between the two clips. 3) Slide the smartphone up and down and left to right until the image from the microscope is centered over the smartphone camera. 4) Slide the Skylight along the eyepiece to get a crisp image and tighten the thumbscrew to lock it in place.

“For the health worker in Malawai, Africa, the SkyLight will enable circa 1980 microscopes to send diagnostic images to the nearest doctor, who may be separated by hundreds of miles,” the team writes over at its Kickstarter page.

Visit the SkyLight site for more.

American Medical Association offers weight loss app

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 6, 2012        

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AMA Weight What Matters appAt the end of January the American Medical Association (AMA) offered up its second consumer facing smartphone app: Weigh What Matters. The free app, which is available for Apple iOS and Android devices, aims to help people work with their physicians to set up health goals and track their progress toward meeting them. The app includes weight, diet, and activity goals and tracking mechanisms.

According to the AMA: “Once goals are established, users can track their weight, physical activity and nutrition with daily entries. It also calculates a user’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and provides a mechanism to view progress reports and email them to the user’s physician.”

The most notable thing about the AMA’s app launch is that its existence may alert some physicians to the existence of mobile health apps. AMA President Dr. Peter Carmel stated in a press release that the app “encourages user to consult with their physicians” on establishing health goals.

The association could certainly help physicians find apps to use during patient visits, but it is a shame that the AMA is reinventing the wheel by developing their own one-note wellness tracking and medication adherence apps when there are already hundreds of such apps available and in use. The AMA could better use its influence to create it own certification program (like Happtique is doing) of health and medical apps that it suggests physicians use with patients and patients use in consultation with their doctors.

More on the AMA’s latest consumer app in the press release below: Keep reading>>

NASA developing noninvasive smartphone health sensor

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 6, 2012        

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NASA VariableTechFor a number of years now NASA Ames scientist Jing Li has been hard at work developing what Gizmodo recently called the “greatest phone accessory of all time.” The tech publication had an exclusive look Li’s gadget, a postage-sized chip with 32 nanosensor bars, each made up of a different nano-structure material that can respond to different chemicals in different ways. The chip requires about 5 milliwatts of power so it can run for 8 continuous hours on a single charge when connected to a smartphone. Gizmodo strongly suggests the device is designed to connect to Apple’s iPhone and may not be too far away from commercialization.

A Chattanooga, Tennessee-based startup called VariableTech seems to be helping Li develop the device. VariableTech appears to be set to launch a KickStarter campaign to help fund the development of the consumer-facing devices, too.

The device is chiefly designed to monitor carbon monoxide in the user’s home along with real-time tracking of levels of chlorine, ammonia and methane in the immediate environment. Gizmodo suggests that a companion app could send data back to the Department of Homeland Security, which is funding much of the research that will lead to a consumer version of the device.

A version of the device has been installed on the International Space Station for about three years now. It monitors fuel leaks in launch vehicles and also monitors air quality — especially formaldehyde — in the air inside the ISS.

Gizmodo suggests that people with diabetes could use a version of the device to detect their blood sugar level, which correlates with acetone in the breath. Another correlation exists between nitrous oxide in the breath and lung cancer. The device certainly has the potential to become a critical tool or a contender for the X Prize’s Qualcomm-sponsored Tricorder competition.

Read the Gizmodo article here.

Next generation health IT is not anchored to a desk

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 6, 2012        

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PatientSafe PatientTouch iPod touch

PatientSafe Solutions' PatientTouch for iPod touch

Health Evolution Partners, the healthcare investment firm started by former US National Health Information Technology Coordinator Dr. David Brailer, has partnered with Verizon to identify and work with promising mobile health, telemedicine, and health data management companies. Health Evolution Partners (HEP) has indirectly invested in a number of mobile health and connected health companies that provide real-time location services for healthcare facilities, mobile-enabled medication management workflow platforms, smartphone-based e-prescribing services, tablet-enabled remote patient visits — just to name a few.

Microsoft’s former Corporate Vice President of Health Solutions, Peter Neupert, joined Brailer at HEP just two weeks ago.

HEP’s multiyear agreement with Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions, which is Verizon’s health IT practice group, will leverage the deep healthcare insight offered by HEP’s team as well as Verizon’s “platform-based health IT portfolio of mobility, cloud and IT offerings,” according to the companies.

“The next generation of health IT will not be anchored to a desk,” stated Brailer. “Clinicians and patients will expect technologies that support mobility and virtual care. Advanced broadband, video-based technologies and wireless devices that incorporate geo-location capabilities and sensors will change the landscape of health care from development to delivery. Our relationship with Verizon demonstrates the importance of bringing these innovations to market.”

The current National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), Dr. Farzad Mostashari, seems to agree with Brailer’s assessment that health IT is going mobile. Mostashari recently assembled a list of top trends for the year ahead and mobile health was one of them.

HEP has two funds — its Growth fund, which makes direct investments in healthcare startups, and its Spectrum fund, which invests through partner venture capital firms. Some of the companies that HEP has helped fund through partners include: Awarepoint, PatientSafe Solutions, Prematics, SmartPill, TelaDoc, and more.

More on the Verizon partnership in the press release below: Keep reading>>

TigerText nabs $8.2 million to secure health text messages

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 3, 2012        

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TigerTextTigerText, which offers secure mobile messaging to healthcare companies, announced an $8.2 million round of funding led by Easton Capital and New Science Ventures. This second round of funding brings the company’s total backing to more than $10 million.

The Santa Monica-based company’s flagship product, TigerText Pro for Business, enables HIPAA-compliant messaging between nurses, physicians, and other clinicians. More than 20 healthcare groups are using TigerText’s mobile messaging network today. The service runs on a number of mobile platforms, including Apple iOS, Android, and BlackBerry.

“Our strong sales pipeline attests to the growing recognition that hospitals and physician practices need to provide doctors, nurses and other clinicians with a HIPAA-compliant alternative to unsecured texting,” stated Brad Brooks, co-founder of TigerText.

Last year Brooks said that more than 70 percent of US physicians use text messages to discuss cases and exchange patient information with other physicians. Brooks made the comments during an online presentation last October. Soon after the Joint Commission added a comment to their FAQ that stated text messaging was an unacceptable form of communication for physicians:

“No it is not acceptable for physicians or licensed independent practitioners (LIPs) to text orders for patients to the hospital or other healthcare setting. This method provides no ability to verify the identity of the person sending the text and there is no way to keep the original message as validation of what is entered into the medical record,” the comment reads.

TigerText also offers a free consumer chat app for iPhones that lets users send messages to each other that “disappear” once they are read. Time Magazine called the app “stupidity insurance” while others said it was the perfect app for cheating spouses.

TigerText added two of its new investors to its board: John Friedman, Managing Partner of Easton Capital, and Somu Subramaniam, Managing Partner of NSV.

More details in the press release below: Keep reading>>