Scanadu scoops up $2M to build medical Tricorder

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 9, 2011        

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Scanadu AnalyzingScanadu, a San Francisco-based startup founded in January that aims to develop a handheld diagnostic device similar to the Star Trek Tricorder, has raised $2 million from a number of angel investors, including Playfish co-founder Sebastien De Halleux, according to TechCrunch. The company is in the process of hiring biomedical engineers, developers, and artificial intelligence specialists in addition to technology partners who can contribute telemedicine and diagnostic functions to the envisioned device.

Scanadu aims to create a “Tricorder” that “integrates health diagnostics into your smartphone with the goal of creating a non-contact and non-invasive diagnostic tool for consumers,” according the company’s website. In the longterm, “a fully-functioning Tricorder will help change user behavior which can in turn significantly impact the state of healthcare,” Scanadu states. “In the short term we plan to help parents move from anxiety to action about the health of their kids.”

The company points out that according to the Wellness Council for America some 70 percent of doctor’s visits are unnecessary.

Scanadu believes the time is ripe for this invention because of the ubiquity of smartphones, the advent of sophisticated AI systems like IBM’s Watson, low cost sensors, and new data streams (including those from Quantified Self services, data.gov, and EHRs).

In addition to the seed round of funding, Scanadu has assembled an impressive cadre of advisors and partners including Singularity University’s Dr. Daniel Kraft, Current Health’s Dr. Jordan Shlain, HealthLoop’s Dr. Benjamin Rosner, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Brett Mensh, and more. The startup recently moved into NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

Over the past year we have mentioned the X Prize Foundation’s plans to launch a new X Prize to incentive the invention of a medical Tricorder. Scanadu has been working with the foundation and plans to be the first entrant in the prize competition should it launch as planned sometime early next year. Scanadu’s website says that could be as soon as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 in Vegas. (I was a member of the X Prize Foundation’s “visioneering” team for the Tricorder X Prize).

Scanadu aims to develop the Tricorder in the next three to five years and according to a comment the company’s founder left on TechCrunch yesterday, he expects the device to be ubiquitous within 10 years. That said, the device has a number of barriers to over come first. Scanadu lists four of them, which include non-invasive (no needles, blood, or biopsies), non-sampling (no urine, stool, or saliva), non-contact (cannot touch the patient), non-cooperative (patient must not be presumed to cooperate).

For more check out the TechCrunch article here

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A smart condo for independent senior living

By: Neil Versel | Nov 9, 2011        

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IBM Smart Condo Independent Senior LivingA Canadian university is building a “smart condo” outfitted with sensors and sophisticated monitoring software to research how wireless devices can promote independent living for the elderly.

Following a successful test at a rehab facility, the Edmonton-based University of Alberta is building a permanent smart condo at the school’s new Edmonton Clinic Health Academy. The system relies on three types of sensors and IBM WebSphere Sensor Events software to produce a virtual re-creation of activities within the apartment, visualizing each patient as an avatar. This eliminates the need for intrusive video monitoring.

“The avatar is simulating the activities about the person,” Eleni Stroulia, the University of Alberta’s research chair for service systems management, tells MobiHealthNews.

The smart condo, which already underwent a three-month test at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton through the end of October, contains three different types of sensors. There are sensors embedded in the fixtures and furniture, to measure such things as when someone sat on the couch, got out of bed or opened kitchen cabinets. Other devices monitor environmental conditions such as lighting and temperature, while the third group measures patient health, including blood pressure, heart rate, weight and even whether individuals took their medications as prescribed.

For medication adherence, each patient is assigned an electronic pill dispenser that produces reminders when it’s time to take meds. The user pushes a button to open slots with the preloaded proper dosage, and the system records this event. Keep reading>>

Philadelphia insurer pilots Healthrageous

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 9, 2011        

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HealthrageousHealthrageous has partnered with Philadelphia-based health insurer Independence Blue Cross, IBC’s director of eBusiness Development Michael Yetter told attendees at the recent Insurance & Technology Executive Summit in Arizona. Healthrageous, which spun out of Partners Healthcare’s Center for Connected Health last year, offers a wellness platform that uses wireless-enabled fitness devices and apps to power team challenges among employee populations.

Yetter said IBC has begun testing Healthrageous in-house among its own employee population before it makes a decision to offer it to its health plan members. IBC offers HMO, PPO, Medicare, and Medicaid plans that cover 3.2 million members and processes some 22 million claims each year.

The insurer has already created a mobile site called IBX that helps members find doctors, verify referrals, compare the prices of medications, track spending, view health history, and apply for a temporary ID card. Future features may include health apps that encourage health eating and exercise, according to Yetter.

EMC, the first company to pilot Healthrageous (formerly and briefly called HopSkipConnect), reportedly became the startup’s first paying customer last fall. The company landed about $6 million in funding last year.

In December 2010 Healthrageous launched an iPhone app available direct to consumer via the Apple App Store. The app, called h!GO, aims to help users shed unhealthy habits and embrace healthy lifestyles. The app also aims to aid in the effective self-management of blood pressure and blood sugar. This mobile app is currently available to Healthrageous customers on devices including the iPhone, Android-based devices and Blackberry devices.

Last June Healthrageous CEO Rick Lee said that the company had no plans to get into “the hardware game” since it is not interested in tangling with the regulatory processes required by the FDA. While the startup’s primary customers have been employers and health plans, Lee said last summer that they wanted to be in the consumer space, too.

For more on the IBC deal, read the press release below or this article over at Insurance & Technology Keep reading>>

Bam Lab: Mattress monitor for heart rate, sleep apnea

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 9, 2011        

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BAM_001_300Bam Labs aims to make health monitoring easier for people while they sleep. Notably, the company’s sensor is not wearable, but it tracks heart rate, breathing, and movement during sleep, and the company says it can even diagnose sleep apnea — all from a mattress pad located beneath the user.

MedGadget notes that the Bam Labs device was designed by former Apple employees. It is intended for use both in clinical settings and for home health.

The system works via a sensor “at one corner of the pad [tracking] air-pressure fluctuations caused by the tiny tremors caused by heartbeats or the more sizable shaking that occurs when someone turns over or gets out of bed,” according to Technology Review.

The data is transmitted via USB to a box that connects to cloud via a WiFi network. That’s where the data is analyzed for and interpreted as heartbeats, breaths, and so on. According to Bam Labs website the WiFi-enabled gateway device can track multiple beds.

The data can later be viewed via an online dashboard, iOS app, or Android app, showing trends in sleep quality and duration. Technology Review points out that sharing the bed with other people or pets could confuse the sensor.

Bam Labs first marketed the sensor to nursing homes under the name Touch-free Life Care (TLC) to track those at-risk for falling out of bed or wandering at night. Staff could track the elderly and be notified on their smartphones about an awake patient. The company has plans to market to acute-care situations and home users beginning next year. Next year it also plans to market the device for managing chronic conditions.

Bam Labs, which was founded in 2006, raised $2.4 million in March.

Other startups working in the sleep monitoring space include Zeo, and NovaSom. Activity monitoring companies that also offer basic sleep monitoring functions include Jawbone Up and FitBit.

Merck partner pays doctors to validate PHR data

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 9, 2011        

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miHealth appMerck Canada announced this month a deal with Mihealth to promote its PHR offering to Canadian doctors. According to Mihealth, which has an exclusive license to Diversinet’s MobiSecure platform in Canada, its PHR data is validated by a physician once a year to ensure accuracy of the health information.

Mihealth’s PHR is available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows smartphones. The software helps patients track medications, allergies, and chronic disorders information, but it has plans to add lab tests information soon. The Mihealth service is free for physicians while patients pay from $59 a year per person and up to $224 for a family of four. Mihealth pays physicians a small fee for their yearly validation.

In January, miHealth inked a $5 million deal with Diversinet to act as the secure mobile health services provider’s exclusive distributor in Canada. miHealth’s PHR is built upon Diversinet’s MobiSecure platform.

“Strengthening patient-doctor communications will improve the quality and quantity of information available,” stated Dr Wendy Graham, president of Mihealth, in a press release. “The adoption of physician-validated PHRs is a particularly vital new tool to facilitate the care of the one in three Canadians living with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and lung disease.”

Physician validation was stressed by Merck as a distinguishing feature for Mihealth compared to other PHRs. Dr Graham stated that “When patients use existing services to independently keep a PHR, the non-validated data may be seen as unreliable by health professionals, a major drawback. With Mihealth, physicians validate the information once a year, ensuring accuracy and credibility and making it useful to all health professionals.”

It is not entirely clear what Merck gets out of the deal other than a new product it can offer to physicians for free, which could end up helping them make a little extra pocket change each year: “This is a new type of implication for Merck to be bringing to our health system, but no less important than a new medicine. It is another way for Merck to help Canadian healthcare providers give the best care to their patients as well as providing important efficiencies for our healthcare system,” Merck’s Canada’s Vice President of Customer Innovation Christian Sauvageau stated in a press release. “We were motivated to get involved with Mihealth because it will assist health care practitioners in improving patient health outcomes.”

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

VA launches online consultations with American Well

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 8, 2011        

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American Well iPhone appThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it had inked a deal with American Well to deploy the telehealth vendor’s online care system for veterans, particularly those in rural areas of the US.

American Well’s service will enable veterans and their care providers to have online consultations via video, text, and phone messaging. The VA is creating three online practices to make up the new initiative, they include:

  • The Minneapolis VA Health Care System (MHCS)’s Behavioral Health Practice will create an online practice that remotely provides mental health services.
  • The Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System (NWIHCS)’s Oncology Practice will create an online practice that brings together healthcare providers from the Omaha VA Medical Center (VAMC) with cancer patients across the state, including many who live in rural areas.
  • The NWIHCS will also establish an online perioperative practice that brings post-operative care to patients with support from a home-based primary and extended care team.

American Well quietly launched an iPhone app for its Online Care offering at the end of August. The app, called Online Care Mobile is free and designed to be used by both iPhone and iPad users. The app is intended for use by healthcare providers who use the American Well Online Care platform with patients. The app enables users to read and send secure messages, see the day’s appointments, see who’s in the waiting room, and receive notifications and reminders. The VA announcement makes no mention of the app, but it is likely the VA would take advantage of it.

In October, the VA announced plans to acquire as many as 100,000 tablets, primarily for use by their medical clinicians staff, marking one of the largest such deployments by a civilian agency. A few weeks ago — before the iPad deployment began to roll out — one of the unopened iPads was stolen from the VA, according to a GovHealthIT report.

“VA is dedicated to providing Veterans with the highest quality, most patient-centric care possible – and we see technology as a critical enabler in our mission,” stated Jonah Czerwinski, director of VAi2, in a press release. “This initiative with American Well will allow VA to use telehealth to deliver needed care directly into the homes of veterans, who might otherwise struggle with barriers such as distance, mobility or the need to take time away from work or family.”

As we reported earlier this year, patient-to-physician video consultations are President Obama’s favorite use case for mobile health.

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>