Philips Lifeline enters cellular-enabled mPERS with GoSafe launch at CES

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 11, 2013        

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GoSafeThis was the first year that personal emergency response service (PERS) provider Philips Lifeline setup a booth at the massive Consumer Electronic Show, where it launched GoSafe, a cellular-enabled, mobile version of its popular Lifeline PERS service. For the past few years companies like MobileHelp, GreatCall, Verizon, AT&T, Lifecomm, SecuraTrac, Vesag and others have announced or commercially launched their own cellular-enabled mobile PERS offerings, but none can boast as large an existing user base as Philips Lifeline. The company says that over the years its services have helped more than 7 million people live independently in their own homes. Philips also told MobiHeathNews that some 100,000 Lifeline users have adopted the version of the service that offers AutoAlert fall detection.

GoSafe, a waterproof, cellular-enabled mPERS offering that includes voice-to-voice communications from the pendant will be available after March. (Correction: An earlier version of this incorrectly article stated “late March”.) It is also the first product from Lifeline that extends its emergency response services beyond the home.

“It’s actually designed for a very different audience,” Sheree Ford, Director of Global Marketing and Communications at Philips Home Healthcare Solutions told MobiHealthNews during an interview on-site at CES. “Our other systems are really designed for the frail, stay at home, older adult. Generally, that group is either homebound, afraid to go out, or is always with another person when they do leave the house. [GoSafe] is for a very different type of user — I don’t want to say a ‘younger user’ because the average age difference may end up being just two years. It’s for those that have a different social mindset: People who still consider themselves active but maybe have had a couple of falls and have begun thinking ‘What am I going to do if I find myself in that situation when I’m at the park, at the supermarket, at my friend’s house?’ It’s someone who is a little bit more socially active and maybe also someone who is looking to empower themselves to feel safer about going out because of this technology.”

GoSafe is leveraging a number of technologies and features to help emergency responders and family members to find its users when they fall or hit the device’s panic button. According to the company, seven locating technologies are used to synthesized the user’s location, including: two-way voice communication right from the pendant, an in-home communicator, WiFi locating, A-GPS, intelligent bread crumbs, an audio beacon, and cell tower triangulation.

Philips partnered with Skyhook to power much of the location-sensing side of the service. Skyhook is a geo-location technology specialist that facilitates hundreds of millions of location requests daily across more than 100 million mobile devices. It’s technology leverages a network of nearly 1 billion WiFi access points, and combines location from WiFi, cellular and GPS readings to determine an accurate location quickly.

Ford said that GoSafe’s in-home communicator unit, which can use a plain old telephone service line for backhaul or connect to a cellular network, ensures that when the patient is at home and needs help the system finds them. Since many mPERS systems rely on the device finding a cell signal, some areas of the house — like the basement — may make mPERS services less effective than legacy home-based PERS offerings. Philips says the in-home communicator improves the location abilities of the service when the user is at home and it helps save battery life since the pendant only needs to connect to the hub when its at home, rather than the cell network.

While Philips Lifeline has long relied on healthcare channel partners to bring its PERS offerings to consumers, the presence at CES indicates a tweak to that strategy. Currently thousands of hospitals and some 65,000 healthcare professionals in the US suggest that patients consider Lifeline after a fall or concerns about disorientation. Ford said those partnerships are still very valuable moving forward, but they are likely to add direct-to-consumer channels, too. Keep reading>>


FDA clears InTouch’s tablet-controlled, self-driving telemedicine robot

By: Jonah Comstock | Jan 11, 2013        

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RP-VITAInTouch Health‘s Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant, or RP-VITA, announced in July 2012, received FDA 510(K) clearance in November, the company announced this week.

The RP-VITA was developed in partnership with iRobot, the company that created the Roomba vacuum cleaner, as well as some telepresence robots for the military. The device is a 5-foot rolling robot with a camera and a tablet screen, allowing doctors to virtually consult with patients in situations when they can’t be in the hospital – for instance, allowing specialists to consult in rural hospitals on short notice.

Tim Wright, VP of Strategic Marketing for InTouch, says having a freely moving proxy is hugely important for remotely practicing physicians.

“Mobility is unappreciated, but it’s a core part of how we work, and particularly for physicians in hospitals,” he said. “They’re at the nurse’s station, they’re with the patient, they’re calling the pharmacist. For a doctor to really take command of a situation, it’s imperative that they be able to move around.”

The RP VITA allows an offsite doctor to consult with patients and colleagues and to perform visual assessments of patients. The robot also has an electronic stethoscope built in, and can be hooked into other remote monitoring devices to transmit that information to the doctor.

“The Remote Presence System RP-VITA can be used in communications for active patient monitoring in high acuity clinical environments where immediate clinical action may be required, i.e. pre-, peri-operative, and post-surgical, cardiovascular, neurological, pre-natal, psychological, and critical care assessments and examinations,” the clearance document reads. “Clinical judgement and experience are required to review and interpret the information transmitted.”

The  Remote  Presence System,  Model  RP-VITAm  can be  used  in communications  for active
patient monitoring  jn  high acuity clinical environments  where  immediate  clinical action may be  required,  e.g.,
pre-,  peni-operative  and  post-surgical, cardiovascular,  neurological.  pre-natal,  psychological  and  critical care
assessments and  examinations.  Clinical judgment and  experience are  required  to  review and  interpret the

The doctor controls the RP-VITA from a tablet or laptop interface, but the 510(K) filing also specifically clears the robot’s auto-drive system, by which it can autonomously navigate the hospital. The physician just has to input the destination, and the robot will use object avoidance and hospital mapping to get to the patient.

Previous InTouch models had to be remotely driven by a joystick, which greatly limited the number of physicians who could take advantage of the technology and required doctors to have a special control panel set up, Wright said. Also, with the machine driving itself, the doctor can use the transit time to focus more on patient care.

The FDA clearance is for emergency situations, but Wright says that FDA clearance isn’t necessary for more casual use cases. Oftentimes, when a hospital most needs to bring in a specialist remotely is in a time-sensitive situation.

“Our number one application is the delivery of remote stroke specialists. One of the most underserved specialties is stroke neurology,” Wright said. “When a stroke patient shows up in the ER, you only have a few minutes or maybe an hour to make crucial decisions about treatment.” These decisions can determine whether or not a patient will live the rest of their life in an assisted living facility.

In the future, InTouch hopes to integrate the robots into hospital EHRs and communication systems, allowing them to automatically alert care teams in certain situations. They also hope to increase the range of what the robots can do, from mere diagnosis and consultation to hands-on treatment. But even though there may be a shift toward automation, Wright said, there’s certainly no thought toward replacing doctors.

The units are leased to hospitals for $4,000 to $6,000 a month, Wright said, and their first installations will happen over the next few months. He said the roll out will be slower than it was for previous models, because the robots need a little more time to learn their way around their new homes.

Health device portfolios fortified, time to turn on the analytics

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 10, 2013        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWhile the healthcare-focused break out sessions organized by CES and the Digital Health Summit’s speakers managed to steer the event’s health conversation away from the shiny new gadgets that dominate the event’s massive exhibit hall, CES 2013 is, ultimately, an event about devices. And — as has been the case for the past two years — health devices of various kinds found their way into the coverage of mainstream news outlets covering the show. (Check out our roundup of 15 health device launches from CES 2013.)

A number of companies debuted or commercially launched health-related devices at CES for the first time this year, including quirky quantified self efforts like Beam Brush’s app-enabled toothbrush and the headline-grabbing HAPIfork, which aims to help you eat more slowly.

For those following the health device thread for the past few years, however, a subtler trend emerged at this year’s CES that has been in the works for years but seemed to culminate in Vegas this week: The rise of the health device portfolio. Not all incumbent device companies have moved beyond their core competency — BodyMedia is a great example of a successful company that has iterated its health sensor-laden wearable devices for years. Others have forged a strategy of variety.

Relatively longtime consumer health device companies like Withings, Fitbit, and iHealth all had substantial booths at the event this year, stocked with their growing lineup of devices. Withings, which started out as a WiFi-connected scale company, added an activity tracker this year. It now offers weight scales, a blood pressure monitor, and an activity tracker. Fitbit, which started out as an activity tracker company, added a connected weight scale last year. iHealth, which began as an iOS device-enabled blood pressure cuff company added a smartphone-enabled blood glucose monitor and a pulse oximeter to its lineup for 2013, and it already has its own connected scale offerings.

[Announcement: Be sure to sign up for MobiHealthNews first webinar of the year: 2013 Mobile Health Trends, which takes place January 31 at 2PM ET. Reserve your spot today — it’s free!]

The latest device additions mean that consumers, employers, payers and others looking to leverage the newest generation of connected consumer devices now have the ability to consider whether they’d like to purchase “best of breed” devices or go with an integrated solution. That’s an age old question, of course, but one that’s new for the consumer-focused segment of this market.

Consumer health devices will continue to launch throughout this year — from these three companies as well as from others more focused on a particular condition or activity. While the flurry of device launches has been overwhelming this week, it is disappointing that so few of these companies are focused on providing the services that their hardware enables.

Despite a missing activity tracker here and a weight scale there, from a hardware perspective the health device platforms are fairly well-fortified among these three contenders. It’s time to ramp up the analytics beyond trend lines — its time for data-powered, timely and insightful digital health services.

Slideshow: Health devices that launched at CES 2013

By: Jonah Comstock | Jan 10, 2013        

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By Jonah Comstock and Brian Dolan

Self-tracking, self-monitoring, and using smartphone peripherals to encourage health habits are emerging as big themes at this year’s CES, getting coverage not just in the tech press, but also in mainstream outlets like CNN and the Wall Street Journal. While the big companies focus on filling in holes in their product lines and staying competitive with one another, smaller companies are looking for entirely new niches to fill. Here are more than 15 consumer health gadgets generating buzz in Las Vegas this week.

Fitbit Flex__Colors

Fitbit Flex

Following the lead of Nike Fuelband and the re-launched Jawbone UP, Fitbit is embracing the growing popularity of the bracelet form-factor, while keeping the tracker inside very similar to the Fitbit One.

“We’re aware that there is no ‘one size fits all’ option in fitness, so Fitbit wants to offer the widest variety on the market,” James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit said in a statement. ”When we saw that we could bring our knowledge to a wristband format done right, we had to create the new Flex.” Keep reading>>

Psychiatric reference app pulled after APA warns of IP violation

By: Neil Versel | Jan 10, 2013        

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ShrinksterAn apparently well-received, free psychiatric reference app for the iPhone has been removed from iTunes following the threat of legal action from the American Psychiatric Association, MobiHealthNews has learned.

The creator of Shrinkster, a searchable reference for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text revision, the mental health bible commonly known as DSM-IV-TR, pulled the app in October after receiving a cease-and-desist order from the APA, according to both the APA and a Shrinkster Twitter account.

“Shrinkster is no longer available in the app store after APA complained. We believe it was a fair use but could not face risk of a lawsuit,” a Nov. 26 tweet said. Shrinkster had received positive reviews from several mental health blogs and app rating sites, including Social Work Tech, but that was irrelevant to the APA.

An APA spokesperson tells MobiHealthNews in an email that DSM is the intellectual property of the professional association and that the organization does not license the content to third parties. The APA only learned about Shrinkster last fall when the developer contacted the group to get unspecified additional material for the app, according to the spokesperson.

At that point, the organization’s permissions office asked the developer, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Gimpel Labs, to take the app down, the spokesperson says, but the company did not until the APA notified Apple of the unauthorized use and then sent the cease-and-desist letter.

A tweet dated Jan. 2 asked followers if they would take part in a “campaign to ask APA to work with us & put it back up.” The APA spokesperson was unaware of any efforts by Gimpel to get back in touch.

MobiHealthNews was unable to reach Gimpel for comment. No Shrinkster or Gimpel Labs website exists nor is there a listed phone number. A Twitter message to the Shrinkster account has not been returned.

CES: Verizon offers $1M healthcare prize, pushes high-speed mobility

By: Neil Versel | Jan 10, 2013        

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Lowell Mcadam CES 2013Verizon Communications is offering a top prize of $1 million for the most powerful healthcare innovation using the company’s mobile, video and cloud technology.

CEO Lowell McAdam announced the availability of the award Wednesday, as part of a $10 million challenge across three industries – also including education and sustainability – during his keynote address at International CES in Las Vegas. ” We challenge the technology industry to come up with innovative applications, devices and solutions that take advantage of our converged mobile, video and cloud platforms to drive positive social change,” McAdam said, according to a transcript provided by Verizon.

He promised details on the submission process before the end of the first quarter.

Covering the themes of using technology to make processes easier, make businesses more efficient and changing lives for the better, McAdam highlighted Verizon’s high-speed mobile connectivity, cloud presence and the growth of mobility in general. He said that tablets this year will outsell PCs for the first time. Within two years, 10 percent of “the digital universe” will be in the cloud and the “Internet of Things will include more than 30 billion connected machines, buildings and electronics by 2020, according to McAdam.

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs dropped the phrase “Internet of Everything” earlier in the week during a bizarre CES opening keynote that got widely mocked on the Internet. The Verizon session was decidedly less hokey but still jumped around.

McAdam showed a video showing how camera-equipped Golden-i headsets from UK-based Kopin Corp. can send live video from the field over the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network to a hospital emergency department. Immediately after the video rolled, McAdam welcomed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on stage.

Later, only after discussing connected cars, McAdam got back to healthcare, discussing the runaway spending failing to prevent what he said was a 70 percent decline in health status among Americans since the 1990s. “Our industry has a tremendous opportunity to use a connected ecosystem to address this problem in a powerful new way,” he said.

“What makes this a transformational moment for digital healthcare is that the barriers to innovation in this industry are finally coming down,” McAdam continued. “We now have a network that can handle the bandwidth demands of sending MRIs, X-Rays and CAT scans over the Internet.”

He said Verizon was “actively working with the FDA to get clearance on our mHealth platform,” which is intended to help with chronic disease management.  “Between that and our HIPAA-enabled cloud platform, we will have a secure, private way for patients, doctors, and insurance companies to exchange information and share medical records in a mobile environment,” McAdam added.

McAdam highlighted some of the company’s partners in healthcare, including HealthSpot, a startup which is making its debut at CES by showing off a telemedicine kiosk for retail and business locations.

Another partner is the William J. Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Health Matters Initiative, which is helping to improve access to care in low-income areas. “Over the next three years we’ll go into medically disadvantaged communities around the country and do health ‘makeovers’ that will put better tools for managing health in the hands of physicians and patients,” McAdam said.

“Our objective is to make these communities into a working laboratory for creating the health care solutions of the future.”