Survey: Few docs use tablets, smartphones for clinical purposes

By: Neil Versel | Jun 26, 2012        

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physician ipadDespite the explosion in physician adoption of smartphones and tablets, most doctors still use mobile devices as shiny toys rather than clinical tools, according to a new national survey.

About 20 percent of U.S. physicians use smartphones for e-prescribing, accessing electronic health records or other clinical needs, says the 2012 National Physician Survey, conducted by Atlanta-based health and wellness social network Sharecare and its The Little Blue Book subsidiary. About 12 percent of doctors use iPads for clinical purposes, and 9 percent employ some other brand of tablet for accessing or inputting clinical data.

“As could be expected, the desktop PC is by far the most commonly used tool, with the laptop a distant second,” the study says. “It seems administrative tasks are still anchored to the desktop PC, and that both e-prescribing and EMR/EHR use run quite closely in terms of prevalence on any piece of hardware.”

Physician directory publisher The Little Blue Book reports “higher use of mobile devices for clinical reasons, across the board – in particular with smartphones.” But the survey did not ask about mobile devices in 2011, when The Little Blue Book was owned by Thomson Reuters. Sharecare, a company started by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold and TV physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, purchased the directory publisher early this year.

Sharecare representatives were not immediately available to explain the statement or provide data showing growth. However, the report sees the same upward trajectory that others have found. “The development of clinical solutions for both the iPad and smartphones show the start of a usage trend that is likely to continue, with clinical use of these tools reported as more prevalent than e-prescribing,” the study says.

According to the survey, which included 1,190 physicians across 75 specialties, about 30 percent of specialty surgeons have iPads for clinical purposes, compared to just 10 percent of primary care doctors.

In other findings not directly related to mobility, a large majority of doctors, 81 percent, say that administrative tasks were “overwhelming” their clinical interactions. Slightly more than a third of physicians are now communicating with colleagues via e-mail and 20 percent are doing so with patients, despite the fact that HIPAA does not consider standard e-mail a secure channel for transmitting protected health information.

About 6 percent of physicians are texting patients.

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Report: 5 percent of consumer medical devices are wireless

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 26, 2012        

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Bluetooth SmartAccording to a recent study by IMS Research, by 2016 more wireless enabled consumer medical devices will use Bluetooth Smart than any other wireless technology. Bluetooth Smart is the newest flavor of the technology. IMS predicts that 4.7 million Bluetooth Smart-enabled consumer medical devices will ship in 2016 and some 10.3 million will ship between now and then.

Overall, more than 35 percent of wireless-enabled consumer medical devices will leverage Bluetooth Smart in 2016. This year just 5 percent of consumer medical devices will have the ability to make some kind of wireless connection, according to IMS. By 2016 that number will only climb to 9 percent of consumer medical devices. IMS expects ANT technology to also have its own supporters: About 500,000 ANT-enabled consumer medical devices will ship in 2016.

Right now most wireless connections in consumer medical devices use classic Bluetooth or a proprietary wireless technology that enables them to connect short range to a home health hub or a mobile phone. IMS believes the power needs of classic Bluetooth will drive device makers to Bluetooth Smart, which has lower power consumption. Because of regulatory concerns, IMS does not expect the transition from classic Bluetooth to Bluetooth Smart to be a quick one.

For more on IMS Research’s Bluetooth Smart report, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

Accenture: Most patients want mobile-enabled Rx refills

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 25, 2012        

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Walgreens Prescription iPhone appAccording to a survey of 1,000 patients in the US, almost all patients (90 percent) want to use technology to better self-manage their own health. Accenture released the results from its survey at last week’s America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) conference. These patients were interested in accessing their own health information, refilling prescriptions, and booking doctors appointments online. Perhaps not surprisingly, some 46 percent of those surveyed did know whether their health records were available electronically.

Another finding that should come as no surprise: While these patients are eager to leverage technology for better self-care, some 85 percent of them still want to keep their in-person interactions with physicians when those are needed.

Here’s how the individual findings from the survey breakdown:

Some 83 percent of patients surveyed want online access to their health records.
About 48 percent want their doctors to manage their medical records.
About 44 percent would rather manage their own information.
Some 33 percent of those surveyed didn’t know if bill pay, electronic reminders and lab results were available to them online.

Accenture found that patients preferred to use mobile devices, the Internet and email for some of the key care management activities:

Nearly all patients surveyed (90 percent) prefer web-based access to health information and education to help manage conditions.
Some 72 percent of those surveyed want web-based access to book, change or cancel physician appointments.
88 percent wanted email interaction with providers, including preventative or follow-up care.
More than three quarters (76 percent) want the option of email consultations with doctors.

The only mobile specific finding? Accenture found that most patients surveyed (73 percent) would rather use their mobile phone to request prescription refills.

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

VESAG cellular-enabled mobile PERS hub earns CE Mark, other certifications

By: Neil Versel | Jun 25, 2012        

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Vesag mHealth WatchVyzin, maker of the VESAG mobile personal emergency response system (MPERS), has received three key certifications for its product, including the important CE Mark necessary to access European markets.

In addition to the CE Mark, Somerset, N.J.-based Vyzin also announced that the VESAG “mHealth watch” – which can be worn on the wrist or as a pendant – achieved Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) certification and passed the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) test for cellular devices.

RoHS certification means that the product meets European standards for manufacturing electronics with minimal levels of lead, cadmium, mercury and other toxic chemicals. The SAR test is an American regulation that measures radio-frequency energy absorbed by the human body when using a mobile phone or other cellular-enabled gadget.

The VESAG watch/pendant module actually serves as a hub for wireless medical devices, including heart-rate monitors, weight scales, blood-pressure monitors, pulse oximeters and electrocardiograms, which send data following the ZigBee 802.14.4 standard. The mobile hub, which has a built-in GPS to track the wearer’s location, uses a GPRS cellular connection to upload data to Vyzin’s call center, from which healthcare professionals or an interactive voice response system helps monitor patients.

The device itself provides medication reminders and has a panic button to summon help in case of emergency.

VESAG has been tested extensively on U.S. and European networks, according to the company, including on Vodafone in the U.K., KPN in the Netherlands, VIP in Croatia, Telefónica in Spain, Orange in France, Swisscom in Switzerland and Telenor in Norway. Though the CE Mark is new, the device has been available in France since April. It also is distributed in all four of the “BRIC” countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China.

In the U.S., VESAG services are available on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, the company says.

On the Surface, Microsoft tablet has strong healthcare potential

By: Neil Versel | Jun 22, 2012        

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Microsoft SurfaceMicrosoft’s newly announced tablet line called Surface has the potential to make waves in healthcare, but it’s probably too early to know exactly what it will do.

The Microsoft hardware, featuring 10.6-inch screens and an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processors – the same type of CPU as the new Apple MacBook Air — will be made for the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, which will fully support touch-screen interfaces. Photos released by the Redmond Empire suggest that the home screen will feature the same kind of “tiles” found on the current generation of Windows smartphones. But Microsoft has not offered many additional details such as pricing, screen resolution, battery life or even whether it will have wireless connectivity beyond Wi-Fi.

Nor do we know when the tablets will go on sale or what they will cost.

Dr. Bill Crounse, Microsoft’s worldwide senior director for health, tells MobiHealthNews that he is unable to say anything more that what was on the sparse Microsoft Surface website, but he does discuss Surface briefly on his official Microsoft blog.

“Among the speculation out there is how the medical community will respond to Microsoft Surface.  After all, the tablet form factor has been extremely popular with clinicians.  However, for many clinicians and IT staff, currently available models leave something to be desired when it comes to use in hospital and clinic environments,” Crounse writes.

Crounse also links to a post on iMedicalApps by the well-known Dr. Iltifat Husain. Husain says he was “dreading” the announcement because Windows systems have caused plenty of headaches in the physician community over the years. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised.

“But after reading about the event, and looking at videos and pictures of the Surface, I felt an odd emotion — excitement. Microsoft has actually laid the framework to a compelling device,” according to Husain. Keep reading>>

Next regulatory battleground: Patient monitors on commercial flights

By: Neil Versel | Jun 21, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeI fly a lot, and I’ve long been a bit perturbed when people around me – usually young adults who are attached to their smartphones – don’t fully turn off their electronic devices, per federal law, when the crew instructs them to just before departure. Why should they be able to sneak in a last few texts or make another call while we’re taxiing to the runway when the majority of us are playing by the rules?

As technology continues to advance, I’ve started to soften my stance a little. Last month, I didn’t say anything as the woman next to me kept reading her e-book on a Kindle as we were on final approach for landing. If you can read a traditional paper book at that point in the flight, what’s the harm in reading a digital version?

Now, the New York Times comes along with an entirely new scenario. Electronic watches, which don’t really have an on-off switch, have always been allowed at all times on commercial flights, but now we have the SmartWatch from Sony that supports Twitter, e-mail and music via a Bluetooth connection to Android smartphones. “Are people going to be required to turn off their watches before takeoff and landing? Try enforcing that,” wonders a Times piece about wearable gadgets.

The story, which appeared Sunday, then goes on to discuss personal sensors. “A number of sensors like the Nike Fuelband and Jawbone Up that track your daily activity are worn on the wrist and send out signals,” it says.

Maybe Jawbone Up wasn’t the best example, because the manufacturer all but recalled the product six months ago (though it is still available for purchase), but mobile health is going to change the game even more than e-readers.

If they aren’t already, people soon will be boarding planes with wireless heart-rate monitors, smart insulin pumps and cellular-enabled personal emergency response devices. All will have wireless transmitters that either cannot or should not be turned off at any time. Some may need to be paired with smartphones or tablets. Should the Federal Aviation Administration order these things – not fun gadgets, but potentially life-saving medical devices – turned off from the time the aircraft door closes until the plane is 10,000 feet in the air, then again for landing?

One of the comments lays out the argument in clear terms. The ban on electronic devices really doesn’t have much to do with gadgets interfering with critical navigation equipment, as we’ve long been led to believe. “IMO, the FAA and the airlines are trying to reduce distractions that prevent passengers from listening to announcements during an emergency,” writes “Steve C” from San Jose, Calif.

“Below 10,000 feet is the most dangerous phase of flight. As a pilot, I know how fast incidents can change into emergencies. If you’re wearing your Bose noise-cancelling headphones, you’re not going to hear critical information being given out by the crew. If you have your laptop out, it’s going to get in the way of an emergency escape route,” he says.

“Do electronic devices affect navigation equipment? No, not at all. But this isn’t just about navigation equipment. We all take flying for granted, but passengers need to be aware of their surroundings and PAYING ATTENTION.”

Wireless medical devices don’t distract people or endanger the safety of others on the plane. Much the opposite, they can protect the health and safety of the wearer. Being engrossed in an e-book can prevent passengers from hearing emergency instructions, but so can being engrossed in a newspaper article or a crossword puzzle while landing, especially for those seated in emergency exit rows. (I plead guilty to the latter.)

There should be no reason why people must turn their smartphones off for takeoff and landing if they’re linked to health monitors. And now we have the next battleground in m-health regulation.