Are digital health patents beginning to shape the market?

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 11, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWith the latest news this week that another major player in mobile health has won what appears to be an important patent, it seemed like a good time as any to review and follow-up on recent patent happenings.

Perhaps the biggest IP story that we’ve been following over the course of the year has been Robert Bosch Healthcare’s patent infringement lawsuit against three other home health monitoring companies: ExpressMD, MedApps, and Waldo Health. In late July Bosch filed an additional and apparently similar lawsuit against Cardiocom, based on its Health Buddy patent portfolio.

In February when it filed the first three lawsuits, a spokesperson for Bosch explained to MobiHealthNews:

“We feel it is important to demonstrate that IP is important, and not just to our company. Bosch Healthcare Systems, like most high-tech companies, values its intellectual property as an essential asset of its business… Bosch is open to working with those companies that are interested in securing this technology through a licensing agreement, and we are in discussion with numerous companies in this regard.”

Within two months Waldo Health settled with Bosch and became one of the first companies to license its technologies. Since then — late April 2012 — Waldo Health has been quiet.

In early summer MobiHealthNews exclusively reported that Alere had acquired MedApps, which is now a business unit called Alere Connect. Alere has a longstanding IP agreement with Bosch based on a settlement the two companies came to years ago. A recent filing in the Bosch-MedApps suit notes that “Alere has a license for each of the patents-in-suit.” As a part of Alere, MedApps issues with Bosch’s IP may be over, but the lawsuit has not yet settled. Following news of Alere’s acquisition of MedApps, the two companies filed a motion to go to mediation by mid-October.

MobiHealthNews reported last week that Authentidate, the parent company of ExpressMD, was forced to reverse-split of its stock last week to avoid delisting from the Nasdaq Capital Market. Authentidate provides remote monitoring technology to several major provider organizations, including the Premier hospital alliance and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It is unclear, of course, what role, if any, the Bosch lawsuit played a role in the company’s recent financial woes.

The other big lawsuit that dropped earlier this year was BodyMedia’s suit against Basis Science, but since Basis sent in its official response to the suit, no new court filings have appeared. In May longtime wearable fitness device company BodyMedia formally served Basis Science, a startup working to bring its wearable tracking device to market, with a lawsuit that claims Basis’ offering infringes on six patents held by BodyMedia in more than 100 ways. Within days Basis filed its response and counterclaims, as we reported in May: Basis believed the timing of the lawsuit was curious and an attempt to hinder its product’s launch, that the patents BodyMedia claims it infringes will not hold up in court, and that while it believes its device does not infringe on those patents it doesn’t believe BodyMedia can know that anyway since its product has not yet launched.

It is now almost four months later and Basis still hasn’t launched its health and fitness tracking device. The case hasn’t made any apparent progress yet either.

As the review above makes clear, some of the oldest companies working in digital health are bringing about suits to defend their patents. What follows from AirStrip’s announcement this week that it has secured a patent for its technology which “mobilizes physiologic data to smartphones, tablets and other devices” remains to be seen, of course. Still, no one can argue that patent litigation in digital health is ramping up, and it’s not in any one segment. These three companies also represent three of the biggest digital health markets today: Home-based care and monitoring, in-patient care and monitoring, and fitness and wellbeing.

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AirStrip secures patent for viewing patient data on mobiles

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 11, 2012        

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AirStrip CardiologySan Antonio-based AirStrip Technologies announced this week that it had secured a US patent in late August that covers its methodology for mobilizing physiologic data to smartphone, tablets, and other devices. AirStrip’s core product has been its mobile patient monitoring platform, which it offers to large healthcare facilities, but the company claims the patent impacts consumer-facing mobile health services as well as enterprise ones.

“We feel like this is a broad and far-reaching mHealth methodology patent,” AirStrip’s President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Cameron Powell told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “Basically, without getting too granular or technical, what we believe this patent covers is taking any type of physiologic data — whether that’s from a sensor in the shoe, a home monitor, a blood pressure cuff, or a monitor in the hospital — and then re-rendering it on a native or HTML5 application on a mobile device. That mobile device is connected to the internet through either wired, WiFi, or [cellular].”

Displaying physiologic data on a mobile device through something like a Citrix terminal, via terminal emulation, is not covered by the patent.

“The message here to the industry is not that we are issuing this press release to stop every company out there who is doing this, [but], who knows, there may be a few fringe players who we have an issue with,” Powell said. “The mHealth market is very fragmented, it’s still nascent and there’s all this debate about regulation, security, HIPAA-compliance, and how you’re rendering data, what’s safe and not safe, and should a large medical center really be developing their own mHealth applications? Should the very large medical device makers really be doing this when it’s not their core competency? For those who care about this space, we’d love to work with them to collaborate as partners to drive better standards, to deliver safer applications that ultimately lead to better outcomes.”

On the flip side, Powell said, AirStrip will defend its intellectual property, which it has been building for the past 10 years. This is the first patent the company has locked down, but Powell said there are many others pending.

According to the patent on file with the USPTO, AirStrip filed for it in mid-December 2005. Its title is: “System and method for real time viewing of critical patient data on mobile devices.” Read through the full patent over the USPTO site here.

More on AirStrip’s patent in the press release below: Keep reading>>

National anti-suicide plan emphasizes mobile technology

By: Neil Versel | Sep 11, 2012        

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SOURCE: Death data are from the National Vital Statistics System operated by the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. Age-adjusted rates for 1950–2009 were obtained from WISQARS (www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars).

SOURCE: Death data are from the National Vital Statistics System operated by the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. Age-adjusted rates for 1950–2009 were obtained from WISQARS (www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars).

A high-profile, public-private effort to prevent suicide is emphasizing the importance of mobile technology and social networks in identifying and helping people at risk of harming themselves.

“Technology is changing the way we communicate, and the pace at which new communications tools are introduced continues to accelerate. These media and applications include interactive educational and social networking websites, e-mail outreach, blogs, mobile apps, and programs using mobile devices and texting,” states the new National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

The strategy, a joint project between the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, has a goal of saving 20,000 lives over the next five years. This plan is the first major update to the national strategy since it launched in 2001.

More than 37,000 people in the U.S. took their own lives in 2009, according to the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), a rate of about 100 per day. Army Secretary John McHugh, who participated in a Washington press conference Monday, the 10th annual World Suicide Prevention Day, said that more U.S. service members die from suicide than from combat.

The strategy is targeting its outreach to at-risk populations, including military veterans, drug and alcohol abusers, native Americans, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender communities and young people in general. A key part of the strategy is to find ways of overcoming the stigma of discussing suicide. New communication platforms can help, according to the report and National Action Alliance participants.

“Mobile health apps have become increasingly popular, particularly among young adults. Other innovative applications currently being developed and applied to suicide prevention include virtual worlds, gaming, and text analysis,” the report notes.

Notably, Facebook now allows people to make anonymous reports of suicidal posts by friends and has, since last December, offered live, private chat sessions from trained suicide counselors. “Social networks give us a unique opportunity to save lives,” Facebook’s vice president for global public policy, Marne Levine, said Monday.

“We’re working to create tools on Facebook which connect to other mechanisms of help that go beyond the Web,” Levine added, specifically mentioning a network for veterans and military families that includes outreach via text messaging.

Also Monday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $55.6 million in grants for state and local suicide prevention programs, but details were not immediately available.

FDA clears cardiac monitor from Preventice, Mayo Clinic

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 11, 2012        

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bodyguardianMinneapolis-based Preventice announced this week that the FDA had cleared its remote monitoring device for patients with cardiac arrhythmias, the BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring System, with a 510(k) clearance. Preventice developed the system with its partner Mayo Clinic and licensed technology from Proteus Biomedical’s partner Avery Dennison for the peel-and-stick sensor.

BodyGuardian is a small body sensor that attaches to the patient’s chest and tracks ECG, heart rate, respiration rate, and activity level. According to the 510(k) clearance document, the system continuously records, stores, and periodically transmits the physiological data for up to 30 days at a time. It “detects and monitors non-lethal cardiac arrhythmias in ambulatory patients, when prescribed by a physician or other qualified healthcare professional,” according to the filing.

Preventice used Corventis’ Avivo patient monitoring system as its predicate device for its FDA clearance.

Here’s how the company describes BodyGuardian: “Preventice has licensed the remote monitoring algorithms for the BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring System from Mayo Clinic. The BodyGuardian System detects, records and wirelessly transmits physiological data to support remote monitoring of non-lethal, cardiac arrhythmias in ambulatory patients. Data is transmitted to the Preventice mHealth platform, where it can be stored for up to 30 days at a time. The BodyGuardian sensor adheres to the patient’s skin and is smaller than a cell phone, giving patients complete mobility and freedom to go about their normal lives without restriction. Physicians and medical professionals can securely view the captured medical information anytime, any place on devices such as the iPad, or online. Physicians can retrieve patient data and reports, or choose to receive alerts based on changes in select biometrics.”

According to the FDA document, the companion iPad app for the device appears to be called PatientCare for iPad, but an app is already available by that name in Apple’s AppStore from a different company offering a $1.99 EHR app.

Preventice plans to begin marketing BodyGuardian to hospitals and clinics and expects it to be commercially available by the end of the year.

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Red Cross: Mobile apps for emergencies gain in popularity

By: Neil Versel | Sep 10, 2012        

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Red Cross Hurricane AppTwenty percent of American adults have turned to mobile apps for information during an emergency or disaster situation, the same as from a local utility or government’s website, according to a recent survey from the American Red Cross. That makes mobile apps the fourth most-popular source of emergency information.

While apps trailed significantly behind the top three – TV news, local radio stations and online news sites – in terms of popularity, all the more traditional sources of information saw declines from 2011, while mobile apps edged up from 18 percent a year earlier. Mobile sources of emergency information were marginally ahead of social media and the federal government’s NOAA Weather Radio.

The survey, consisting of an online poll of 1,017 U.S. adults and phone interviews with another 1,018 people in June, found that just 8 percent of the general public have downloaded smartphone apps that could help them in a disaster or emergency situation. However, the number jumps to 25 percent among those who are regular users of social media.

Among this small group, the most popular emergency smartphone app was a weather forecaster, cited by 82 percent of those who have downloaded apps for use in disasters or emergencies. Next on the list is a flashlight app (52 percent), followed by a mobile first-aid guide (31 percent), police scanner (26 percent) and an app to assist with disaster preparedness (19 percent).

Not many smartphone users go looking for the app store during an emergency. The most popular choice of action after seeing emergency information on a social media site, named by 76 percent, was contacting friends or family to see if they were safe. Slightly more than a third sought shelter or gathered supplies, while just 25 percent downloaded a weather or disaster-preparedness app after learning about an emergency through social media.

The Red Cross itself has apps for shelter locations, first aid and hurricane preparedness.

Agile Health lands $2M to adapt SMS smoking cessation to diabetes management

By: Neil Versel | Sep 10, 2012        

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Agile HealthAgile Health, maker of an SMS-based smoking cessation program for employers and other group purchasers of health insurance, has raised $2 million in private equity to finance development of a similar offering for diabetes management, according to regulatory filings and published reports.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Agile Health disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month that it issued $2 million in new shares. MedCity News reports that the money came from three unspecified investors to create a system that will help people with diabetes adopt healthy lifestyles. “It’s all about changing and achieving better outcomes by behavior change,” company CEO Gary Slagle told MedCity News.

Slagle and his Agile Health co-founder, Scott Werntz, are former CVS Caremark executives.

Agile Health’s Kick Buts smoking cessation program – not “butts” because it is meant to combat the “I want to quit, but…” excuse, according to the Nashville Business Journal – provides customized messages to encourage and support people who are trying to give up cigarettes. It also offers access to online games meant to distract participants who might otherwise crave a smoke, as well as discounts on related stop-smoking products like nicotine gum.

The 26-week program is based on technology partner HSA Global‘s Stop Smoking Over Mobile Phone (STOMP) platform. STOMP was behind a program in the UK, detailed in a study published in The Lancet in June 2011, that had twice the success rate in helping people kick the habit as those in a control group.

Agile Health is targeting the end of the year for launching the new diabetes management system.

The company is not related to Agile Diagnosis, a Rock Health and Y Combinator graduate that raised $2.5 million at the beginning of the summer to fund a mobile clinical decision support service.