Health gaming reaches critical mass

By: Neil Versel | Sep 8, 2011        

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Neil VerselVideo games are hot in healthcare right now.

A fringe topic not too long ago, the subject gained a sense of legitimacy in July, when publisher Mary Ann Liebert Inc. introduced a new journal called Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications. The first issue is due out this fall.

That’s right, there’s now a peer-reviewed, scientific journal specifically examining the role video games can play in advancing individual and population health, the healthcare industry and personal wellness. And this week, Liebert announced a companion newsletter called Games for Health Industry Insider, which starts publication on Sept. 29. I can see both titles being good resources for MobiHealthNews.

If you think this is an anomaly or a journal that’s ahead of its time, may I remind you that the Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper earlier this year that said video games deserve “serious attention” in healthcare.

Adding further weight to the notion that gaming can be an important part of healthcare, the University of Missouri just released news about a study underway at the school that incorporates Microsoft Kinect motion-sensing technology to help prevent falls and spot other potential health problems in seniors. A related study uses motion sensors from widely available security systems.

Researchers from Mizzou’s Sinclair School of Nursing and School of Engineering installed Kinect for Xbox 360 in a Columbia, Mo., nursing home and gave wearable sensors to residents to help measure changes in gait, a key indicator of the likelihood of falls. Additional sensors on beds were used to detect changes in sleeping patterns. Alerts get sent to nursing staff when there is a change that might signify a health issue.

“The potential that we’ve learned for early illness detection could revolutionize what’s happening in the way that we diagnose problems of older adults. We know from the research that we can pick things up 10 days to two weeks before critical health-change events happen,” nursing professor Marilyn Rantz said in a video released by the university.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Microsoft itself joined in. On the Microsoft HealthBlog, Dr. Bill Crounse, the Redmond Empire’s senior director for worldwide health, promoted the latest episode of Microsoft Health Tech Today, the company’s online talk show about how the company’s technology is advancing healthcare.

The subject of the newest video? Kinect.

Gaming in health—particularly mobile gaming—also is the subject of a forthcoming MobiHealthNews report. If you recall, Dr. Leslie Saxon, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing, said last month that she’d like to take a mobile gaming app like Angry Birds and “diabetize it.”

Yes, we’re hearing a lot lately about gaming in health and healthcare. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Ever since Nintendo debuted the Wii Fit as a fitness tool in 2008, gaming for health has started to break out of a niche and become mainstream. It seems as if we’re now reaching critical mass.


Nokia anchors new mobile health fund

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 8, 2011        

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Vision Plus Venture FundNokia recently announced plans to become an anchor investor in the Vision+ fund, which will focus on converged gaming, entertainment and education, as well as preventive health care and wellness applications for various platforms. Nokia said its move to fund Vision+ is part of an ongoing strategy to funds apps and games for those mobile platforms that Nokia supports, but mostly for the Windows Phone platform.

Vision+ plans to help those application developers it funds by connecting them directly with customers in an effort to bring the developers’ projects to market more quickly. The fund also appears to plan to share in the products’ eventual revenue streams while the startups it funds will hang onto their own IP.

“This initiative is a great addition to our developer activities, including those with Microsoft. We look forward to more and more innovative applications from creative entrepreneurs in the mobile space,” Marco Argenti, Senior Vice President, Developer Experience, Nokia stated in a release.

Tero Ojanpera, formerly of Nokia, will helm Vision+ as the fund’s managing partner.

For more on Nokia’s fund, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

Alere to exclusively offer Voxiva’s Text2Quit

By: Chris Gullo | Sep 7, 2011        

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text2quitVoxiva, creator of Text4Baby and Text2Quit, announced this week an agreement with Alere Wellbeing’s smoking cessation program Quit For Life to exclusively merge their services into one offering.

Voxiva’s Text2Quit launched in June. The service makes use of text messages, emails and the web along with evidence-based best practices from the Surgeon General and peer-reviewed studies. The service is personalized around the end user’s planned quit date and supports multiple quit attempts based on the users own feedback. Text2Quit has a number of features that set it apart from the straightforward Text4Baby SMS service — Text2Quit even offers games to help users fight off cravings.

Alere’s Quit For Life Program, according to the company, “offers phone-based cognitive-behavioral coaching, web-based learning and social support, medication decision support, medication fulfillment, email coaching, and live chat.”

The deal with Alere shows that Voxiva is taking a markedly different approach to market its newest text-based offering. Text4Baby relies on a network of hundreds of public and private partners to drive adoption.

“Text-based programs have been shown to be highly effective drivers of intervention for tobacco cessation. A study recently published in The Lancet showed that text-based programs doubled quit rates when compared to control groups,” stated Voxiva CEO Justin Sims in a press release. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Alere Wellbeing, the national leader in tobacco cessation, to deliver our Text2Quit program to as many smokers as possible.”

Read the full press release below.

Keep reading>>

Remote patient monitors slim down but adoption still low

By: Chris Gullo | Sep 7, 2011        

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Corventis PiiX SensorOnly 50,000 to 70,000 patients in the United States are remotely monitored, Chuck Parker, executive director of the Continua Health Alliance, told the New York Times in a recent interview. Parker states that one reason adoption is still modest is a lack of financial incentives for some of the big players in health. Heart patients that can be monitored remotely at home are far less lucrative than those occupying a hospital bed. Parker told the Times that “some [hospitals] fear about the financial implications” for their facility’s own operations.

Still, the wireless remote monitoring devices are slimming so much that they are approaching near weightlessness.

“Suppose that all of a convalescent patient’s electrode patches were consolidated into a single, nearly invisible and weightless version — as thin as a temporary, press-on tattoo. And suppose that a tiny radio transmitter eliminated the need for any wires tethering the patient to monitoring machines,” the NY Times writes.

A prototype of such a device is currently under development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Researchers there are developing an ultra thin sensor that weighs just three-thousandths of an ounce. This technology could be utilized inside the body and on the skin. The journal Science published research on the sensor last month.

John A. Rogers, an engineering professor and a 2009 MacArthur Fellow, is leading the team at the University of Illinois. Rogers also co-founded MC10, an electronics company based in a Cambridge, MA that has plans to release a commercial version of the sensor in 2013.

The rest of the New York Times article offers a compelling overview of the wireless health space, including whether a lack of financial incentives is one of the biggest challenges facing wireless health. Read more here.

NHS publishes National Mobile Health Worker study

By: Neil Versel | Sep 7, 2011        

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Panasonic Toughbook C1

Panasonic Toughbook C1

Arming mobile clinicians with full-powered laptops and wireless Internet access could save big money by preventing hospital admissions, unnecessary referrals to specialists and even wasted home visits, a new study from the UK suggests.

In an eight-week trial at 11 sites across England in the summer of 2010, semi-ruggedized Panasonic Toughbook laptops saved an average of £462 ($737) per clinician, which extrapolates to £3,002 annually, or nearly $4,800, according to the National Health Service’s National Mobile Health Worker Project report (PDF).

While results varied widely across the sites, most participants showed productivity increases after they got the Toughbooks. Clinicians also spent more time with patients. “Clinicians across the eleven pilot sites estimated that the devices allowed them to save 507 referrals, equating to a saving of nearly 9 percent across the pilot period. Clinicians across the eleven pilot sites estimated that the devices allowed them to avoid 49 admissions, equating to a saving of approximately 21 percent across the pilot period,” the report says. Keep reading>>

SAP plans EMR iPad app for next month

By: Chris Gullo | Sep 6, 2011        

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emr-dashEnterprise software behemoth SAP is developing an EMR app for hospitals, according to a report over at ZDNet. The company plans to make the app commercially available at the end of October. An Android version is set to follow sometime next year.

SAP unveiled the app, which has been in development for the past three months, during a webinar that was broadcast last week. The EMR’s feature set includes access to patient records, medication history, radiology images, medical allergies and a real-time view of patient vital signs that alerts doctors to abnormal levels.

SAP is currently piloting the app in three unnamed European hospitals. The company previously released the Collaborative eCare app, which allows patients with chronic conditions to upload medical data that can then be viewed by their caregiver.

According to the ZDNet article, the next version of the app will include software for offline access of medical data, intended for network “dead spots” found within hospitals —  which may raise some concerns about the security of patient information temporarily stored on the device. Also expected for the app’s future is the ability for physicians to take photos using the iPad and upload them to the patient records database, as well as enter diagnostic notes and capture vital sign data.

Another large company, GE, recently launched their EMR app Centricity. That app is an extension of GE Healthcare’s web-based Centricity Advance EMR offering, which focuses on practices with less than ten physicians. The app was demo’d at this year’s HIMSS conference.

An additional EMR app developer that has been in the news recently is DrChrono, who announced two rounds of seed funding this summer. ClearPractice also released their EMR iPad app, called Nimble, as well as an EMR offering that works across various Apple devices called Eden. Finally, Epic took its iPhone EMR app Haiku and redesigned it for the iPad’s larger form factor. The resulting app, called Canto, hit the AppStore last June.

You can read more about SAP’s soon to be launched iPad EMR app over at ZDNet here.