Study: SMS reminders up flu vaccine adoption

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 5, 2011        

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A similar service for expectant mothers

A physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital found that sending text messages to predominantly Spanish-speaking, urban, low-income parents increased the chances those parents would bring their children in to receive a flu vaccine. Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital noted that the population, which included 9,213 children aged 6 months to 18 years old, generally had very low coverage rates. The study, which was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) took place in an underserved community in New York City.

Traditional methods for immunization reminders have had low efficacy in low-income populations, according to Stockwell.

Half of the children’s parents received five text messages each week from October 2010 to mid-November that included information about the why vaccines are important and where flu vaccine clinics were located. The messages were sent in English or Spanish. The results examined how many of the children received the vaccine from the start of the program until February 28, 2011.

Overall, 57.4 percent of those children in the intervention group received the vaccine compared to 50.4 percent of those in the control group.

“It seems that text messaging is efficacious for young children. While the difference was 7 to 9 percentage points, even that change could make a real difference in coverage if used in a large population,” Stockwell said according to a report over at Pediatric SuperSite. “There need to be more studies looking at this.”

HRSA is the same government entity currently evaluating the efficacy of the widely publicized Text4Baby reminder program that could lead to similar initiatives out of the HHS’ newly formed Text4Health group. Might this study be the beginnings of Text4FluShot?


FDA clears Abbott’s mobile blood analyzer

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 4, 2011        

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Abbott i-STAT 1 WirelessThe FDA cleared Abbott’s i-STAT 1 Wireless point-of-care blood analyzer last week, marking the fourth wireless-enabled medical device to receive FDA clearance so far this year. Ascom, Monica Healthcare and Mobisante have each received a 510(k) clearance this year for a connected medical device. The FDA has cleared more than a dozen software apps for mobile devices over the years including one this year: Mobile MIM, which just announced that Health Canada has cleared it for use in that country.

Abbott’s device, however, is the newest connected medical handheld to join the growing list of FDA cleared medical tools. The wireless model improves upon the legacy wired i-STAT device by automatically transmitting readings to a central computer without necessitating that a physician synch with the device, according to MedGadget.

“With i-STAT 1 Wireless, caregivers are able to share critical test information electronically without leaving the patient’s bedside,” Greg Arnsdorff, head of Abbott’s point of care business, stated in the company’s press release. “By empowering nurses to stay at the bedside, the new i-STAT 1 Wireless supports a patient-focused approach to treatment, allowing for expedited decision making that helps minimize time to treatment.”

“With wireless, physicians can receive immediate test information in the electronic medical record, enabling them to act quickly when a patient’s clinical status is rapidly changing,” Arnsdorff stated.

Abbott estimates that some 50,000 i-STAT devices are in use worldwide and they process about 100 million test cartridges annually.

More from the company press release below: Keep reading>>

Survey: 27 percent of US doctors have tablets

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 31, 2011        

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MIMViewer iPad medical appsA new survey published by Knowledge Networks for the pharmaceutical industry, found that 64 percent of doctors have a smartphone, while 27 percent of primary care providers and specialists say they have a tablet. The survey polled more than 5,400 doctors.

Manhattan Research surveys have found that about 72 percent of physicians in the US as of mid-2010 have a smartphone or PDA, which is fairly close to the figure from this most recent survey. In an email to MobiHealthNews, Manhattan President Meredith Ressi noted that one reason the research company continues to lump smartphone and PDA together for the survey question is that some doctors don’t know the difference.

“It’s a funny quirk of physicians that we found as smartphones came on the market,” Ressi wrote. “We’d ask if they have a smartphone and they’d say ‘no’, but then say that they do have a PDA, which was often actually a smartphone when we asked the types of devices.”

Ressi said one physician in his 60s made a similar comment to her recently when he said he did not use a smartphone but did have a PDA, which he pulled out of his pocket and turned out to be a relatively new smartphone: a Palm Pre.

Knowledge Networks’ figure for the adoption of tablets among physicians is also in line with other estimates: Chilmark Research said that 22 percent of physicians had an iPad at the end of 2010. Rumor has it that the iPad is dominating as the tablet of choice for physicians, the Knowledge Networks figure of 27 percent adoption of (all types of) tablets among US physicians. Assuming both figures are more or less correct: That leaves a small percentage for other types of tablets beside the iPad.

The KN survey also backed up well known stats around app adoption with medical reference apps commanding a majority of physicians as adopters and other apps mostly finding single digit adoption rates.

More from the press release below: Keep reading>>

Tracking the rumored death of Google Health

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 31, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsNext week longtime Google CEO Eric Schmidt will hand over control to one of the company’s founders, Larry Page — a substantial restructuring that surely indicates other changes are likely for Googlers and their many projects. A report in the Wall Street Journal this week specifically calls out the company’s personal health records (PHR) offering Google Health:

“Some managers believe Mr. Page will eliminate or downgrade projects he doesn’t believe are worthwhile, freeing up employees to work on more important initiatives, these people said,” the WSJ reports. “One project expected to get less support is Google Health, which lets people store medical records and other health data on Google’s servers, said people familiar with the matter.”

It’s not the first time Google Health’s future has been called into question, but some believe the report is baseless:

“I think the demise of Google Health is a little premature to forecast,” well-known health IT thought leader Dr. David Kibbe told SearchHealthIT. “I’ve not seen sources for the WSJ article, and I’ve heard nothing to back up their opinion that Larry Page is going to decrease resources. My gosh, they’ve only had a few people at Google Health all along! It’s never been a big initiative for Google.”

Kibbe correctly points out that the Journal said Google Health will “get less support” not axed.

That didn’t stop one former AT&T employee from analyzing the implications of a world without Google Health in a blog post over at the Gerson Lerhman Group, which does not edit or endorse the blogs authored by its large base of loosely affiliated consultants:

“Google Health being dropped is a setback for Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) in three ways: 1) Widespread adoption through cloud access; 2) Time-to-market and payback; and 3) Cross-industry collaboration,” Greg Kail writes on the GLG News blog in a post called “Google Drops Health Project”. Kail’s only listed source is the WSJ post, which makes no mention of Google Health “being dropped.” ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley asked Google officials if Kail’s blog post was accurate, but a Google spokesperson gave her the standard: “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”

HIStalk didn’t see the need to confirm the rumor: “If they back out of Google Health, that ought to have a major effect on … well, nobody. PHRs are the consumer versions of EHRs — potentially useful technologies that, rightly or wrongly, aren’t all that attractive to their target audience in their current form.”

Chilmark Research’s John Moore told eWeek that Google Health competitor Microsoft’s HealthVault is focused more on the clinical data side, while Google Health incorporates more consumer wellness tools.

Meanwhile, a group of some of the leading fitness device and app companies are working together to open APIs and share their own data with each other — knitting together much of the same data that Google Health has promised to host. Wellness services including Zeo, RunKeeper, FitBit, WiThings and Digifit are all sharing data now.

So, while it may be true that rumors of Google Health’s demise have been greatly exaggerated — it may or may not be here in the new Larry Page era — a better question might be whether the platform ever really needed to exist at all.

Slow start for two payors’ wellness apps

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 31, 2011        

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Aetna Student Health Calorie Tracker BlackBerryMost health apps debut on Apple’s iOS for iPhone and then make their way to Android. Some even move to the BlackBerry platform or in rarer cases the Windows Phone 7 OS, which recently launched. Very few health apps created by well known healthcare organizations launch on a smartphone platform other than Apple’s, however, two payors decided to go down that launch path in recent months.

United Health Group subsidiaries OptumHealth announced the launch of its OptumizeMe app in time with the launch of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 OS. The buzz around the new Microsoft smartphone platform’s launched helped bring the spotlight on OptumizeMe, which was touted as the first health-related app for the new OS. OptumizeMe enables users to challenge friends to fitness competitions and trade “encouragement and digs” along the way. Those staffing the OptumHealth booth at the recent CTIA Wireless event in Orlando, Florida told MobiHealthNews that the app had attracted about 9,000 downloads since last November. For a new health app on a brand new smartphone platform maybe that’s not too surprising. Some 9 percent of American adults have health apps on their phone after all, although Parks found that 21 percent of smartphone owners it had surveyed in mid-2010 had fitness apps like OptumizeMe on their phones.

This week Optum announced that the OptumizeMe app was now available for iPhone users and Android devices users, too.

Another payor, Aetna, announced the number of downloads one of its wellness apps has logged to date: Aetna Student Health Calorie Tracker app for BlackBerry users has had “close to 1,700 downloads” to date, according to the company. The app is available for download from Aetna’s website but the free app does not appear to be listed in the BlackBerry App World store. The tracker is also available for other smartphone users who can access it via their mobile browsers at

“Our goal is to help students make thoughtful, health conscious decisions. We know that one way to communicate effectively with students is through social media,” Chekesha Kidd, head of Aetna Student Health, stated in the press release. “We are pleased with the positive feedback we have received on our social media communications from students, parents, colleges and universities.”

According to Aetna, the mobile app helps students count calories and delivers daily nutrition and fitness tips. It includes calorie information on more than 70,000 food and beverage items from popular restaurants and brands, according to the Aetna press release.

For more on OptumizeMe, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

American Medical Association launches CPT app and medical app contest

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 30, 2011        

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mzl.xvbljjei.320x480-75This week the American Medical Association (AMA) announced the launch of its first smartphone app called CPT E/M QuickRef, a reference guide that helps physicians determine the appropriate CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) code to use for billing. The AMA also launched a medical app contest for physicians and medical students.

“Compatible with Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad, the app features both decision-tree logic and quick search options, allowing physicians to digitally track CPT codes and email them anywhere,” according to the AMA’s iPhone app description. “Physicians can also save their most frequently used codes by location or type of service to allow for even more ease of use.”

The app carries a caveat: “This app provides suggested codes,” the AMA wrote. “Final code selection remains the full responsibility of the individual user.”

The AMA 2011 App Challenge is looking for ideas for apps from physicians, medical students and residents, which the AMA will then “bring to life.” Winners get $2,500 (cash and prizes) and a ticket to New Orleans to watch the “unveiling” of their app at the AMA’s annual gathering later this year.

“The AMA’s new CPT quick reference app helps physicians determine the appropriate E&M code for billing quickly, easily and accurately,” AMA Board Secretary Steven J. Stack, M.D. stated in the association’s press release. “To find the next great medical app idea we are going right to the source by inviting physicians, residents and medical students to participate in the first-ever AMA App Challenge.”

Assuming Stack was referring to the CPT quick reference app as the most recent “great medical app idea,” our research shows at least 46 other developers beat the AMA to the punch. MobiHealthNews’ last survey of the health-related apps available for the major smartphone platforms found that 46 apps were available to download from Apple’s AppStore as of September 2010. This group of apps grew 170 percent over the six months leading up to our survey — in February 2010 there were only 17 apps that helped healthcare providers look up billing codes. (More in our apps report: The Fastest Growing and Most Successful Health & Medical Apps.)

For more on the AMA’s app and app challenge, see the press release below: Keep reading>>