Fitbit data heading to your EHR soon?

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 16, 2012        

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Allscripts Wand iPad EHR

Allscripts' recently launched Wand EHR iPad app

In late 2010 MobiHealthNews reported on one of the first announced integrations of data from a patient-facing mobile health application and an electronic medical record in use at a healthcare facility: WellDoc integrated its DiabetesManager program with Allscripts’ EHR because that happened to be the system in use at WellDoc’s partner site, George Washington University Medical Center. Such integration is not without costs, of course, and in that case the US Air Force picked up the tab as part of its own research into diabetes management.

This week Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman penned a sprawling, enthusiastic column for Forbes that includes his experiences with smartphone-based, real-time video consults with physicians, the rise of connected personal health devices, and more. Tullman also included a reference to Allscripts recent work toward mobile health and EHR integration front at tail end of his post:

“As doctors begin to get compensated for keeping their patients healthy and not just for treating them when they’re sick, this kind of real-time inexpensive data will be essential. This exact scenario is already happening at UMass Memorial in Worcester, Mass., where diabetes patients upload their glucometers into an app called MyCareTeam that analyzes the data and turns it into actionable insights that are provided to physicians, nurses and diabetes educators through their Allscripts Electronic Health Record. It’s the future of health care, right before your eyes.”

Allscripts announced the collaboration with MyCareTeam last month, but Tullman hints that soon data from the connected fitness device Fitbit will find its way into EMRs. Keep reading>>

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Researchers create firewall for wireless medical devices

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 16, 2012        

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Anand Raghunathan

Purdue University Professor Anand Raghunathan

Researchers working at Purdue University and Princeton University have developed a proof-of-concept device, called MedMon, that blocks hackers from hijacking or interfering with wireless medical devices, like pacemakers, insulin pumps, or brain implants. The researchers were motivated to work on the problem after discovering how easy it was for hackers to break into current wireless medical systems.

The researchers believe that hundreds of thousands of people using wireless insulin pumps or wireless-enabled pacemakers are currently vulnerable. Other devices, not yet in the market, like brain implants that manage epilepsy and “smart prosthetics” could also be hacked. Despite the potential for hacking, the researchers admit the chances that any given would be hacked is low.

The prototype MedMon (medical monitor) device acts as a firewall that prevents hackers from interfering with these devices. The team has demonstrated the system protecting a diabetes system that consists of a wireless-enabled glucose meter and insulin pump that communicate with each other via short range wireless.

“It’s an additional device that you could wear, so you wouldn’t need to change any of the existing implantable devices,” Anand Raghunathan, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering said. “This could be worn as a necklace, or it could be integrated into your cell phone, for example.”

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Embrace, don’t fear SMS for patient convenience

By: Neil Versel | Apr 12, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeThere’s a lot of talk out there about text messaging not being appropriate for many healthcare uses. The usual excuses are that SMS is not secure to healthcare standards, that you can’t really prioritize delivery of text messages and that there is no way to “escalate” texts if earlier messages aren’t acted upon.

Those are all valid points. In particular, anything involving personally identifiable, protected health information (as defined by HIPAA) certainly is not appropriate for an unencrypted text message. But let’s not completely dismiss texting in healthcare settings.

As the Montreal Gazette reported last week, several walk-in clinics in that city have started sparing patients endless waits by sending a text or an automated voice message when it’s almost their turn to see the doctor.

“The patients gain back their freedom. They don’t have to wait for four or five hours in a waiting room full of sick people,” Sara Michaels, the manager of one clinic, told the newspaper. “Instead, they can take a number, and then they can go out and do their groceries or whatever, and the system will alert them to come back,” she added.

“In a sense, it’s like coming in and asking for an appointment later in the day, something we couldn’t do before.”

The problem of long waiting times is particularly acute in the Montreal area, where, according to the Gazette, 300,000 people do not have a regular family physician. Say what you want about the government-run Canadian healthcare system that is plagued with provider shortages, but we have quite an access problem in this country, too. Keep reading>>

PositiveID’s cellular-enabled iGlucose hub now on sale

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 12, 2012        

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iglucosePositiveID announced this week that its cellular-enabled iGlucose mobile health system, which adds cellular connectivity to a handful of commercially available glucose meters, is now available for pre-order. It expects to commercially launch the device sometime during this quarter. The company also claimed to be in the process of rolling out pilot programs with health insurers and home-healthcare providers, but did not provide specifics.

In November 2011 PositiveID announced that the FDA had cleared iGlucose, which only worked with two glucose meters at the time: the LifeScan OneTouch and Nipro Diagnostic True. Now the device also works with Abbott FreeStyle and Bayer Contour devices too, according to the company. The iGlucose device transmits the data to a secure database via a cellular connection supported by AT&T in the US and Rogers in Canada.

“iGlucose eliminates the burden of keeping manual logbooks and empowers individuals with diabetes to be more engaged in the self-management of their condition,” according to a company press release. “iGlucose uses mobile technology to seamlessly communicate blood glucose readings from an individual’s data-capable glucometer to the iglucose diabetes management portal, where, with the user’s consent, glucose readings can be shared automatically with family members, caregivers and healthcare professionals via text message, email or fax.”

Last year Glooko started selling a cord that connects already available glucose meters to a user’s iPhone to transmit data to an app on the device — another way to solve the manual logbook issue. Telcare, the first cellular-enabled and integrated glucose meter, also recently became commercially available after securing an FDA clearance in August 2011. Sanofi and AgaMatrix’s iBGStar iPhone peripheral glucose meter is currently available in Europe but has yet to commercially launch in the US after securing FDA clearance late last year.

More on the imminent iGlucose launch in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Ethiopia: A “learning lab” for national mHealth strategy

By: Neil Versel | Apr 11, 2012        

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mHealth EthiopiaIf Ethiopia is to achieve two of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, mobile technologies will need to play a central role, according to a proposed strategic plan now being circulated in global development spheres. The document is intended to serve as a model for other countries considering national mobile health strategies.

The UN wants developing countries such as Ethiopia to reduce child mortality by two-thirds and deaths of new mothers by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015. Greater availability of community-based health services are key to achieving these goals, and mobile technologies can make community health workers more efficient and effective, suggests a detailed report from Vital Wave Consulting, a Mountain View, Calif.-based firm that specializes in finding ways technology can help accelerate growth in emerging markets.

“If managed successfully, mHealth can be an effective tool for advancing the government’s key health initiatives, particularly community-based interventions that have women at their center,” the report says.

But that will not be an easy task.

Ethiopia has nearly 85 million people, but only 8 percent have mobile phones, according to the report. A state-owned telecommunications company has a monopoly on mobile phone service, and service tends to be spotty. Plus, many rural outposts lack reliable electricity, so it’s difficult to recharge phones. Keep reading>>

VA hopes to scrap copay for home video consults

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 11, 2012        

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American Well iPhone app

Video consultation provider American Well's iPhone app

As expected, the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to do away with copays for in-home telehealth services in an effort to increase access to the services for veterans with health conditions, who are frail or have difficulty traveling to healthcare facilities. According to the VA’s notice in the Federal Register, unless the department received compelling negative comments about the plans, the copayments will be eliminated starting May 7th.

The VA lists a number of benefits that the technology provides: increased access to specialist consultations, improved access to primary and ambulatory care, reduced waiting times, and decreased veteran travel.

“Specifically, the regulation is amended to exempt in-home video telehealth care from having any required copayment,” the VA writes. “This removes a barrier that may have previously discouraged veterans from choosing to use in-home video telehealth as a viable medical care option.”

The VA describes in-home video telehealth care as a service that connects a veteran to a VA health care professional using real-time videoconferencing and (sometimes) other peripheral equipment. The service aims to:

“Replicate aspects of face-to-face assessment and care delivery that do not require the health care professional to make an examination requiring physical contact. However, in-home video telehealth care is provided in a veteran’s home, eliminating the need for the veteran to travel to a clinical setting. Using telehealth capabilities, a VA clinician can assess elements of a patient’s care, such as wound management, psychiatric or psychotherapeutic care, exercise plans, and medication management. The clinician may also monitor patient self-care by reviewing vital signs and evaluating the patient’s appearance on video.”

The VA hopes the move helps “to make the home a preferred place of care, whenever medically appropriate and possible.” The VA also argues that eliminating the copays should be applauded since these services are not used to provide “complex care” and it is significantly less expensive and resource-constraining than in-person, outpatient visits.

Encouraging the adoption of in-home video consultations is an important first step. Perhaps asynchronous telehealth services — that do not replicate in-office visits — are next?