Medical app revenues to steadily grow 25 percent annually

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 14, 2012        

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Kalorama Information Medical Apps ResearchAccording to a recent report by Kalorama Information, the market for mobile healthcare software apps was worth about $150 million in 2011. Previous studies from the research firm in years past have pegged the market at $41 million in 2009 and $84.1 million in 2010. As we wrote in 2010, the year-over-year growth in professional medical app revenues at that time more than doubled. As the $150 million estimate for 2011 shows, revenues for medical apps has still grown year-over-year but instead of doubling revenues, medical apps for healthcare professionals brought in just under 80 percent more revenues in 2011 than they did in 2010.

Kalorama has previously stated that in 2009 the $41 million market for medical apps made up just about 1.5 percent of the total mobile app market. In its most recent report, Kalorama makes a similar statement. According to a written statement the firm issued about its newest apps report, medical apps still make up just 1 to 2 percent of the overall app market:

“While the overall mobile app market is expected to continue to display strong double-digit growth through 2016, the medical app market will also continue to grow — at a faster rate,” the research firm stated. “Although they make up just 1-2 percent of the entire market for mobile apps, Kalorama finds that healthcare apps will grow 25 percent annually over the next five years, compared to still-impressive 23 percent growth estimated for the standard apps market.”

Judging by the more than 100 percent annual growth rate for medical app revenues between 2009 and 2010 and the almost 80 percent growth between 2010 and 2011, an expected 25 percent annual growth over the next five year certainly indicates a deceleration from the initial boom. Still, that is solid growth for years to come. Kalorama Information’s Publisher Bruce Carlson told MobiHealthNews that every new technology finds an initial spike in year-over-year percentage growth before settling into a more steady growth rate. Carlson characterized Kalorama’s 25 percent year-over-year growth rate for this market as “conservative”, like most of Kalorama’s work. He also said, as expected, that the firm is usually right.

Kalorama also found that the average price of medical apps has not changed in the past three years: According to the research firm it still hovers at around $15, just as they found them to be priced in 2009. MobiHealthNews’ own data on average prices for professional medical apps indicated a different trend: The price of professional medical apps is slowly but steadily dropping. In our research the average medical app intended for use by healthcare professionals cost about $9 in mid-2010 and it dropped to just under $8 in mid-2011.

More details about the report here.

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Smartphone app for AFib detection awaits FDA clearance

By: Neil Versel | Jun 13, 2012        

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AFib Smartphone AppWe are getting closer to the day when a smartphone app can detect atrial fibrillation in patients at high risk of a stroke or heart failure.

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., have submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for 510(k) approval of an Android app that can pick up subtle changes in skin color by scanning blood vessels, thanks to an algorithm developed at the school.

The yet-unnamed app measures heart rate, heart rhythm, respiration rate and, with the help of an external pulse oximeter, blood oxygen saturation, by scanning the patient’s index finger for about a minute in front of the phone’s video camera. A color bar on the screen turns red if the heartbeat is irregular, indicating possible atrial fibrillation.

“AFib is so common, but many people have no symptoms, or subtle symptoms like getting winded. This tool will be very helpful because AFib is so hard and expensive to diagnose,” cardiologist Dr. David D. McManus of UMass Memorial Medical Center tells the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

UMass Memorial clinicians tested the app on about 60 AFib patients, using Motorola Droid phones. Readings on the phone were just as accurate as those taken with traditional electrocardiograms. The WPI researchers published some of their findings last year in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. That article discussed some of the limitations of using a smartphone in place of an ECG, but also listed many of the positives.

“One of the advantages of mobile phone monitoring is that it allows patients to make baseline measurements at any time, building a database of normal cardiac function that could allow for improved detection of disease states,” the WPI team wrote. “Current mobile phone technology extends beyond simply monitoring and measuring with ease for a patient; it could also be used to relay the information to medical professionals. This gives a patient the ability to carry an accurate physiological monitor anywhere, without additional hardware beyond what’s already included in many consumer mobile phones.”

However, McManus is not sure if the app would be sold directly to the public. He tells the Telegram & Gazette that there may be a market it among payer-supported preventive health and wellness programs. “It’s not intended to replace EKGs or doctor visits, but it’s a valuable piece of information,” McManus adds.

The app should be available for Android and Apple’s iPhone in three to six months, depending on FDA review, of course. While WPI engineers are said to be working on an iPad version, the iPad camera has a different kind of light source that it not compatible with the current smartphone software, according to the Worcester newspaper.

Apple touts impact of health apps but Siri learns pop trivia

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 12, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsAt Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference this week in Cupertino, California, CEO Tim Cook noted that the company now had 650,000 apps available for iOS devices, with 225,000 specifically designed for the iPad. To date, some 30 billion apps have been downloaded, Cook said, and Apple has paid developers $5 billion since it launched the AppStore a few years ago.

After running through the top line metrics, Cook shared a video that highlighted just a few apps that had made an impact in people’s lives. Of the four apps that the video spotlighted, three were health-related. One helped visually impaired or blind people better navigate streets and even hike through the woods. Another helped elementary schools kids and university students alike more easily learn human anatomy with rich visuals and animations. A third profiled app helped kids with autism and speech impediments to more easily communicate and develop their communication skills.

“Walking in the forest allows my brain to switch off and start dreaming,” visually impaired iPhone user Per Busch, who lives in Kassel, Germany, said during the video. “I live next to this huge, lovely forest, but I couldn’t walk in this forest because the problem is I couldn’t find my way. When I discovered Ariadne’s GPS app, I could walk independently for hours and hours.”

“I wanted to develop an app that would help blind people explore the world. Many blind people use Apple devices. I didn’t even think about choosing a different platform,”  Giovanni Luca Ciaffoni, the developer of the Ariadne GPS app says during the video. “With my app they can have information about their position, bookmark different points, and tell when they are approaching that point. It’s great, people write me from around the world saying ‘Your app has changed my life’.” (While it wasn’t mentioned at this event, MobiHealthNews has previously covered another app designed for the visually impaired: LookTel, formerly known as SeeScan.)

The video also showed elementary school students in Mumbai, India learn about human anatomy from an iPad app that was projected on a large, white sheet in their classroom.

“What’s amazing for us, is that our apps have been used to teach advanced level anatomy at major universities around the world and the same apps are also being used in an elementary school classroom in India,” John Moore, CEO, of 3D4 Medical said. “We originally started off as a medical stock image company, but when the iPad came out everything changed, because then we were not just [a] medical reference [company] we were also able to do medical learning — all using animations that are beautifully highlighted on the retina display and also with the processing power we could push the boundaries of what could be done with the technology.”

After a brief feature about couch surfing and house rental app AirBnB, the video focused on a mother and daughter who use an app called Toca Boca.

“Mackenzie’s speech is somewhat difficult to understand,” Renena Joy in Halifax, Nova Scotia says. “Her palate doesn’t work the way that it should. In the world of speech pathology, the iPad is a tool that has definitely been embraced. We use Toca Boca to facilitate her describing skills. I think the coolest thing about those apps are that they are so engaging and so fun [that] kids don’t realize they are actually working on particular skills. It has become a real toy for her — a tool for me — but a toy for her.”

The video ends with a few quick shots of users thanking various app developers while holding up their iOS devices. Included in the half dozen or so apps were Mayo Clinic’s recently launched app and the Nike Training Club app.

These health-related apps made up many of those that made cameos on the WWDC stage this week. When the video concluded, Cook remarked: “It is a great reminder of what it is all about and why all of us do what we do. On behalf of Apple, we would like to thank all of you in the developer community for the incredible apps that you have done for us.”

While Cook pointed to these apps as why Apple and its developers do the work they do, the updates and new features that Apple announced for the latest version of its mobile operating system largely ignored health-related apps. The most glaring of these updates were for Siri. Keep reading>>

PwC: US to trail developing countries in mHealth

By: Neil Versel | Jun 12, 2012        

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PricewaterhouseCoopers Chris WasdenThe global market for mobile health products and services is expected to approach $23 billion by 2017, and much of the growth will not happen in the U.S. but rather in less-developed countries, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

That is because emerging markets such as South Africa, India and Brazil are “trailblazers” in mobile health today. “Patients in these markets are much more likely to use mHealth applications or services than those in developed countries. Similarly, more emerging-market doctors offer mHealth services than colleagues in developed countries, and more payers cover these costs,” says the report.

PwC ran surveys of healthcare providers, patients and payers in Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, India, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. The consulting firm also conducted in-depth interviews with 20 senior healthcare executives and industry experts.

“The ability of [developing] countries to leap ahead lies in the paucity of existing healthcare: there is greater demand for change and, just as important, there are fewer entrenched interests to impede the adoption of new approaches,” the report says. Conversely, resistance to change is much greater in the U.S. and Western Europe, where healthcare institutions are more firmly established.

In emerging markets, payers tend to be willing to cover more mobile healthcare services than in developed markets, according to the report. However, Chris Wasden, PwC’s global healthcare innovation leader, notes an interesting paradox in the West. “Payers are willing to pay more than providers are willing to offer,” he tells MobiHealthNews.

According to the study, only 27 percent of physicians surveyed encourage their patients to use mobile technologies to help manage their health, though only 13 percent actively discourage patients from doing so. Still, 42 percent of doctors expressed concern that m-health would make patients too independent. Surprisingly, 53 percent of younger physicians have this worry, suggesting that newly minted doctors might not be as disruptive as conventional wisdom holds. Keep reading>>

Wireless tooth sensor detects levels of harmful bacteria

By: Neil Versel | Jun 12, 2012        

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Photo Credit: Michael McAlpine

Photo Credit: Michael McAlpine

Gold teeth have been around for decades, and some have even adopted the look as a fashion statement. Soon, though, a blinged-out grill might be able to provide early warning for health conditions.

Engineers at Princeton University have developed a tattoo-like dental sensor that can detect bacteria—down to the molecular level—even a single bacterium—that could cause surgical infections and stomach ulcers. The contraption uses nanosensors made from a carbon-based substance called graphene and a tiny antenna coil formed from gold wires to monitor breathing and saliva, then transmit readings wirelessly. A radio transmitter held within a centimeter of the sensor sends a signal that activates the coil and causes the sensor to send back data, according to a report in the journal Nature Communications.

“This is a real-time, wireless response from a sensor that can be directly interfaced with a variety of biomaterials,” principal investigator Michael McAlpine, of Princeton’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, tells the university’s news service.

A base of silk, created by biomedical engineers at Tufts University, makes the device more comfortable, and because silk is water-soluble, the base washes away after application, leaving the sensor and transmitter in place. “When you make biosensors the traditional way, silicon is the substrate,” lead author Manu Mannoor, a Princeton graduate student, explained. “When you think of interfacing that on the body, silicon is very brittle. Silk allows for a dissolvable platform.”

For the study, the Princeton team tested the sensor on a cow’s tooth. The current prototype is not small enough to fit on human teeth, and the researchers are not yet confident it could stand up to brushing or other abrasion. Further studies are planned to test the adhesion between graphene and tooth enamel.

“Ideally, you want something that would be there [on the tooth] for a while,” McAlpine says. “We have a ways to go before we could master that.”

CellScope, smartphone diagnostic startup, raises $1M

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 11, 2012        

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cellscope closeupKhosla Ventures, the investment firm headed up by noted venture capitalist and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, is increasingly making investments in mobile health startups. Khosla Ventures has made three investments in mobile health companies in as many months. In April we noted that Khosla had contributed to Misfit Wearables’ $7.6 million second round of funding and just this morning we reported on Khosla leading the $10.5 million second round of funding for AliveCor.

Khosla Ventures also recently invested $1 million in CellScope, an alum from Rock Health’s first class of startups in 2011. The company is developing smartphone peripheral devices designed for consumers to use for at-home diagnosis.

Think of it as a “modern-day digital first aid kit.”

CellScope’s first offering will be a smartphone-enabled otoscope that will enable physicians to remotely diagnose ear infections in children. Parents will be able to use the peripheral, which attaches to a smartphone camera lens, to send an image of their child’s inner ear that physicians can use to make a diagnosis and then write a prescription if need be. CellScope says ear infections in children make up 30 million doctor visits annually in the US alone. The consumer device would help parents miss less work and potentially cut down on late night emergency room visits, according to the startup.

The startup traces its origins to bioengineering Professor Dan Fletcher’s lab at UC Berkeley, where CellScope founders Erik Douglas and Amy Sheng were developing cellphone-microscopy for remote diagnosis in developing countries. CellScope expects to launch future products focused on throat and skin exams, including non-clinical apps for consumer skincare.

Here’s how Fletcher, who has also advised the Obama Administration on science and technology in the past, described his work on CellScope, according to a MobiHealthNews report in mid-2009:

“A second opportunity for the government to promote mobile health is through sponsoring research and development. This, I’ll use an example from my own lab at Berkeley. The result was a simple attachment to a cell phone [called CellScope] that would allow you to take images of sputum samples or blood samples. We designed this and decided try and build it. It seems to give us reasonable results. This is an example of a blood smear on that phone and this is a sickle cell sample. Being able to do sickle cell screening in the field both abroad as well as in this country in lower resource areas has potential. Technologies in the distant future may enable use of this sort of imaging capability to take some of the back laboratory tests that need to be run and put those in the hands of patients or mobile health workers.”

“Health data, the key ingredient to useful analysis and diagnosis, is starting to explode exponentially – and CellScope is on the cutting edge,” Vinod Khosla said in a written statement. “Erik and his team are creating next-generation technology that will empower patients and help them access the best care in the most efficient manner possible.”

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>