Topol leaves West to focus on Scripps Digital Medicine

By: Neil Versel | Oct 19, 2012        

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Dr. Eric TopolAfter leading the Scripps Translational Science Institute to a $3.75 million Qualcomm Foundation research grant, Dr. Eric Topol has cut ties with the West Health Institute, an organization he co-founded and served as vice chairman of.

Topol confirmed to MobiHealthNews that he left West at the end of September after his three-year term on the board expired. But he also said that the institute’s shift away from exclusive focus on mobile and wireless technology—highlighted by West’s decision in August to drop “wireless” from its name—was a factor.

Speaking to MobiHealthNews Thursday after he keynoted the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) conference in Indian Wells, Calif., Topol said the West Health Institute wasn’t really interested in the specific research project he is spearheading, so he decided to do the work at Scripps.

“I’m still cheering for the West,” Topol said. “But I need to put my energy into the new program called Scripps Digital Medicine.” That is the name of the Scripps Translational Science Institute collaboration with the Qualcomm Foundation, he explained.

The $3.75 million will fund three years worth of clinical trials on wireless biosensor systems, rapid pharmacogenomic diagnostic tests and mobile apps and embedded sensors for tracking and predicting heart attacks, Type 1 diabetes and some types of cancer.

At CHIME, Topol continued to be bullish on mobile health, even as West broadens its scope to support all kinds of ideas that will help lower the cost of healthcare. “There isn’t a condition that mHealth will not help reduce the cost of,” the Scripps cardiologist said. Topol also talked about “this mHealth world we live in” as being part of what he sees as the greatest shake-up in the history of medicine.

On stage, Topol did his familiar demonstration of wireless gadgets, including the GE Vscan pocket ultrasound, the AliveCor iPhone ECG and a premarket Sotera Wireless ViSi monitor that showed several vital signs on his phone. “The smartphone is an incredibly powerful mini-computer, as you know,” he told the audience of hospital CIOs.

Topol then predicted that people soon will be checking their health as often as their email. “If that doesn’t engender cyberchondria, I don’t know what will,” he joked. He also said that health devices may spark a comeback of the humble wristwatch.

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Striiv launches free iPhone app: Smart Pedometer

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 18, 2012        

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Striiv iPhone appRedwood City, California-based startup Striiv, makers of a dedicated portable fitness device of the same name, has launched its first iPhone app, Striiv Smart Pedometer. The free app appears to have much of the same functionality as the company’s $99 dedicated device. Striiv partnered with MyFitnessPal for its calorie counting features and large food database.

Striiv’s dedicated device encourages users to exercise by incentivizing them with virtual trophies and points that can be used to build their own virtual worlds. The app appears to offer the same kinds of virtual rewards and incentives, but unlike the dedicated device’s rewards, the app description does not mention whether exercising can lead to real-world fund raising.

The Striiv device is a standalone pedometer (no mobile phone required) that can hang on a keychain or attach to a belt. Its sensors are able to differentiate between walking, running, climbing stairs, and hiking. Using points earned from activity, users can donate clean water to children in South America or polio vaccines to children in India thanks to Striiv’s partnership with GlobalGiving.

“For many of us, fitness is the first thing that falls off the schedule,” Striiv’s Head of Design Lexy Franklin told MobiHealthNews this past spring. “Our target user is in their 40s. They are busy. They have a family. That’s who we created the Striiv Smart Pedometer for — we call it the first ’smart’ pedometer because it learns from your activity, learns your behavior and motivates you to walk a lot more throughout the day. Striiv senses when you are getting close to a personal goal and gives you additional goals and challenges that are just out of reach to keep you exercising.”

At the time Franklin said that Striiv’s average user was a 47-year-old woman with a BMI around 30. The company’s goal is to help motivate Striiv users to walk just a little bit more each day.

More on the Striiv app here.

Nuance voice-enables Epic Haiku, Canto apps for clinical info input

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 18, 2012        

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epic cantoJust one week after Nuance Communications announced that it had inked a deal with Cerner to add voice input to the electronic health records (EHR) company’s mobile EHR apps, it has announced a similar deal with Epic.

Epic users can now use Nuance voice recognition technology to capture clinical information in Epic’s Haiku app for iPhone and its Canto app for iPad. In the announcement Nuance cites a survey by Vitera Healthcare Solutions that found nine out of ten physicians are interested in mobile EHR apps. Nuance believes that voice-enabling clinical documentation and navigation helps physicians to work more efficiently while they are on the move.

“I can use [Haiku or Canto] to look at my patient lists when I’m not in the hospital and I can look at lab results — I can do a lot of things — but what I couldn’t do with these apps before was to make a note,” Dr. Jeffrey Westcott, medical director, Cardiac Catherization Lab, Swedish Medical Center told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview. “I couldn’t put anything into the system, so these apps were basically read-only.”

Westcott said that only enabling physicians to manually enter notes via these apps is not sustainable since most physicians won’t take the trouble, manual entry on smartphones creates a lot of errors and for those messages that do get entered manually Westcott has found them to be incomplete and truncated because the user experience is so clunky.

“Voice recognition should raise the quality of the note and the willingness of people to make a note,” Westcott said. “It also helps that this is a cloud-based offering so all the processing is taken care of elsewhere. Processing power on mobiles is just not that wonderful and these are big apps.”

Nuance voice recognition technologies are already used by more than 450,000 clinicians globally.

More details in the announcement here.

Notable digital health hires and departures

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 18, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWithout a doubt the number of digital health startups has grown considerably these past few years and many more larger companies have dedicated teams or business units focused on digital health. With that kind of growth comes job opportunities. As it happens, in recent weeks a few digital health hires and departures caught my attention.

Julie Kling, who has served as the mobile executive business lead at Humana for nearly three years, joined Verizon Wireless as a director of product management for mobile health. Kling led mobile health initiatives at Humana and her purview at Verizon Wireless is similarly far-reaching. Kling is responsible for leading product management staff in developing, piloting and launching Verizon Wireless’ mHealth services. She’s also responsible for partnerships with other vendors and ensuring legal (HIPAA) and regulatory (FDA) requirements for Verizon Wireless’ mHealth services are met. A high profile mobile health lead at a major health plan joining a top tier mobile operator to lead health initiatives is a clear sign of the times.

Another notable hire: Paulo Machado, former Innovation Officer at AstraZeneca, who has been a seemingly permanent and ubiquitous fixture on the digital health conference circuit for the past four years as a digital health consultant, has landed at a new startup called United Preference as chief commercialization officer. United Preference was one of the startups that presented at Morgenthaler Venture’s DCtoVC event last week in San Francisco. The organizer of that event, Morgenthaler entrepreneur in resident Missy Krasner, explained United Preference like so: “They offer flexible payment architectures on an easy-to-administer card platform for the delivery of employee and health plan incentives that help drive healthy behavior.” The startup, which went through the Healthbox incubator program in Chicago, already has a Fortune 500 company client and a Blue Cross Blue Shield from the east coast as clients.

One of the demos attracting press coverage from Wired Magazine’s health event this week has been Dr. Alan Greene’s demo of a prototype device from Scanadu. Greene, who has served in many notable roles over the years including as the founding president of The Society for Participatory Medicine, left HealthTap, where he was medical director and physician lead for the past two years, to join the Tricorder company Scanadu as chief medical director.

Mobile operators hiring health plan talent. Longtime consultants settle down into startup life. High profile physicians helping to build the Tricorder. Interesting times for the increasingly competitive digital health job market.

AT&T 4G to power Embedded Wireless mPERS, home monitoring

By: Neil Versel | Oct 18, 2012        

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01Embedded Wireless Labs, a Dallas-based maker of a remote patient monitoring platform and a new mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS), has signed an exclusive deal with AT&T to add 4G LTE connectivity to its products.

AT&T will provide the ultrafast mobile data service for continuous monitoring of the elderly, people with chronic diseases and others recently discharged from hospital care, regardless of whether patients are at home or out and about. “We’re teaming up with Embedded Wireless to make in-home remote patient monitoring simpler and more effective for healthcare organizations to deploy and scale,” Chris Penrose, senior vice president of AT&T Emerging Devices, says in a press release.

Specifically, the Zilant Wellness Platform, already available in a 3G version, is centered around a base station that takes readings from Bluetooth and ZigBee home medical devices and uploads data over the wireless Internet connection to a server that authorized caregivers can access. The new offering, which Embedded Wireless promises to launch at an unspecified time before the end of the year, adds 4G LTE connectivity as well as support for an mPERS pendant.

The pendant passively monitors the wearer’s activity and location and detects falls, calling for help automatically or manually in case of emergency. At home, the mPERS device communicates with the Zilant base station by Wi-Fi, and switches to the 4G LTE network when the wearer goes out.

“With Zilant Wellness Platform technology and solutions built around it, Embedded Wireless aims to enable high-quality and low-cost remote patient monitoring and eldercare services across the US and globally,” Embedded Wireless CEO Dr. Rama Shukla says. “Patients and their loved ones will enjoy peace of mind and a sense of security knowing their activity and biometric data allows quick response to any adverse event.”

AT&T says it can have the systems up and running within a few hours of a patient being discharged from the hospital.

AirStrip scores reported $10M investment from UK’s Wellcome Trust

By: Neil Versel | Oct 18, 2012        

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AirstripRPMAirStrip Technologies, maker of mobile patient monitoring software, has landed a substantial investment from British charitable foundation Wellcome Trust, which supports commercialization of breakthroughs in biomedial research. The San Antonio-based company will use the funding to realize previously announced plans to help physician users extract data from electronic health records.

Per company policy, AirStrip is not disclosing the terms of the deal, but Dow Jones VentureWire pegs the amount at upwards of $10 million.

“We greatly appreciate this show of support from Wellcome Trust, which recognizes both the current impact and future promise of the AirStrip platform, particularly as AirStrip aggressively advances its plans to expand globally,” AirStrip CEO Alan Portela says in a press release.

AirStrip is developing Apple iOS and Android mobile apps to offer users access to live readings from medical devices as well as patient data from EHRs, another step in the rapidly accelerating movement to integrate mobile technology in physician workflow. Portela tells Dow Jones that this will be the first native smartphone or tablet app able to pull in data from another vendor’s EHR.

AirStrip acquired the technology in June from San Diego healthcare system Palomar Health.