El Camino Hospital offers family medical officer app

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 14, 2011        

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FMOThe El Camino Hospital in California launched its first mobile application, called Family Medical Officer (FMO), this week. The FMO app, which is free for Android and iOS devices, is a consumer-facing app intended for a household’s family medical officer, or primary healthcare decision maker.

The FMO app’s features include wait times for El Camino Hospital’s emergency rooms at its Mountain View, CA and Los Gatos, CA locations, a “find a doctor” feature where users can look up an El Camino physician by name, specialty or location, a personal health record called “My Family & Me,” drug database and other hospital resources.

According to a press release, most FMOs care for and make healthcare decisions for two or more people in their family, and about half of them care for an older adult in addition to their own children. Approximately 80 percent of women are the healthcare decision makers for their families, according to the hospital. Women are also more likely to be the caregivers when a family member becomes ill.

“In keeping with El Camino Hospital’s mission of delivering exceptional care, we are excited to roll out the FMO mobile app, an important tool that will provide FMOs with accurate medical information anywhere, anytime, to help them best manage the care of their loved ones,” stated Tomi Ryba, president and CEO of El Camino Hospital in a press release.

Read the press release below.

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Researchers developing portable HIV tracker

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 14, 2011        

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ChipCare CEO Rakesh Nayyar

A team of Canadian researchers have invented a portable device for analyzing the blood of HIV patients that could greatly increase the speed and ease of HIV tracking in remote or developing areas, according to a report by the The Vancouver Sun. The device, a cell analyzer, includes a chip that provides blood test results within minutes and could allow healthcare workers to easily administer tests outside of hospitals, forgoing the need for specialists.

The blood of HIV patients must be routinely tested to accurately track the progression of the virus. The research team began developing the device in 2007 with an eye on improving cancer diagnostics. According to the report in the Sun, the device uses a process similar to glucose meters, which make use of diagnostic strips.

The team expects the device to cost about $5,000 to $10,000, while each test strip would cost a few dollars. In comparison, machines in hospitals which perform flow cytometry for disease markers can vary from $35,00 to $100,000 dollars in price. They are also restrictive in size and far from portable.

While the current version of the blood analyzer measures about the size of a loaf of bread and stores test information on the device only, the team is developing a new prototype that is slightly bigger than a smartphone, includes a GPS and camera, fits in one hand and can send test results wirelessly to a medical database. The team plans to have its prototype finished by March for deployment of 100 units to Malawi and Thailand for field use by mid-2012, pending an additional $3 million in funding. Successful trials in Thailand and Malawi could lead to its submission for clearance in North America, where it could be used in remote areas.

The researchers have created a company called ChipCare Corp to commercialize the device.

Read the Toronto Sun article here.

Flagstaff rolls out CHF monitoring program

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 14, 2011        

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zephyr bioharnessNorthern Arizona’s Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) announced this week a collaboration with Qualcomm, Verizon, the NIH, and Zephyr Technology on a remote monitoring program for some of its patients with congestive heart failure (CHF). The collaboration, called Care Beyond Walls and Wires, will use technology from each of the companies. The NIH is acting as an adviser.

Flagstaff’s program will equip 50 CHF patients with home monitoring kits. The patients chosen will be those who are recently discharged from FMC after treatment for a cardiac condition and who have a high risk for readmission. The hospital expects many of the project’s participants will be selected from Arizona’s underserved and rural communities or on nearby Native American Reservations.

The program participants cite statistics from the US federal government to cite the problem they are attempting to address: Between 25 and 50 percent of CHF patients are re-hospitalized within three to six months of a hospital discharge. Reasons for rehospitalization include failure to take medications as prescribed, failure to follow a dietary plan, not knowing the early signs of CHF and a lack of planned follow-up with a healthcare provider post-discharge.

Each home monitoring kit includes a Motorola Droid X2 smartphone from Verizon, which will feature an app used to upload their health data to FMC via a secure Internet portal; a blood pressure cuff, oxygen and pulse monitor, and weight scale.

The specifics of some of the companies’ offerings are up for speculation. Qualcomm is donating “wireless devices,” according to a press release (perhaps the recently announced 2net?), and some kits will include an “advanced Zephyr health-monitoring system” (possibly the BioHarness) to measure other vital signs including breathing rate, skin temperature, activity and posture. The NIH is assisting FMC with planning and evaluation for the project. Information will be sent to care providers daily for three to six months during the study.

“This project launches a model of care that transcends traditional medicine, using state-of-the-art technology to care for patients beyond the walls of the hospital,” stated William Bradel, Flagstaff Medical Center president and CEO, in a press release. “Working with these technology companies and national health agencies will extend FMC’s reach into outlying areas where healthcare is most needed.”

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

Family safety apps startup snags $3.5 million

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 14, 2011        

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Life360appsSan Francisco-based Life360, which develops mobile applications focused on family, raised $3.5 million in its first round of funding. Investors included Fontinalis Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, 500 Startups, Kapor Capital, Venture51, Bullpen Capital, Social Leverage and EchoVC Partners.

Life360 formed following Hurricane Katrina, which its founding members said turned “many families… upside down because of a lack of preparation and resources. People stayed uninformed, didn’t have the proper supplies, and lacked an easy and efficient way to connect to their families to confirm that they were safe.” The Life360 team began work on the project while at UC Berkeley and launched its first apps for the Android and iPhone platforms in 2009.

The free apps offer family GPS tracking that enables users to locate family members on a map; safety status alerts that send a safety notification or call for help with the tap of a button; neighborhood safety monitoring that displays safety points and threats in the user’s area. The apps also offer a host of premium features like emergency identification (alert EMS personnel of pre-existing medical conditions), family identity protection (credit reports, alerts, and more), and lost item recovery.

The Life360 website also lists Facebook (fbFund), Founders Fund (FF Angel), LaunchCapital, and Seraph Group as early investors in the startup.

Fortune’s Dan Primack mentioned the investment in a VC roundup this morning.

Top 10 iPhone medical apps for 2011

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 13, 2011        

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skeletal proAs the end of 2011 approaches, online marketplaces are publishing the usual flurry of year-end lists compiled from the best 2011 had to offer. Apple is no exception. Its recently launched its annual “App Store Rewind 2011″ section in iTunes. The lists include Apple’s picks for the year’s best overall games and apps for iOS devices: the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Ten of the apps listed below are for the iPhone (also iPod touch) while others listed were developed specifically for the iPad.

Apple’s picks include both consumer and professional health apps: “Browse our favorite apps from this year in all 21 categories,” Apple wrote in its brief description leading up to the lists of top five apps for each of the App Store’s categories, including its Medical and its Health & Fitness categories.

MobiHealthNews can only speculate on the criteria that Apple used to determine its “favorites” — total downloads cannot be the only factor, since many apps we know to have millions of downloads didn’t make the cut, while other apps with far fewer downloads did.

Apple’s medical app picks include a few that received FDA clearances this year, apps from closely-watched startups that had high profile launches, apps that enjoyed top billing on Apple’s continually updated top app lists, and more. Surprisingly, two apps that made the list were developed by the same medical software company.

No surprise that FDA cleared apps made the list: Arguably, FDA regulation of mobile medical apps was the big issue of 2011. The agency’s clearance practices had been notoriously opaque for companies wishing to get their smartphone-enabled medical peripherals and apps cleared. In response, the FDA offered up a set of draft guidelines this past summer that propose how the agency might regulate certain mobile medical apps.

While the conversation around mobile medical apps grew louder and the discussion itself matured — at least a little bit — adoption appeared to be fairly flat.

In its most recent survey conducted in August, Pew Research found that health app adoption has stagnated: about 11 percent of all adult cell phone users having downloaded an app that helps them manage their health. While that is a slight increase over last year’s number, Pew characterized it as “a statistically insignificant difference.” App adoption, therefore, has been largely stagnant over the past 12 months. Still, MobiHealthNews found in its 2011 apps reports that based on growth trends, the number of apps available has grown and will likely continue to do so: Consumer health apps for the iOS platform will likely number more than 13,000 by the summer of 2012, while 6,000 professional medical apps will likely be available by then.

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Read on to see Apple’s choices in both the Health & Fitness and Medical categories (some app’s iPad and iPhone versions were both chosen as top picks), along with the app’s description, price, and more.

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FDA panel rejects CardioMEMS wireless, implantable heart monitor

By: Neil Versel | Dec 13, 2011        

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cardioMEMSCardioMEMS ran into a regulatory roadblock last week, when an FDA advisory panel recommended that the agency not approve the company’s Champion HF Monitoring System. The device is said to be the first permanently implantable, wireless device for remote monitoring of patients with heart failure.

Though the FDA’s Circulatory Systems Devices Panel voted 9-1 that the implantable monitor was safe, the committee ruled 7-3 that there was no reasonable assurance of the effectiveness of the device and 6-4 that risks outweighed potential benefits. The opinion is nonbinding, but the FDA generally follows the advice of its advisory panels.

“While we are disappointed with today’s outcome, we look forward to continuing discussions with the FDA to determine the best path forward. We believe this technology is a significant step forward in the management of heart failure patients,” CardioMEMS CEO and founder Dr. Jay Yadav, said in a statement from the company.

Atlanta-based CardioMEMS said that a clinical trial showed a 28 percent reduction in hospitalization rates for heart failure within six months of implantation and 37 percent lower hospitalization rates after 15 months, when compared to patients receiving standard treatment for the condition. The implanted Champion HF sensor measures pressure in the pulmonary artery, and sends readings wirelessly to an external receiver, which then transmits data to a secure CardioMEMS database that physicians can access. Keep reading>>