mHealth companies: The most innovative in health care?

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 24, 2011        

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GE Healthcare Vscan ultra-mobile ultrasound deviceMobile health companies dominated Fast Company’s list of the 10 Most Innovative Companies in Health Care for 2011. At least five of the top 10 companies have strong mobile components.

Epocrates, which went public recently, topped the magazine’s list of most innovative companies “for creating software that gives doctors and nurses instant information on drug-to-drug interactions, treatment recommendations, and more on their mobile devices or laptops.” The magazine also noted Epocrates’ EHR plans.

Voxiva, which powers the much publicized Text4Baby service, landed as the third most innovative company on the magazine’s list “for developing mobile apps that coach users through everything from smoking cessation to diabetes management.”

GE Healthcare took the seventh spot on the list “for promising to revolutionize diagnosis with the Vscan, a mobile, pocket-size ultrasound machine the size of an iPod, connected to short wand.” Certainly mobile but not yet wireless connected. While the wireless connectivity isn’t embedded in the Vscan yet, I’m willing to place my bet against anyone’s who thinks it will remain unconnected for too much longer.

PharmaSecure took the eighth spot “for coming up with cost-effective protection against counterfeit drugs, which are especially prevalent in developing nations.” The company’s use of text messages to verify drug authenticity makes it a true mobile health startup. Sproxil is a close competitor to PharmaSecure.

NeuroVigil ranked ninth according to Fast Company as one of the top 10 most innovative companies in healthcare. The magazine recognized the startup “for building a database of brainwave activity to help researchers recognize disease patterns in people affected by neural or nervous system maladies.” As we have previously reported, NeuroVigil analyzes its users’ EEGs and aims to detect early signs of cognitive disorders like Parkinson’s.

All in all a great list from Fast Company — we agree with the magazine’s astute editors that mobile health companies should dominate a list of most innovative companies in healthcare today. Read the entire list here.

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Alzheimer’s Association offers on demand tracking

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 23, 2011        

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gps-bgThe Alzheimer’s Association announced a number of changes to its Comfort Zone tracking service at the CTIA Wireless 2011 event in Orlando, Florida. The newest release of the product, called Comfort Zone Check-In helps people with Alzheimer’s to stay safe and independent while giving caregivers the tools they need to remotely monitor those in their care. Omnilink Systems powers the offering.

The upgrades include the ability for caregivers to locate people with Alzheimer’s as long as they have a Sprint phone that has an active service plan.The new service upgrades also allow users to schedule once daily location requests that send notifications via text message or email. Caregivers can also monitor several different users’ devices using a single account.

Perhaps the most dramatic and important change is the new pricing option: Users can opt for a low priced, on-demand only rate plan to track individuals only when a caregiver chooses instead of on a continuous schedule.

“Omnilink’s partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association for Comfort Zone first demonstrated how we can apply our location-based services expertise to help consumers monitor the people and things that matter most in their lives,” Aaron Charlesworth, Vice President of Marketing and Product, Omnilink stated in the press release. “It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to extend this unique product to provide a greater continuum of services as a person’s disease progresses and their safety needs change.”

Backgrounder: Here’s a round-up of Alzheimer’s-related mobile health services we put together in September 2009: Article.

For more on Comfort Zone, read the Omnilink press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

Sermo finally announces plans for mobile

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 23, 2011        

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SermoAfter “years of pressure” from its physician members, Sermo, an online physician community has finally announced plans to create a mobile app. Sermo inked a deal with Janssen Global Services to develop mobile and web services that will specifically enable physicians to more easily refer patients for care. Sermo says it has 120,000 physicians as members, which makes for one in five of all US physicians.

Sermo said one of the drivers for moving to mobile is that more than 50 percent of its members are now smartphone users. While the company did not offer a specific percentage, it sounds like the figure is well below the oft quoted physician smartphone adoption figure from Manhattan Research, which believes that smartphone adoption is currently north of 72 percent of US physicians.

The companies’ press release stated that both physicians and patients complain that care today is compromised by lack of connectivity and follow-up:

“Our research shows there is tremendous frustration among doctors and patients about the lack of solutions to coordinate care, and new technologies appear to be compounding, rather than solving, the problem,” Daniel Palestrant MD, CEO and Chairman of Sermo stated in a press release. “EMR and EHR have become so contentious among physicians, because they create barriers and introduce complexity into the patient relationship, rather than remove them.” Dr. Palestrant continues, “For years we have been under tremendous pressure from our community to offer a mobile application, but we have resisted because we wanted to have a truly transformative impact on the point of care. Our community has validated that our approach achieves that goal.”

Based on a conversation MobiHealthNews had with Sermo two years ago, it might be a safe bet that Sermo’s mobile offerings will land on the iPhone first:

“We don’t have any near-term strategies on mobile,” Sharp told MobiHealthNews in April 2009. “But I think that there are some really good mobile technologies already out there for physicians, like applications for information for providing patient care. That’s not something we’re looking to pursue, because I don’t see any reason to reinvent a very, very good wheel,” Sharp said. “I am sure at some point we will actually get on the iPhone,” Sharp relented. “I’m a little biased — I’m an iPhone junkie. At the office, we are an all-Mac company, so I do anticipate that, at some point, one of our developers will get the itch to write an iPhone app. So we’ll probably have more on that down the road.”

And here we are.

It’s also worth noting that pressure from the recent launch of Doximity, which was founded by former Epocrates’ founders and pulled in $10.8 million in initial funding, may have had something to do with the sudden “itch” to launch a mobile offering.

More in Sermo’s press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

Mobile tech only goes so far in Japan relief efforts

By: Neil Versel | Mar 23, 2011        

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PAMF's Dr. Enoch Choi

Technology has its limits.

At least one American aid team has dispatched to Japan, iPhones and iPads with mobile EMR software and medical reference tools in hand. But they haven’t been able to unleash the power of their handheld computers to help the estimated 261,000 people still living in shelters as of Wednesday—12 days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

“They’re desperate for basic food, water, fuel,” says Dr. Enoch Choi, an urgent care physician at Palo Alto (Calif.) Medical Foundation and medical director of Jordan International Aid, a California-based Christian aid organization. “They’re out of medicine.”

There is a particular shortage of potassium iodide pills to counter the effects of radiation from crippled nuclear power plants, Choi says.

Jordan International Aid has sent a team of nine disaster-response veterans, including a physician and a nurse, to help in the coastal city of Ishinomaki, which was all but washed away by the tsunami that followed the 9.0-magnitude quake on March 11. But most couldn’t get transportation from Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture and the largest city in Japan’s Tohugu region, where the disaster is centered.

“The sad thing is, medical volunteers are all jammed up in Sendai,” Choi reports. While he remains in California, he is in regular contact with the aid team in Japan and is preparing for future relief missions once the situation is more under control.

“This time, it’s almost far too early,” says Choi, who notes that the conditions are very different in Japan than they were in Haiti last year. Choi helped put together nine relief missions to Haiti in 2010, where he and other clinicians charted patients with iChart mobile EMR software on iPhone 4s, obtained through a grant from Epocrates.

For the Japan relief efforts, the team has six iPhone 4s and three iPads, plus mobile Internet access via a MiFi hot spot donated by XCom Global.

So far, only a couple of Jordan International Aid representatives have made it to Ishinomaki. (Jesse Mendoza, president of the organization, has posted a series of videos, shot on an iPhone, of his journey to Ishinomaki and his observations there.) Keep reading>>

T-Mobile USA powers caregiver device, remote care service

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 23, 2011        

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GeaCom's Phrazer

If you took stock of T-Mobile USA’s activities in mobile health as of a few days ago — and we did — you’d notice the mobile operator had little to no mHealth partnerships announced or services supported. This week, however, T-Mobile USA announced two partnerships with healthcare companies where the operator is supporting the services’ with connectivity via its data network.

Multi-lingual caregiver device runs on T-Mobile USA’s network

GeaCom’s handheld multi-lingual device Phrazer, which hopes to break down communication barriers between patients and care providers, will run on T-Mobile USA’s network. GeaCom said Phrazer will launch sometime mid-year.

“Medical communication is in a state of failure,” GeaCom COO Chris Butler stated in a company press release. “Phrazer will help eliminate communication barriers, thereby improving efficiency and accuracy and reducing costs. Certainly, having a reliable, widespread wireless network like that of T-Mobile is critical to Phrazer’s success.”

GeaCom’s press release points to a a 2003 study that found an average of 31 interpreter errors occur per encounter with limited English proficient patients. Of those errors, 63 percent result in clinical consequences, according to the company.

Phrazer’s initial target customers include hospitals, clinics, and urgent care centers at the point of admissions, but GeaCom plans to offer the device to emergency rooms, other medical specialties and first response vehicles, too.

BeClose Network’s panic button powered by T-Mobile USA

BeClose offers an aging in place technology service that is backed by “a simple customizable system of unobstrusive, wireless sensors” that help caregivers monitor the daily activities of the resident. BeClose announced this week a deal with T-Mobile USA to power a panic button, which in this case is a two-way voice call initiated with the BeClose 24/7 central station partners, that can alert emergency responders and dispatch them if needed.

The BeClose system can cost as little as $1.50 a day, according to the company’s press release.

Interestingly, BeClose’s system is based on a research and development partnership with Alarm.com, an in-home wireless monitoring system that serves more than 500,000 homes and businesses nationwide.

Albert: iPad has already won healthcare tablet war

By: Neil Versel | Mar 23, 2011        

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AliveCor's iPhone ECGA week ago, MobiHealthNews shot down the myth that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to start regulating mobile medical apps. In reality, the FDA has been regulating mobile software for years.

Way back in 1997, Data Critical, a company bought by GE Healthcare in 2001, earned FDA 510(k) clearance for its RhythmStat XL software that wirelessly transmits ECG data from a heart monitor to a handheld device, in this case a Psion palmtop computer.

The inventor of RhythmStat—and founder of Data Critical—is a familiar name in mobile healthcare, Dr. David E. Albert. Most recently, Albert has been in the news for his newest creation, the iPhone ECG, which generated a lot of buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Albert actually has been thinking about marrying a single-lead ECG to a mobile device since the time of RhythmStat. “The idea is 13-14 years old,” he tells MobiHealthNews. “Quite frankly, we could not implement it because the technology didn’t exist in the 1990s.” Keep reading>>