Report: Currently 500 mobile health projects worldwide

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 5, 2012        

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Jon Fredrik Baksaas

Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas

According to a new study commissioned by Norway-based telecom company Telenor and produced by The Boston Consulting Group, there are currently about 500 mobile health projects underway across the globe. Based on their study of mobile health in 12 different countries, including the US, Norway, Thailand, and India, the companies released a number of metrics across a range of mobile health opportunities. Here are a few we found worthwhile:

Mobile health can help reduce costs of elderly care by 25 percent.
Mobile health can reduce maternal and perinatal mortality by 30 percent.
Mobile health enables twice as many rural patients to be reached per physician.
Mobile health can improve Tuberculosis treatment compliance by between 30 percent and 70 percent.
About 30 percent of smartphone users are likely to use “wellness apps” by 2015.
Mobile health can reduce costs related to data collection by about 24 percent.

“Mobile health is already a reality, with hundreds of projects launched worldwide. However, many projects are struggling with achieving scale. Both regulatory actions and ecosystem collaboration is required to create the necessary scale. We need to commit to common standards, increase access to mobile services and document the impact of mobile health. Finally, Governments can use their procurement processes to drive further innovation in mobile health services,” says Jon Fredrik Baksaas, President and CEO, Telenor Group.

More metrics in the press release below: Keep reading>>

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Partners HealthCare expands connected fitness program at Boston schools

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 5, 2012        

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Fitlinxx Actiped

Fitlinxx Actiped clip-on activity monitors

Boston-based Partners HealthCare and its Center for Connected Health recently announced plans to expand its connected fitness program, Partners Step It Up, to six Boston public schools this years. The healthcare system made the announcement at a visit to one of the schools with US HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The expansion builds on a pilot launch of the program at Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary School in Dorchester.

Here’s how the program works: Partners provides wireless pedometers, which they call “sneaker chips” to 350 third and fourth grade students at the six schools. These sneaker chips clip onto to the kids’ shoes and they track the number of steps taken and number of minutes of activity for each student. (Partners stressed in its announcement that the chips do not track the location of the student.) When students walk near a “designated computer hub” located somewhere in the school, the data is wireless uploaded. (Sort of like FitBit’s model for data upload.)

The challenge facing the students? A virtual race to walk the equivalent number of steps it takes to get from Boston to Orlando, Florida. (This sort of challenge is reminiscent of the type Partners’ spinout Healthrageous offers its employer customers via its wellness platform.) The students begin the virtual foot race in April. They have ten weeks to complete the challenge. Teachers will receive a report showing their team’s cumulative step count and individual students will also receive reports on their own contributions.

“We know that the health and well-being of our kids is a growing concern,” Sebelius stated in the announcement release. “Today there are more reasons to stay inside on the couch and fast unhealthy meals can be easier to get than nutritious ones, and the result is that almost one in every three children in our nation is overweight or obese. The Partners Step It Up initiative is a great example of how a private partner like Partners HealthCare and a public partner like the Boston Public Schools can come together to help kids get and stay healthy.”

In Boston schools the obesity rate is actually higher than the national average: The 2011 Health of Boston report by Boston Public Health Commission found that more than 43% of Boston’s school children were overweight or obese, according to the release.

More details and prepared quotes in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Fidelity launches health benefits app for 1.2M customers

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 5, 2012        

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Fidelity Health Insurance AppThis week Fidelity Investments launched a mobile app that helps its 1.2 million welfare and health plan members access their health benefits from their mobile devices. The app, called Fidelity Health & Insurance, is now available for iPhone and Android users as a native app and also accessible via any mobile phone’s browser.

The new Fidelity Health & Insurance app includes coverage information, provider data, copayments and contact numbers, all of which the company characterizes as standard fare. The app also includes benefits summaries, in and out of network coverage, dental and vision content, and a pharmacy locator tool that is powered by MapQuest. Fidelity also pitches the app at parents of college kids: “For participants with dependents who may need remote access to health benefit content, such as a child away at college, the app includes a sharing option to send the information in an email,” the company wrote in its release.

“We understand that today’s hectic lifestyles require mobility tools to help us juggle busy schedules and simplify the volume of information we need to manage our daily lives,” said Julia McCarthy, executive vice president, Fidelity Investments. “In response, Fidelity is continually developing new and engaging ways for people to leverage their mobile devices for easier access to their workplace benefits wherever they are.”

Fidelity is just the latest payor to provide mobile health apps to its members. The trend has been picking up momentum in the past year. Health plan applications typically include features that enable users to look up claims history, research drug prices, display an electronic medical ID card, view health savings account info, and access a GPS-integrated physician network directory.

Few have taken it to the level health plans like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida has — its app allows users to buy coverage straight from the application.

At the beginning of this year, David Passavant, the senior director of consumer innovation at UPMC Health Plan, which is owned by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, predicted that mobile health apps will quickly become an important tool for unraveling the “incredibly complex and confusing” world of health insurance for consumers.

More on Fidelity’s app in the press release below: Keep reading>>

NantWorks acquires Boston Life Labs

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 5, 2012        

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howItWorksFullOfferLast week NantWorks, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s growing collection of health startups, acquired wireless health remote monitoring company Boston Life Labs for an undisclosed sum. Boston Life Labs, which will now be called NantCare, joines NantWork’s NantHealth division. Boston Life Labs developed a number of devices that aimed to bring connectivity to existing medical devices, similar to Qualcomm’s 2net hub.

NantWorks’ other acquisitions over the years include Vitality, maker of the medication adherence device GlowCap, as well as iVisit, which has developed the LookTel app for the visually impaired, among others. (The LookTel app officially launched just a few weeks ago.) The company is also working with Toumaz to bring that company’s peel-and-stick vital sign monitoring sensors to the US market.

Boston Life Labs offered four key products, HBox, HPad, HPod, and HealthTunes. HBox is a home health hub that connects to up to 12 home health devices at one time via Bluetooth, WiFi, cellular (GPRS), and NFC (near field communications). After “one step pairing” between the devices, the data sent to the hub is then viewable on Boston Life Lab’s secure web portal by patients, care givers, or care providers. HPad is a white labeled tablet device that can also receive data from the hub or pull it down from the cloud. The device also includes medication adherence applications, ADL followup, patient education resources and more. HPod is a device that brings Bluetooth connectivity to a wide range of off-the-shelf medical devices, including blood glucose meters and PT INR devices for those on anticoagulants. The HPod plugs into the devices, including some offered by Bayer, Alere, Roche, Abbott, Lifescan and more, and then sends the data via Bluetooth to the HBox. Finally, HealthTunes is BLL’s chronic disease management platform available to patients and provider users of its HPad device.

More details on the acquisition in the press release below: Keep reading>>

How medicine will be Topol’d

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 1, 2012        

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Creative Destruction MedicineAt the very beginning of Dr. Eric Topol’s book, The Creative Destructive of Medicine, and throughout its chapters, he invokes the name of Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, who is credited with popularizing the term “creative destruction.” Topol’s book argues that medicine will inevitably be “Schumpetered”, and as he told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview, he believes this creative destruction will be rather swift. What’s more, he believes it needs to be.

Dr. Topol contends that the creative destruction of medicine requires four key ingredients: wireless sensors, genomics, imaging, and HIT. He organized his book largely around these four. While he’s clearly passionate about the first three, Topol admits that healthcare information technology, while “not unimportant” is still boring and much more like the “operating system” that the “tools” of wireless sensors, genomics and imaging will run on.

“The super convergence [of all four] will lead to the high definition digitization of man for the first time,” Topol told MobiHealthNews. “It will be much more participatory since it will include things like the individual’s DNA and the individual’s health records on that individual’s phone. This is information about them, not about a population. So, they will have to be engaged.”

The problem is consumers don’t know about wireless sensors, Topol says. Neither do doctors. That’s why Topol wrote his book.

“I think this is all inevitable,” he said. “The only question is: Is this a slower paced story than the one I am predicting? I don’t think so. We are on track to read every vital sign and mood now.”

Topol believes that we are currently in the “wearable sensor” phase of wireless health. “The next phase, though, will be nanosensors embedded in the blood to detect specific things,” he said. One application for this technology is for preventing diabetes, according to Topol. “It takes about five years to develop diabetes,” he said. “If it takes five years, why can’t we detect that process? Currently we have medicines but we don’t know when the immune system is under attack. It’s not a constant attack, it’s episodic, but a nanosensor could detect that.” Topol believes that wearable and nanosensors will lead to constant surveillance of vital signs and specific targets in the bloodstream. These could help predict heart attacks a week or two out.

Keep reading>>

SMS prompts help patients send glucose readings to MDs

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 1, 2012        

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Text MessagingResearchers from Denver Health and Hospital Authority, a medical school, found that patients with diabetes who received text message reminders and prompts throughout the week reported increased accountability, social support, and awareness of health information. The Researchers found that 79 percent of the participants responded to more than 50 percent of the prompts, according to the study’s results which were recently published in the American Journal of Managed Care. About 66 percent provided glucose readings when their care provided prompted them by text message, compared to the 12 percent that provided readings at two previous clinic visits.

The researchers from the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, which is the the University of Colorado’s Denver School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health, sent SMS prompts to the 47 participating patients in the study during a three month period. Eight of the patients received their text messages in Spanish as part of a focus group. Researchers sent text message requests for blood sugar readings three times per week. They also sent three appointment reminders over the course of the weeks leading up to each medical appointment. About 41 percent of those participating were uninsured, while 56 percent were on either Medicaid or Medicare.

MobiHealthNews first wrote about this study last April when Microsoft published a blog post about its text message diabetes management study with Denver Health and EMC. At the time Microsoft said the Denver Health case managers tracked the patients’ glucose control between visits in an attempt to improve condition management, reduce admission rates and reduce costs.

Here’s how Microsoft’s GM for US Public Sector HHS Jack Hersey described the study at the time: Keep reading>>