UnitedHealthcare offers employers 24/7 nurse app

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 29, 2012        

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UnitedHealthcare Health4Me iPhone appThis week health insurance company UnitedHealthcare launched a new mobile health app, Health4Me, that gives its employer plan customers access to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The app is currently only available for Apple iPhone or iPad users, but United plans to launch an Android version of the app this spring.

Health4Me is a free app that also helps users to locate nearby physicians, hospitals, and other medical facilities that are in their network. The app also gives users access to their personal health benefits information. The app also aims to streamline customer service questions for users by providing an “Easy Connect” feature that lets users select the type of question they have about their claims or benefits to receive a call back from a United customer service rep.

“Health4Me makes navigating health care easier for our 26 million plan participants and puts key information, including health and wellness tools, right in the palms of their hands,” Jeff Alter, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual, stated in a press release. “Today’s technology allows consumers to do more with their mobile devices, and Health4Me enables them to manage their health and interact with UnitedHealthcare in a way that is convenient for them.”

GreatCall’s Jitterbug mobile phone service for seniors launched a similar service for its users in early 2010, called Live Nurse. Jitterbug signed up 12,000 users in the first few months since the service launched during which is averaged about 4,000 calls per month. The majority of early adopters often called to better determine whether they should visit their physician or an emergency room. About half of those who called in with plans to visit their doc or ER decided the Live Nurse call answered their question and that they no longer planned an immediate visit. (This is similar to the thinking behind the UK government’s recent call for general practitioners to prescribe mobile health apps.)

For more on UnitedHealthcare’s Health4Me launch, read the full press release below: Keep reading>>

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CMS taps Text4Baby to up Medicaid enrollment

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 29, 2012        

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Text4babyPhoneThis week the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare announced plans to leverage the Text4Baby SMS-based initiative to increase enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Text4Baby currently counts about 300,000 users of its free health tips via text messages for pregnant women about pregnancy and infant care. The Text4Baby program first launched two years ago and is spearheaded by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and powered by Voxiva’s mobile health platform.

Now, Text4Baby participants will receive texts and information about pregnancy and infant care, along with texts about no-cost health insurance coverage available via Medicaid and CHIP. Specifically, the new texts will include an InsureKidsNow phone number and website for users to visit to sign up for coverage. About 184,000 current Text4baby users are expected to receive the new messages.

“Text-messaging is a part of the culture in terms of how we communicate,” stated US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin in a press release. “Using text messaging to help conduct outreach to families about health coverage for their children is just one more way that the appropriate use of technology is enhancing how we make sure pregnant women and children get the health care they need.”

Text4Baby’s launch was remarkable for a number of reasons, including its impressive list of original launch collaborators: National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB), Voxiva, MTV Networks, CTIA, Grey Healthcare Group (a WPP company), Johnson & Johnson, WellPoint, Pfizer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, HHS, Department of Defense Military Health System, BabyCenter, Danya International, Syniverse Technologies, Keynote Systems and The George Washington University. Fifteen U.S. carriers have agreed to carry the program’s text messages at no cost for two full years.

The program now includes many more partners and has 18 mobile operators signed up as partners, according to the most recent announcement.

For more on the update to Text4Baby, read the full press release below: Keep reading>>

Epocrates pulls back on EHR to focus on mobile

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 29, 2012        

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epocrates ehrIn its quarterly investor call yesterday, Epocrates interim president and CEO Peter Brandt announced that the company has decided to back away from its EHR initiative to re-focus on its core products, namely pharma-supported, mobile clinical apps that physicians use at the point of care. Epocrates’ physician user base stands at 340,000 users, according to the company. Brandt said the company “fully intends” to help its existing EHR customers transition to another EHR platform if they decide to move to another platform, but Epocrates is also looking to find a strategic partner who will assume responsibility for the offering or an “outright sale of the asset”. In any case, Brandt said that Epocrates’ longterm investment in EHR will “wane”.

Epocrates’ EHR offering is already certified for meaningful use and it also recently added an iPad version. MobiHealthNews interviewed the company about the iPad version of its EHR just last week at the HIMSS event in Las Vegas.

Brandt said the company began to re-evaluate the strengths of its offerings three months ago when he first assumed his position as interim CEO.

“Now a question we have asked, as have many of you, is how does our electronic health record (EHR) initiative fit into that vision and build on our strengths?” Brandt asked during the investor call yesterday. Epocrates is “proud” of its EHR offering and believes it “compares favorably” to other offerings in the market since it “reflects physician and office workflow and the mobile nature of physicians better than many competitive products.”

“With that said, we are already late to the game in an already crowded marketplace,” Brandt admitted. “Importantly, we are acutely aware of the burgeoning costs of developing the Epocrates EHR and the drag it has had on our P&L. Additionally, our EHR efforts have hindered our ability to aggressively pursue opportunities more closely aligned with our core capabilities as described a moment ago. As a result, we are exploring strategic alternatives for our EHR offering.”

Brandt contends that Epocrates’ position as a leader in mobile clinical tools for physicians is still strong:

“Physician adoption of mobile technology has accelerated over the past few years with a majority using a device in their practice,” Brandt said during his remarks on the call. “This will only continue to grow with the increased availability of resources for those devices. For the medical category of apps in the Apple AppStore there were upwards of 1,500 apps added in 2011 intended for physician use. Even with this app explosion, Epocrates remains by far and away the most frequently used app by physicians at the point of care. With physicians clearly going mobile, pharma companies have shifted their marketing mix as well, increasing mobile activity nearly three-fold since 2009. This is where Epocrates has an unparalleled position, providing a trusted channel for pharma to deliver information and resources to physicians at the point of care when and where prescribing decisions are being made.”

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

HIMSS put mobile in the basement

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 28, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWhen it comes to IT, healthcare providers are currently focused on achieving meaningful use. No surprise there. That was one of the key findings of the 23rd Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey, which was published at the association’s massive health IT tradeshow in Las Vegas last week.

Last year’s survey also found that fewer than 1 percent of those providers surveyed planned to make providing patient-centric solutions like web-based self services, personal health records and mobile devices a top IT priority. This year’s survey found that, despite the consistent buzz around smartphone and tablet adoption among physicians, only 18 percent of respondents to the HIMSS survey said that supporting mobile devices was a top infrastructure priority.

Considering that tepid response, it seems fitting that HIMSS corralled the mobile health companies, startups, and pavilions into an echoing, low-cielinged exhibition space in the basement of the main event.

Upstairs those HIT vendors offering up technology platforms that aim to help providers achieve meaningful use, had plenty of iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices on display. Stripped down and streamlined versions of their HIS platforms, often squeezed into a handheld form factor, were a part of almost all of the big vendor demos. One long time hold out, athena health, also finally showed off its initial mobile plans at the event.

Providing physicians more efficient access to HIS systems is certainly a key opportunity for mobile in healthcare. Pulling information out of the healthcare system so that providers can view and analyze it on tablets right at their fingertips, however, is just one side of the coin.

In the basement of the Venetian’s Sands Expo Center were many of those mobile health startups that have created apps, services, and wireless health devices that — in the words of the West Wireless Health Institute’s Dr. Eric Topol — help to “digitize humans”. This is the other side of the coin. Some of these companies are developing easy to use, engaging consumer health tools that collect and transmit personal health data that was too cumbersome to collect in the past.

The opportunity for HIMSS13 and the opportunity at the mHealth Summit this December, which HIMSS recently acquired from the FNIH, is to bring together those hospital information system vendors along with those working in mobile health. For the past three years the FNIH’s mHealth Summit has been the destination mobile health event for the emerging sector.

HIMSS can help bridge the gap between HIS and mHealth. It is one of just a few organizations that is in a position to catalyze that integration. This is the association’s next opportunity, but first, it has to invite mobile out of the basement.

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of HIMSS12 is brought to you by IQMax.

Survey: Few hear about remote health monitors from providers

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 28, 2012        

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Nike+ Fuel BandAccording to a findings of a small consumer survey conducted by HIMSS and sponsored by Qualcomm Life, a majority of consumers are familiar with the term remote monitoring device, only a quarter of those surveyed reported using one before, and only 16 percent had heard about such devices from their healthcare provider. The survey’s results were fairly consistent with past surveys — few of the consumers surveyed had ever used mobile apps to manage their health or remotely monitor a health condition.

The consumer side of the survey included telephone surveys with 125 American adults in January 2012. About 62 percent of those surveyed said they were familiar with the term remote monitoring device, often (44 percent) because a friend of family member used or had used such a device.  About 22 percent said they had used such a device themselves in the past. Interestingly, only 16 percent of respondents said that healthcare providers had told them about such devices. Only 8 percent of those surveyed said they currently used such devices as part of a fitness program — and that group had a median age of 28 years old. About 5 percent said they were using such a device provided by a physicians.

Those surveyed seemed to be more likely to use remote monitoring devices if their physicians provided them. Also, about 25 percent of those surveyed said they would “absolutely” use this kind of device in the future. Those under 35 years old were much more likely to feel this way than between 35 and 60 or 60 and older.

Perhaps not surprisingly, about 50 percent of those surveyed reported concerns about the privacy and security of their personal health data. About 25 percent worried they would not be able to remember to track their data. Connectivity issues were among the least of the concerns of those surveyed.

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of HIMSS12 is brought to you by IQMax.

For more on the report, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

Joslin Diabetes Center launches “Joslin Everywhere” mobile health initiative

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 28, 2012        

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Joslin Diabetes Center

Joslin Diabetes Center

Boston-based Joslin Diabetes Center is launching a mobile diabetes management initiative called “Joslin Everywhere” that connects physicians and patients via an online platform and equips patients with connected blood glucose meters to track glucose readings. According to a report in the Boston Globe, Joslin is mulling a partnership with American Well to use the company’s virtual care platform. Joslin aims to launch an early version of the program with a group of doctors in the Beth Israel Deaconess Physician Organization in about six months time.

The Center’s VP of planning and advocacy Catherine Carver is leading the hospital’s initiative, which launched thanks to a $900,000 donation from a patient: “We need to move into remote care,” she said. “To be able to reach this tidal wave of people with diabetes coming at us, we need to use technology,” Carver told the Globe.

The Joslin program offers patients with type 2 diabetes support groups, remote weight management programs, and mobile tools that transmit glucose readings directly to their physicians. Participating physicians will receive access to new research, CME courses, and tips for how to use their EHRs to detect problems in their patient population.

The Globe report also mentioned a pilot program underway at Massachusetts General Hospital under the direction of Dr. Nancy Wei. The pilot outfits diabetes patients with glucometers that automatically send patients’ blood sugar readings by satellite to an online portal that Wei checks in on each morning. When she notices problems, Wei typically calls or sends the patient a message. Most issues are resolved over the phone.

More over the Boston Globe here (sub. req.).