Developing countries offer lessons for the West

By: Neil Versel | Aug 25, 2011        

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Neil VerselIf you read MobiHealthNews, you undoubtedly know about GE Healthcare’s Vscan pocket ultrasound, available for about $8,000, or less than one-tenth the cost of a traditional ultrasound machine. But did you realize that the impetus for shrinking ultrasound technology to handheld size came from GE’s efforts at cracking the Chinese market?

In a shining example of what GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt and Dartmouth business professors Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble called reverse innovation, the American conglomerate developed technology for an emerging market, then brought the idea back to the West. Specifically, GE created a $15,000 device for use in rural clinics in China that plugged into a laptop, then the company refined its idea until the Vscan was born.

This bit of insight comes to us from a “sponsored supplement” in the fall issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, written by Jaspal S. Sandhu, a partner at Bellevue, Wash.-based consulting firm the Gobee Group. (In this case, “sponsored” means that the research was funded by the California HealthCare Foundation.

Mobile health applications from developing countries have the same potential to penetrate developed markets. In developing countries, these applications span a wide range of activities, including data collection, disease surveillance, health promotion, diagnostic support, disaster response and remote patient monitoring,” Sandhu writes.

But it is an unrealized potential, according to Sandhu. “Although myriad mHealth programs are operating in developing-country markets, only a few prominent mHealth innovations in the United States have been imported from abroad. Among the most notable are Vitality GlowCaps and GreatCall Medication Reminder Service, both of which are working to improve medication adherence,” he writes. According to Sandhu, both are outgrowths of technology that originated in South Africa.

The Text4baby messaging service for pregnant women and new mothers was modeled after VidaNet in Mexico and Mobile 4 Good Health Tips in Kenya, though, like GlowCaps and GreatCall Medication Reminder Service, it is not an exact replica of the original. This is intentional.

The goal should not be to copy programs exactly, but rather to adapt global innovations for the developed-world market,” Sandhu says. “Models need to adapt to the wide differences between the United States and the developing world, not to mention between the United States and other developed nations. Aside from the variations in disease burdens and health systems, many countries have different cultures of mobile phone use. In the developing world, prepaid, or pay-as-you-go, models dominate; users commonly maintain active accounts with multiple providers; people often share phones; and users do not pay to receive phone calls or text messages.”

One reason why more mobile health innovations haven’t been imported stateside is that the market is so fraught with uncertainties. There is a dearth of scientific evidence demonstrating better health outcomes, questions about how the U.S. government will regulate the technology, lack of insurance reimbursement and simply failures in the marketplace, Sandhu explains. Keep reading>>


How smartphones become bionic limbs and organs

By: Neil Versel | Aug 25, 2011        

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Neil VerselLast week, I interviewed Dr. Leslie Saxon, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing, who talked extensively about multidisciplinary collaboration. Well, check out what happens when you get medical professionals and engineers together.

As the Wall Street Journal reports this week, otolaryngologists, audiologists and sound engineers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have teamed with a Hong Kong software firm Ximplar to develop a smartphone app that could replace the humble hearing aid.

The product, called ACEHearing, goes far beyond just amplifying sound, the way hearing aids used to annoy your grandparents. It adjusts sound output to fill in gaps in the sound spectrum based on each user’s unique hearing profile. According to the Journal, Ximplar has clinical trials showing no significant difference between ACEHearing’s smartphone-based hearing test and one given by an audiologist. I can’t find the evidence myself, but I imagine someone is working on getting a study published in an academic journal.

Ximplar and the Chinese University of Hong Kong apparently are not marketing ACEHearing as a full replacement for the hearing aid—more of an alternative for when the user is on the phone to help eliminate the noisy interference telephones often cause in traditional hearing aids. But the Journal says the developers are looking at embedding the ACEHearing firmware in other consumer products such as headsets and MP3 players. Given how often some have their earbuds in, wouldn’t this seem like a great alternative to an unsightly hearing aid, especially for younger hearing-impaired people? Keep reading>>

As expected: Awarepoint lands $27 million

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 24, 2011        

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awarepointReal-time location system (RTLS) provider Awarepoint announced this week a $27 million sixth round of funding. The investment was led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), and also included Top Tier Capital Partners, as well as previous investors Cardinal Partners, Venrock, and Jafco Ventures. Awarepoint plans to use the financing to drive further adoption of its Aware360 Platform.

Kleiner Perkins has invested in a handful of other mobile health companies in recent years including WorkSmart Labs, Corventis, NeuroVigil, ClearPractice, among others.

According to the company, the platform helps “hospital clients reduce hard operating costs, boost top-line revenues, and increase compliance management and patient satisfaction… [It facilitates] asset management and tracking, rental reduction, temperature monitoring, hand hygiene, emergency, and perioperative departmental workflow and throughput, and enterprise patient tracking and workflow automation.”

“This past quarter saw Awarepoint book more business than all of last year combined and have the highest volume of new client activations in the company’s history,” stated Awarepoint CEO and President Jay Deady in a press release. “This round of funding will allow us to continue the major market success achieved during the first half of the year, increase investment in research and development, as well as adding additional client support resources.”

This round of funding was not completely unexpected: In June, when Deady was appointed as the company’s new CEO, it received a $9 million round of investment from its backers. At the time, Deady predicted that this final round of funding to occur this month.

In the fall of 2009, MobiHealthNews caught up with Awarepoint board member Ed Zander, the former CEO and chairman of Motorola who stepped down early in 2008. Zander discussed his role at the ZigBee-enabled wireless asset tracking company and the broader trends surrounding wireless health at that time.

Read the full press release below. Keep reading>>

Ignite Health buys mobile developer Syndicated Methods

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 23, 2011        

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inventivHealthcare communications agency Ignite Health, a subsidiary of marketing agency inVentiv Health, announced this week the acquisition of mobile developer Syndicated Methods. The deal is part of an emerging focus by the company on mHealth applications.

While the specific financial details of the deal have not yet been released, Ignite’s parent company inVentiv Health, is owned by inVentiv Group Holdings, which raised $50 million from investors late last month, according to a regulatory filing.

“This acquisition allows Ignite Health to immediately absorb the technology, talent and years of mobile development experience that will turbocharge our ability to deliver cutting-edge mobile solutions in the healthcare space,” stated Matt Brown, Ignite Health President, in a press release. Part of the acquisition includes Ignite Health acquiring MobilePipes, an enterprise software framework that “allows developers to quickly create, track and manage mobile software services and application integrations across multiple devices.”

“Smartphone and tablet devices are completely transforming the way people interact with healthcare information and brands,” stated Ignite CIO Fabio Gratton in a press release. “The transformation has been so significant that Ignite Health is now developing strategies and building campaigns through a customer-centered, mobile-first lens.”

Syndicated Methods founder and CEO Michael Smallwood will join Ignite Health as Vice President of Mobile and Technology as part of the deal.

Read the full press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

Global mobile health app market to grow 24 percent

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 23, 2011        

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Proteus Biomedical Raisin Personal MonitorA recent report from Technavio predicts that the global mobile health applications market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 24 percent between 2010 and 2014. The research firm believes that one of the “key factors” that will contribute to this growth is the growth of remote patient monitoring. The firm cautioned that “poor FDA regulations could hinder the growth” in mobile health applications.

The report is listed as being release in mid-August, weeks after the FDA issued its draft document for how it believes medical device regulations apply to mobile medical applications.

In May Technavio released another report that focused on the global remote patient monitoring market, which it predicted will swell to $9.3 billion by 2014. Technavio’s analysis focused on the US, EMEA and APAC and concluded that remote patient monitoring is driving growth in the wider patient monitoring market. The price of these systems is cost prohibitive, however, according to the research firm.

For more on Technavio’s latest mobile health report, read on here.

First look at Echo Therapeutics noninvasive glucometer

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 22, 2011        

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symphonyEcho Therapeutics, creator of a non-invasive, wireless, transdermal continuous glucose monitoring (tCGM) system called Symphony and a transdermal drug delivery system called Prelude SkinPrep, recently debuted a demonstration video on its company website, reports MedGadget. The new video showcases the use of the Symphony system in a home setting and coincides with an upcoming clinical study.

The video displays how the needle-less system works. The skin is permeated with the Prelude SkinPrep, and a biosensor is placed on the permeated site. The Symphony system then wirelessly provides the patient’s glucose level each minute to a remote monitor, which tracks glucose levels and glucose changes and provides visual and audible alarms if the patient’s levels move outside a personalized target range.

“We are excited to feature the demonstration video on our website in order to illustrate the ease of using Symphony,” stated Echo Therapeutics CEO Patrick T. Mooney in a press release. “We believe that Symphony will be an important and differentiated candidate for glucose monitoring that has the potential to change the paradigm of invasive, episodic glucose monitoring.”

You can read the MedGadget article here.