Lift Labs raises $1M for tremor-canceling spoon

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 18, 2013        

Tags: | | | | | |  |

Lift Labs LiftwareLift Labs, the Rock Health startup developing smart utensils for people with Parkinson’s or Essential Tremor, has raised $1 million from angel investors and announced its official launch. The startup’s first hardware product, Liftware, a spoon that detects and autocorrects for hand tremors, will be available for preorder from Lift Labs’ website, with plans to ship in December.

Prior to the angel funding, Lift Labs was operating from an $800,000 NIH grant, which brings its total funding to $1.8 million. CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Lift Labs received an investment from Rock Health. This is incorrect.

“It’s a first round of private money after being funded by the grant. The government is now handing off support to private investors,” Lift Labs CEO Anupam Pathak told MobiHealthNews. “A lot of it is going to our manufacturing costs. There’s significant amount of capital required, especially since we’re doing the bulk of our manufacturing here. [The funding is] basically just to pay engineering support, manufacturing support and also help with marketing and developing the business. It’s a modest amount, but we think that it will get us out there and allow us to begin to expand the business to future products we’ll be developing.”

Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor both have the symptom of hand tremors which can range from minor to severe. The Liftware handle uses the same motion sensors as the iPhone to detect the user’s unique tremor, then generates motions that cancel out the shaking, allowing the spoon to remain still. A clinical trial completed in March showed that the technology could cancel at least 70 percent of a tremor.

Liftware will sell for $295, but the technology is modular: the spoon can be removed from the tremor-canceling handle, which will be compatible with additional, forthcoming attachments. The company’s website suggests a soup spoon, fork, and key are possibilities for the near future. In addition, the company is launching a program where people who want to support the business but don’t have tremors themselves can buy one to donate to an afflicted person who can’t afford it. This program is being organized through a partnership with the International Essential Tremor Foundation

The handle has a rechargeable battery that should last several days on a charge. It automatically turns off when the spoon is removed and turns on when an attachment is inserted. Pathak said the spoon is not a medical device and the company isn’t seeking FDA clearance.

Coincidentally, Lift Labs’ launch comes the day after an Indiegogo campaign began for EasyFork, a specially-designed 3D-printed fork for people with arthritis. Earlier this year, HAPI Labs launched HAPI Fork, a fork that tracks eating habits and vibrates when the user eats too quickly.


Zamzee launches new product for clinics, schools

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 17, 2013        

Tags: | | | | |  |

Zamzee MeterZamzee, the commercial spin-off of Redwood City, California-based HopeLab, is launching a new version of its kids’ activity tracker and gamified fitness platform geared at large groups, particularly clinical settings such as pediatric weight loss clinics.

HopeLab established much of the efficacy data on Zamzee in group settings. For instance, a study published last year showed that overweight adolescents had a 27 percent higher rate of exercise after six months working with the system.

With the new system, Zamzee will offer its software in a package optimized for quick deployment in groups and a more data-rich backend to benefit coaches, teachers or clinicians.

“Up until now they’ve relied entirely on self-reported data, which has been shown to be simply hugely inaccurate,” CEO Lance Henderson told MobiHealthNews. “Zamzee offers a tool that really validates what they’re doing. And with Zamzee for Groups you can really have a clinic up and running in just a short number of days.”

Group leaders will be able to purchase Zamzee activity trackers at a discount and distribute them to kids and parents, whose front-end experience will be much the same as Zamzee’s commercial offering. However, group leaders will be able to see individual and aggregate data about uploads per day and time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity. They can also filter the aggregate results by age, gender, or predefined groups.

“We’ve studied the kind of metrics they’re looking for, so they can drill down into individual user behavior,” said Henderson. “Those sort of mechanics which, when someone’s running, for instance, a weekly clinical program, they can see who’s been moving, how much they’ve been moving, and they can create challenges for the kids.”

Henderson said that in pilots, Zamzee has found that in addition to allowing group leaders to track progress more easily, Zamzee also improved attendance and retention. He said pediatric weight loss clinics in previous studies reported a 50 percent increase in retention with the addition of Zamzee’s software.

“Unlike adults who choose weight loss products because they’re self-motivated, we’re addressing a population [that hasn’t chosen to be there.]” Henderson said. “They get involved in these weight management programs ambivalently at best. Zamzee has really helped them view the experience in a more positive light.”

Zamzee for groups is in beta and will launch officially October 15th. Henderson said the price structure is still being determined.

Sponsored Post: New technologies & innovations transforming heath care



Sponsored Post By AHIP

How are mobile technologies enhancing consumer outreach and how can you help health plans integrate them into their larger care management and communications strategy? Can you help health plans modernize legacy technologies they may have for the 21st century?  How can you help plans leverage new technology platforms to meet their evolving business goals?

At AHIP’s Operations and Technology Forum, November 18-20 in Chicago, learn more about the evolving needs of the health insurance industry in keynote and concurrent sessions, and share your solutions with health plans from around the country during plenty of networking events and sessions.

Confirmed General Session Speakers Include:

Can Health Care Price Transparency Promote High Value Care? 

  • Giovanni Colella, MD, CEO and Co-Founder, Castlight Health, Inc
  • Judith Hibbard, DrPH, Senior Researcher and Professor Emerita, University of Oregon

New Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges in a Post-reform Environment

  • Robert M. Coppedge, Senior VP, Strategic Investment and Corporate Development, Cambia Health Solutions
  • Jay Godla, MBA, EVP & Chief Strategy Officer, Highmark, Inc.
  • Charles E. Saunders, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Healthagen, Aetna

The Health Consumer: What Do They Know? What Do They Want? How Do We Effectively Engage Them?

  • Alexandra Drane, Founder, Chief Visionary Officer & Chair of the Board, Eliza Corporation
  • Bill Lan, Head of Industry, Insurance and Services Vertical, Google
  • Marcus Osborne, Vice President, Health & Wellness Payer Relations, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.


  • Susan Dentzer, Senior Policy Advisor, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; On-Air Health Analyst, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

Concurrent and Breakfast Sessions Feature Leading Solutions Providers

Visit the conference website for full details.

Register Now
Visit the conference website for details and to register.

Download the Conference App

HHS touts HIPAA right to patient data access, readies Blue Button outreach campaign

By: Neil Versel | Sep 17, 2013        

Tags: | | | | | | | |  |
Humetrix's iBlueButton app won the ONC's Blue Button Mashup Challenge in January.

Humetrix’s iBlueButton app won the ONC’s Blue Button Mashup Challenge in January.

With new, tougher HIPAA privacy regulations set to take effect in less than a week, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces the rules, is trying to educate consumers and healthcare entities alike about a longstanding but much-ignored policy.

“There is a clear right [in the HIPAA privacy rule] not only of patient access, but patient control over everything in their records,” OCR Director Leon Rodriguez said Monday. He said this was a “revelation” even to some HIPAA enforcement officers.

Meantime, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is preparing its own outreach campaign to encourage patients to download their own medical records through the Blue Button Plus initiative.

“Your providers are required to give you your record in electronic form if that’s how it’s maintained,” Rodriguez said at the ONC Consumer Health IT Summit at HHS headquarters in Washington, to kick off the annual National Health IT Week.

On Friday, Rodriguez issued a memo to HHS staff and the general public about this “right to access,” and two articles he authored – one in conjunction with national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari – appeared on Medscape’s continuing medical education site. (One article was about HIPAA security risk management and the other specific to privacy and security on mobile devices.)

“I also know that, all too often, consumers face barriers to getting their health information – and the first barrier is that many do not know their rights,” Rodriguez wrote.

“You should know you have the right to: ask to see and get a copy of your health records from most doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers such as pharmacies and nursing homes, as well as from your health plan; get either a paper or, if records are kept electronically, an electronic copy of your records; and have your provider or health plan send a copy of your records to someone else,” he continued.

To these ends, OCR has produced a series of new videos about patient rights under HIPAA and also just published a model notice of privacy practices for healthcare entities to use as a basis of updating their own privacy notices for the new rules. “That needs to go viral,” Rachel Seeger, senior OCR health information privacy outreach specialist, said Monday.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do,” Mostashari added. “It is their civil right to their records.”

Also at the Monday conference, ONC previewed an update to its current Blue Button website, tentatively called Blue Button Connector, to encourage patient engagement in their own care. Stage 2 of the federal Meaningful Use EHR incentive program, which starts as soon as next month for some hospitals, requires at least 5 percent of a provider’s patients to “view, download or transmit” health information through a portal or personal health record.

ONC is banking on Blue Button Plus to make this activity easy for consumers. “Blue Button is really quite core to everything we’ve been doing,” said Lygeia Ricciardi, director of ONC’s Office of Consumer eHealth. “It’s really become a symbol of a movement.”

Ricciardi said Blue Button Plus creates structure out of the plain text in the original Blue Button format and also automates updating of patient information. Blue Button Connector, which she said will debut around Jan. 15, is intended to be a hub for consumers to find sources of data to download as well as technology to facilitate it; about 500 organizations and vendors have pledged to support Blue Button, according to ONC.

Ricciardi previewed a public-service announcement that will run on TV when the campaign starts. Ricciardi said that at least one Blue Button Connector partner, whom she would not reveal, is “potentially interested in running it on a Jumbotron in Times Square.”

In all, ONC is producing three PSAs, one for caregivers, one for cancer patients and one for people with diabetes.

The Blue Button Connector site is working now, but ONC is not publicizing the URL just yet as the office populates the page and works out the kinks in order to deliver what Ricciardi called a “clean user experience.” She said ONC is working on developing guidelines to make the user experience work easily through various sites.

Erin Poetter Siminerio, a policy analyst in the Office of Consumer eHealth, said to expect at least a dozen apps on the site when it does go public. According to Siminerio, a third of all Americans now have access to Blue Button data through their health plans. Medicare beneficiaries currently can download three years of personal data via the portal, she said.

Ricciardi noted that drug-maker Pfizer is allowing patients to download data from clinical trials through the Blue Button Plus interface.

Cigna integrates MyFitnessPal into coaching program

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 16, 2013        

Tags: | | | | | |  |

MyFitnessPalMyFitnessPal announced a partnership with health insurance company Cigna, which will combine MyFitnessPal’s nutrition, physical activity and weight management resource with Cigna’s health coaching programs. The offering will give customers the option to connect their MyFitnessPal accounts with their personal Cigna coach to instantly share their diet and exercise activity.

Wellness tracking platform MyFitnessPal offers users a food database and coaching program so that users can stay healthy and improve their diets. The company also recently shared a figure of 40 million members who are on its platform.

This new initiative is MyFitnessPal’s first formal expansion into the insurance and healthcare industry, according to the press release, although the company previously integrated with Aetna on its Carepass platform for consumers.

“The digital health movement is evolving rapidly and it’s exciting to see how it’s fueling our customers’ interest in getting healthy and staying fit,” Jackie Aube, senior vice president, Product Solutions, Cigna said in a statement. “…By integrating new technologies like MyFitnessPal, we’re not only creating a more personal relationship with our customers, but helping them reach their goals more quickly and conveniently. This partnership makes the coaching process more rewarding for both customers and coaches.”

The program is currently available only in the US although the company aims to expand it’s offering outside the US in 2014.

Just one month ago, MyFitnessPal raised $18 million in a round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield. MyFitnessPal said at the time that they would use the funding to grow its team and expand to more countries. Already, the fitness system is available in some European and South American countries. Users can download the app in French, German, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Cigna also announced news that came out of another partnership. HopeLab’s free cancer-fighting Re-Mission 2 online games and the Re-Mission 2: Nanobot’s Revenge mobile app, which Cigna helped develop, will demo at a conference this week. The games are designed to help young cancer patients stick to their treatments are are available online or to download for Android and iOS mobile devices.

Washington hospital system launches remote video visits for locals

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 16, 2013        

Tags: | | | | | |  |

FranciscanTacoma, Washington-based Franciscan Hospital Systems, is partnering with Seattle telemedicine company Carena to offer virtual urgent care visits to all prospective patients in the hospital system’s coverage area. Franciscan has seven hospitals and 100 clinics, covering most of the Puget Sound area of Washington state.

“The value proposition from the system is if we can take care of people virtually, that offloads our already strained physicians’ capacity,” Cliff Robertson, Franciscan’s chief operating officer, told MobiHealthNews. “Folks show up in the emergency room who don’t really need an emergency room, but that’s the only point of access they have at 10 o’ clock on a Friday night. If we’re able to deliver appropriate care outside of a brick and mortar facility, that frees us up to treat patients that really do need our care.”

Patients will be able to use the system any time, day or night over Skype or the telephone. First, users will do an automated intake either via a web form or an 800 number. They will then be transferred to a patient services representative, and finally a physician. The visits will mostly not be covered by insurance, but they will cost patients only $35.

Up until now, Carena has been providing virtual visits to employees of self-insured companies, including Franciscan. This is the first time the company has worked with a health system to offer virtual consultations to the general public.

“We launched our first virtual services back in 2010,” Ralph Derrickson, Carena’s president and CEO, told MobiHealthNews. “We’ve been providing house call services for a long time, and we’ve been able to build an extensive understanding of when people call, time and day, so we can staff our teams to be ready when we get the volume.”

Carena’s staff includes board-certified physicians that can listen to complaints, make diagnoses and even prescribe medication over the phone or Skype. Derrickson said Carena staff are equipped to deal with minor urgent care ailments like upper respiratory infections or urinary tract infections. Physicians only need to prescribe medication about 40 percent of the time, he said. In addition, information from the visit will be sent to the patient’s electronic health record in the Franciscan system, and labs and follow-ups can be arranged directly with Franciscan.

Although web and phone are the only options currently, the system indirectly supports mobile because the website is designed to be mobile-friendly, Derrickson said. He said mobility is less of a priority, since patients will generally want to do their virtual visit in private, rather than out and about.

Franciscan has been rolling out the virtual visits gradually, originally offering them to their 15,000 covered employees and family members, and then quietly turning its phones over to Carena at night six months prior to the official launch. Robertson said Franciscan estimates the employee program allowed them to avoid 300 unnecessary visits since 2010.