Canada hospital inks deal for iPhone biometric scanner

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 22, 2011        

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iFMIDBIO-key International, a biometric identification software developer, announced this week the acquisition of  S.I.C. Biometrics, a Montreal-based manufacturer of a biometric fingerprint reader that connects to iOS devices. A Canadian hospital is now using the biometric scanner as a replacement for inputting passwords in enterprise applications, with their order for the devices totaling $1.5 million.

The fingerprint scanner, called iFMDID, is currently available in enterprise settings. A consumer version of the device is in development.

In a press release, SIC Biometrics president Eric Talbot stated that “At the initial introduction of the production version of the iFMID device last week, we received a sizeable order from one of Canada’s largest hospitals, to provide biometric capability for iPads and iPhones valued at $1.5 million. The integration will allow hospital staff members to access enterprise applications without the inconvenience of inputting lengthy passwords. Traditionally, physicians have to log in using their password 40-100 times per day. The transition to the biometric solution will vastly improve efficiency.”

Read the full press release below.

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A review of living with connected devices

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 19, 2011        

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BodyMedia Fit ArmbandA new article from lifestyle blog Lifehacker, ‘How I Got in Shape with the Help of Technology,’ reviews multiple consumer connected health devices, including Fitbit, Withings Scale, RunKeeper and BodyMedia Fit. Writer Adam Pash combined the devices with regular exercise over an eight month period and lost ten pounds in the process. Back in 2009, the New York Times’ David Pogue and AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg reviewed Fitbit, DirectLife, and ContourUSB devices.

Here’s a summary of Pash’s criticism of each device:

BodyMedia Positive: The BodyMedia armband is data rich. “Among all the tools I tested, it clearly does the most, it presents it all in a friendly dashboard, and one charge lasts for days, so you don’t need to worry about charging it all the time. Most of that data is tracked automatically, so all you have to do is wear the arm band.”

BodyMedia Negative: The downside to constant data-monitoring is obvious: “You have to wear an armband around all the time. I wore the Fit around for a good six weeks, and frankly, I found wearing it kind of gross. My arm would feel a little sweaty, so I’d pull the rubber-y elastic band away from my arm to get a little air in there like you would if you were wearing tight, poorly breathing underwear.”

Pash found the BodyMedia armband to be effective, but cumbersome overall: “The Fit was the best tracker I tested in terms of accuracy and breadth of information. Unfortunately I’m not a convict, and unless required by law, I, like most people, find wearing a bulky armband every day to be overkill.”

Fitbit Positive: Fitbit’s small size and easy syncing were key strengths. “Fitbit is small, fits easily into your pocket (or wherever you want to clip it on), and syncs wirelessly to a USB dongle-plus-charger that plugs into your computer. The device’s onscreen display gives you on-the-fly stats, displaying steps taken, distance walked, and a surprisingly effective flower that grows taller the more you’re walking. (I was always disappointed in myself when I didn’t max out that flower height.)”

Fitbit Negative: “The Fitbit’s battery life is a little on the weak side, but it’s not a dealbreaker. If you want to track your sleep with the Fitbit, you have to wear it on a wristband, which suffers the same problems as the Fit: Namely, it sucks to wear an uncomfortable band to sleep.”

Pash views the Fitbit as a more convenient but less feature-filled device than the BodyMedia Fit. “Its wireless activity sync, on-device stats, and small size make it an addictive gadget to carry around in your pocket. I found myself regularly checking (and actually caring about) my daily steps taken, [but] it’s much more of a walker’s device.”

Withings Positive: “There’s nothing easier than stepping on a scale when you get out of the shower, so Withings has the lowest hassle to adoption. The weight change over time is, for me, effective. Rather than having a vague idea that I’ve gained or lost weight, I know exactly how much I’ve gained or lost, and even though it doesn’t have any way of tracking your caloric intake/output, normally I have a pretty good idea of when and why it’s happening. As an added bonus, Withings can incorporate its data with third-party fitness tools—including RunKeeper.”

Withings Negative: “The Withings scale can’t track the same data as the Fit or Fitbit for obvious reasons. It’s limited to the three weight measurements.”

The ease of use of the scale impressed Pash. “I really like the Withings scale. Incorporating gadgets like the Fit or Fitbit into your life is a big commitment, but there’s nothing to using a scale. You just stand on it. Everyone understands that, and beyond the initial setup, that’s all there is to it. A good weight history is, for me, really powerful. It’s hard data saying, “Adam, you’re getting a little on the heavy side for you. Time to shape up.”

RunKeeper Positive: RunKeeper’s effective is very dependent on the GPS the user pairs with it. “The app is customizable, allowing you to set time- or distance-based announcements for your distance and pace, place specific playlists, and so on. The feature that really blew my mind was the Coaching feature, which allows you to create your own workouts with specific time- or distance-based intervals. (E.g., run fast for .25 miles, then slow for 1 minute; rinse and repeat as often as you like). Once I discovered coaching, I was hooked.”

RunKeeper Negative: “The RunKeeper app is free, but some really nice advanced features are only available once you’ve signed up for the $20/year RunKeeper Elite. I’m motivated by personal bests, so the main benefit of the subscription is the full-featured Personal Records and Trends. I count the Elite requirement as a con in the context of a free app, but it’s also pretty cheap relative to buying any of the gadgets above.”


Pash thinks that each device is an effective tool for understanding and monitoring ones fitness, but ease of use trumps all. “Any feedback loop is better than no feedback loop. Still, I found that the less painful the path to adoption, the more likely I was to actually keep up with and pay attention to the results of the tool. Even if I started with the best intentions, I could never convince myself to log everything I eat, and for me, wearing a dedicated tracking device everywhere I went got annoying after a while. My sweet spot combined the Withings scale and RunKeeper.”

You can read the full Lifehacker article here.

$80 smartphone drives Kenyan mHealth adoption

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 19, 2011        

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The MedKenya Android App

It’s widely accepted that the rise of low-cost smartphones in developing nations will play an important role in accelerating mHealth adoption. An Android-based smartphone called IDEOS that retails for $80, developed by Chinese manufacturer Huawei, has already reached more than 350,000 users in Kenya. According to a new article by Jeremy Ford for Singularity Hub, these low-cost phones can “jumpstart the spread of liberating technologies.”

The IDEOS smartphone, offered through Kenya’s telecom Safaricom, has a low price point due to the falling price of microelectronics, and by using less advanced components: The IDEOS includes less memory and screen size than offerings like the iPhone, but is otherwise comparable to phones sold in major world markets.

The open source nature of the Android operating system will allow for region-specific applications. Medkenya, a reference app similar to WebMD, won top prize recently at the Pivot25 entrepreneurial contest recently held in Nairobi. The app provides symptom checkers, first-aid information, medical alerts, and searchable doctor & hospital directories in an attempt to make healthcare more accessible for Kenyans.

“I have a hunch that this is just the beginning of healthcare-related apps in Africa,” writes Ford. “We’ve seen smartphones adopt all kinds of medical technology, from digital stethoscopes to cancer diagnosis, and I’m hopeful that we’ll see similarly stunning med-tech reach even the remotest areas one day. An app that tracks mosquito outbreaks or a smartphone with an HIV-testing peripheral would work wonders to address persisting healthcare challenges of the developing world. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll be able to carry a doctor around in their pocket.”

At last month’s World Congress 3rd Annual Leadership Summit on mHealth, Kate Canales, creative director of Frog Design, spoke about what mHealth programs can learn from the developing world. Speakers at the GSMA-mHA Mobile Health Summit, held in Capetown, South Africa earlier this summer, focused their talks on growing the emerging mobile healthcare market and making it sustainable.

You can read the full Singularity Hub article here.

DrChrono receives another $650k

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 18, 2011        

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dr chronoEHR platform DrChrono announced this week another round of seed funding totaling $650,000, as well as the release of a new patient check-in app.

DrChrono, a free download from the App store, is one of the first EHR apps built specifically for the iPad. DrChrono also offers iPhone and Android apps (a version for Android tablets is in development).

The investment comes from Yuri Milner, founder of DST Global, and venture capital firm General Catalyst. In July, DrChrono announced $675k in funding from various venture capital groups, and as well as a collaboration with M*Modal for text-to-speech functionality within their app.

The check-in app, OnPatient, aims to replace the traditional paper check-in process in the physician waiting room and is a free download for the iPad. It can be used as a standalone app or integrated with the DrChrono EHR, and allows for the HIPAA consent form for patients to be signed digitally.

“The OnPatient check-in app digitizes the waiting room and eliminates significant barriers to mass adoption of patient check-in technology by leveraging sophisticated iPad technology. Proprietary check-in hardware is prohibitively expensive and integration with existing EHR systems is too complex,” stated DrChrono CEO Michael Nusimow in a press release. “We designed the OnPatient app to be intuitive for both physicians and patient users to create a better patient check-in experience.”

Read the press release after the jump.

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By 2016: 100M wearable wireless sensors

By: Chris Gullo | Aug 18, 2011        

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Garmin wireless sensorThe market for wearable devices will exceed 100 million units annually by 2016, reports ABI Research in a new study. A study released by ABI last June estimated that 80 million of those units would be fitness sensors.

The announcement comes on the heels of yesterday’s news of an expected $1.34B wireless health industry also by 2016. According to ABI, adoption over the next five years will be driven by devices, ranging from heart rate monitors to wearable blood glucose meters, in both consumer (sports, fitness) and clinical settings. New, low-power wireless technologies such as Bluetooth 4.0 will combine with social networking and smartphone integration to drive adoption.

“A number of short range wireless protocols are jostling for position in this emerging market and they line up against traditional tethered connectivity such as a USB cable to a computer as well as emerging M2M offerings,” stated ABI analyst Jonathan Collins in a press release.

Read the full press release below. Keep reading>>

Congress: How’s FCC doing on mobile health oversight?

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 18, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsAfter two years of research and a joint effort between groups of security experts working at separate academic institutions, a professor and a graduate student showed attendees at hacker conferences Black Hat and Defcon how to build a “cheap” $1,000 system to mimic the control mechanism on a pacemaker. The researchers were able to eavesdrop on private data that identified the patient, doctor, diagnosis and the device’s instructions. They could also control the device to put it into test mode, to drain the battery or turn off therapies.

But that was 2008.

For the first time at this year’s DefCon there was a full track for kids. There was also a talk by computer security expert Jay Radcliffe who explained to attendees how easy it was to hack into an insulin pump. Radcliffe himself is a diabetic and his demonstration was meant to sound the alarm that these devices are not yet secure enough. While most media reports didn’t make this clear, Radcliffe did not teach the hackers at DefCon how he took control of a pump — he used the podium to explain that it was possible. Radcliffe also noted that pace makers, intravenous pumps, and blood pressure cuffs are among the other connected health devices that have been successfully hacked in recent years.

Radcliffe’s demonstration worked. Keep reading>>