Mobile health drives wearable computing

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 7, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsThe history of wearable computing goes back at least 50 years, back when the military began developing displays built-in to headgear worn by pilots. A decade later brought wearables developed to determine how fast roulette wheels were spinning and the 1979 saw the launch of Sony’s WalkMan. Jody Ranck’s latest report for GigaOm covers this past, the present and potential future for wearable computers with a special focus on those developed for healthcare and fitness.

Over the years MobiHealthNews has mentioned an increasing number of wearables devices from Adidas’ miCoach, to contact lenses with infrared displays, to Zephyr Technology’s sensor-enabled clothing and more. The more recent crop of wearables include suped up pedometers and crowdfunded  breakout devices like the Pebble smart watch, which integrates with the popular RunKeeper app.

As we reported at the very beginning of the year, Sonny Vu, the co-founder of AgaMatrix, developer of the iPhone-enabled glucose meter iBGStar with Sanofi, founded a new startup called Misfit Wearables with former Apple CEO John Scully. Considering Vu’s past success, his move to found a wearables startup certainly adds some substance to the trend.

A February 2012 report from ABI Research predicted that the number of wearable health and fitness devices will hit 169.5 million by 2017, up from just 21 million in 2011. A Forrester Research report that also dropped earlier this year, claimed that the wearable device market will be an important one for the big platform makers: including Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

While many of the devices in the wearables category today are wristworn and most of the headline grabbing devices are augmented reality plays, like Google’s Project Glass, real innovation will likely take the form of smart clothing. The opportunity for passive monitoring is huge and wearables that take the form of things we already wear are much more likely to find adopters. I stopped wearing a watch as soon as my mobile phone could display the time. As innovators like Misfit Wearables follow the lead of pioneering companies like Zephyr Technology and Exmovere Holdings, watch this space.


Duke cancer clinics cut physician documentation time with iPads

By: Neil Versel | Aug 7, 2012        

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iPad medical appsCollecting patient histories on iPads has reduced physician documentation time by 17 percent at Duke University oncology clinics and has led to more productive exams and consultations, according to the head of a major management consulting firm.

Writing for the Economist Group’s Lean Back 2.0 column, Boston Consulting Group Managing Director Paul Zwillenberg describes how Apple’s iconic tablet, at least anecdotally, has improved cancer care at his alma mater.

“Now, each time patients visit a Duke Oncology clinic, they answer a series of 88 questions on tablet computers in the waiting room. Between visits, they regularly make similar observations on a secure online site,” Zwillenberg reports.

While the online follow-up acts as a supplement to traditional office visits, the questionnaire makes face-to-face encounters more productive, too. Zwillenberg says Duke clinicians find that this electronic history form produces information that often is more “accurate and comprehensive” than what physicians can obtain during an actual exam or consultation.

“Three-quarters of breast-cancer patients reported that they were able to remember their symptoms more accurately, and one-third of them said the online questionnaire prompted them to bring up issues with their doctors,” he adds. “Patients are also more forthcoming about alcohol use, sex lives, anxiety and depression on the tablets than they are in person.”

And this is with an adult population with an average age of 54, not exactly what Zwillenberg labels the “always-on, multitasking, multiplatform, millennial, social-media set accustomed to an open-door policy about their lives.”

Zwillenberg reports that information gleaned from the tablet-based questionnaire helped Duke oncologists identify a pattern of sexual distress among patients with gastrointestinal or breast cancer. The university subsequently created educational materials and counseling programs for these populations.

“Combining tablet technology with clinical care has been great for our doctors and our patients. Tablets enable doctors to spend more time with patients, and patients to lead fuller lives through the creation of personalized education,” Dr. Amy Abernethy, founder and director of the Duke Cancer Care Research Program, tells Zwillenberg.

Welch Allyn gets FIPS validation for wireless vitals monitors

By: Neil Versel | Aug 6, 2012        

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Welch Allyn vital signs monitor 6500Medical device maker Welch Allyn said Monday that its products have become the first wireless vital-signs monitors to pass rigorous U.S. government security standards for use in federal healthcare facilities.

Two Welch Allyn products, the Connex Vital Signs Monitor 6500 Series and Connex Integrated Wall System 8500 Series, have earned Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2 Level 1 validation, meaning that they meet wireless encryption standards required for use in federal deployments. The approval opens the door for federal healthcare providers, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Military Health System and the Indian Health Service, to purchase and install the Connex systems in their hospitals and clinics.

The Connex VSM and IWS are part of the Connex Electronic Vitals Documentation System, Which Welch Allyn says it designed to integrate with VA infrastructure.

However, government facilities will not be able to use the monitors or wall system until Welch Allyn releases an updated, FIPS-validated version 3.0 of its radio software later this year, the Skaneateles Falls, N.Y.-based company says. Products installed now with an earlier version can be upgraded in the field.

Welch Allyn built the radio specifically for healthcare, and the devices are compatible with 802.11a/b/g wireless networks, according to the company. With accompanying Connex Vitals Management software, the monitors can automatically populate electronic health records.

“Our integrated radio uniquely meets the demands of clinical staff on the front lines since it was designed specifically for low-acuity areas, like med/surg floors,” Will Fox, the company’s director of marketing for the U.S. and Canada, says in a press release. “The wireless coverage in these areas may be less robust than traditional monitoring locales, like telemetry units, and this radio is optimized to work seamlessly in these areas to improve clinician workflow and reduce errors. It also provides the highest level of authentication and encryption available for commercial 802.11 networks and FIPS validation adds additional peace of mind that the data will not be breached or compromised.”

Scripps medical building gets ‘universal’ wireless network

By: Neil Versel | Aug 6, 2012        

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West Wireless Health Institute

West Wireless Health Institute

In the latest step toward creating a standard architecture for wireless healthcare networks, San Diego-based Scripps Health has opened a new medical office building with a single, “universal” wireless network designed to handle all manners of devices, from smartphones and tablets to vitals monitors and infusion pumps.

Scripps Health, a founding affiliate of the West Wireless Health Institute, recently replaced the Scripps Coastal Medical Center office building in Oceanside, Calif., with a new, 33,500-square-foot facility that the health system says is the first in San Diego County to have this type of network. The infrastructure can isolate segments of bandwidth to let many different types of devices—including those belonging to patients and visitors—to operate simultaneously, according to San Diego-based Scripps.

“This is the medical building of the future,” Scripps Coastal Medical Group CEO Dr. Kevin Hirsch says in a press release, without elaborating.

Scripps Health eventually will install this type of network in all of its sites, including four acute care hospitals. Next up is the new critical care building being built at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas and the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute under construction at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

Scripps joins other health systems that, as part of the West Wireless Health Council’s Executive Committee, have agreed to test what has been dubbed the “medical-grade wireless open framework,” a planned standardized architecture intended to turn wireless data movement into a utility like electricity and plumbing. Scripps CIO Patric R. Thomas is a member of that advisory committee, as are CTO Mark S. Wiesenberg, biomedical engineering director Marcia Wylie and Bruce Rainey, the health system’s corporate vice president for facilities design and construction.

Several other hospitals represented on the committee have had the technology since early this year. The list includes Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., and UMass Memorial Health Care’s HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster, Mass.

Global mobile health market now worth $11.8B by 2018

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 6, 2012        

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Money TreeAccording to a new research report from London-based Global Data, the global mobile health market was worth $1.2 billion in 2011 and will increase in value to $11.8 billion by 2018. The research firm stated this past April that the mobile health market was worth about $500,000 in 2010 and — curiously — would be worth only $8 billion by 2018 when it released its report this past spring. Citing the new figures, Global Data characterizes the market’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) as “impressive” at 39 percent.

Global Data also points to MobiHealthNews own health apps research when it notes that 70 percent of available health apps are intended for use by consumers, while the remaining 30 percent are apps built for professional healthcare providers.

Global Data also states that mobile health solutions that allow patient consultation and monitoring are “surging in popularity” thanks in part to the widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets. The firm, however, did not include any adoption metrics to back up the claim.

According to the firm, the majority of the market is made up of software and services, which account for 80 percent of the total current market, while hardware makes up 12 percent, and the remaining 8 percent is made up of network and connectivity offerings. In 2011 the US was the biggest market by revenue at $660 million, while Europe contributed $420 million and the Asia Pacific region generated $120 million.

Can Mango Health succeed where others have failed?

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 2, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsThis week a new San Francisco-based startup, Mango Health, which is developing a medication adherence app with social gaming elements, announced that it had scooped up $1.45 million in venture funding. Investors include Floodgate Fund, First Round Capital, Steve Anderson with Baseline Ventures, Zynga co-founder and CEO Mark Pincus and Square COO Keith Rabois, according to GigaOM.

A handful of tech news sites greeted the arrival of Mango Health with breathless, hyperbolic headlines: “Show Mango Health your meds and the iPhone app may save your life,” wrote one, and “Mango Health brings accountability to mobile health” another inexplicably declared.

Mango Health’s app, which is still in beta, aims to help users check for drug interactions, log activities, maintain a schedule, and compare themselves to other patients who are taking the same or similar drugs. The app also plans to offer some kind of incentives, including points or discounts for adhering to their medication regimen.

Mango Health’s co-founders, Jason Oberfest and Gerald Cheong, hail from mobile gaming company ngmoco, which makes games for iOS and Android devices. Oberfest previously served as an SVP with MySpace.

How did Mango make an impression on their investors? First Round Capital’s Managing Partner Josh Kopelman explained in a column over at Business Insider: “When we first met the team back in January, the first thing that impressed us about Jason Oberfest and Gerald Cheong was their passion for utilizing their social gaming background to make mobile healthcare more accessible and fun.”

Kopelman also claims in the column that Mango Health will offer “an entirely new mobile solution for managing healthcare.” That may be — the app is still in beta, so it is yet to be determined how novel the startup’s approach is right now. Still, based on our own research into the current offerings of Apple’s AppStore, there are more than 220 consumer-facing apps that claim to offer similar features focused on medication adherence. Nearly all of them offer some kind of reminder function to help users remember to take their medications.

Recent weeks saw the launch of the Care4Today Mobile Adherence program from Janssen Healthcare Innovation and Jitterbug service provider GreatCall has made a big push with its MedCoach iOS app in recent months. Of course, the first mobile medication adherence app to find its way to market was Vocel’s The Pill Phone app. The app has the distinction of being one of the very first mobile health apps to go through the FDA 510(k) process — way back in 2006 — which resulted in a Class 1 registration. At one time all the major mobile operators in the US offered The Pill Phone for feature phone users. An iPhone app version of the offering followed in 2010. Last year The Pill Phone announced promising results from a small scale efficacy study conducted at the George Washington University Medical Center.

By many accounts The Pill Phone was ahead of its time, but it jumped through all the right hoops: Regulation, distribution partners, efficacy. Ultimately, Vocel laid off all of its employees in 2010. The Pill Phone is no longer found in mobile operator application stores. It’s no longer available in Apple’s AppStore. Funding was difficult to come by and the company folded.

Tom Evangelisti, president of Medcel, the Vocel group that was responsible for The Pill Phone offering, has brought the technology (and lessons learned from the venture) to his new position at ImageWare Systems (IWS). He landed there last month. Evangelisti tells me The Pill Phone will likely be resurrected in some form (though it probably won’t go by that name) and coupled with IWS’ biometric authentication technology.

Can gaming experience and a slick design help Mango Health succeed where others have failed? Perhaps. If nothing else, the big name angel investors backing Mango Health have already helped the fledgling startup standout from the pack of 220 medication adherence apps fighting for discoverability in the AppStore.