Mechael: Leverage existing tech in developing world

By: Neil Versel | Dec 6, 2011        

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Patty MechealThe mHealth Alliance, a project of the United Nations Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation, is probably the most global of all the groups out there promoting mobile health. And the mHealth Summit, which the mHealth Alliance and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health are staging this week, likely is the most international of mobile health events held in the U.S.

Knowing that, it makes perfect sense that the alliance turned to Patricia Mechael to be its new executive director after founding Executive Director David Aylward left in May. Mechael, who started the job just a few weeks ago, has a strong background in international mobile health.

According to the organization, her doctoral studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine included research on how mobile phones factored into public health in Egypt. Mechael later was director of strategic application of mobile technology for public health and development at the Center for Global Health and Economic Development at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. (She still holds the faculty appointment at Columbia.)

In 2008, Mechael was an invited participant in the mobile health segment of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Making the Health Connection conferences in Bellagio, Italy. The mHealth Alliance grew out of those conferences.

“Since Bellagio, it’s been incredible to see how much activity has happened, how much interest has emerged, and so even with respect to the summit, it’s quite visible,” Mechael said in an interview with MobiHealthNews. The first summit in 2009 drew less than 500 people. Last year, a little more than 2,000 came out—in part because one of the keynote speakers was Bill Gates. As of Monday morning, more than 3,200 people had registered for the third-annual mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Md., and Gates is nowhere to be found.

“There is this sort of collective interest in looking at mobile technologies as a tool, especially in developing countries, where oftentimes the mobile phone is the only information or communication technology that is reaching people in their communities,” Mechael continued.

As the new executive director, Mechael is using the occasion to spell out a clear vision and strategy for the mHealth Alliance. “Our major goal is to function as an alliance, and link together a collective movement toward the more effective leveraging of mobile technologies to support public health and health system strengthening in developing countries. Our major focus is really looking at low- and middle-income countries and global health,” she said. Keep reading>>

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Medicaid patients reduce hospitalizations with WellDoc

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 6, 2011        

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WellDoc DiabetesManager

At the mHealth Summit today George Washington University Center’s Dr. Richard Katz presented findings of a demonstration program called DC HealthConnect. The program tested WellDoc’s mobile health program DiabetesManager during a 12-month period. The results: DiabetesManager reduced ER visits and hospital stays by 58 percent on average compared to the previous year — when they weren’t using the program.

The DC HealthConnect project included 32 patients recruited by Chartered Family Health Center in Washington, DC. The aim of the project was to determine what kind of impact a real-time, mobile phone-based diabetes management program would have within a Medicaid patient population. Patients who participated in the program used their own cell phones, but they were offered a monthly discount of $20 off their phone plans.

The results of the program followed on WellDoc’s randomized controlled trial (RCT) — one of the few conducted by a mobile health company to date. The results of that study were published in the ADA’s medical journal Diabetes Care this past September. Here’s how WellDoc summed up the results of the RCT: “In this trial, patients using the DiabetesManager plus their usual care had an average decline in A1C of 1.9 percentage points compared to a 0.7-percentage-point decline seen among patients treated with usual care alone, regardless of starting baseline A1C.”

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of the mHealth Summit 2011 is sponsored by Preventice.

More on WellDoc’s latest efficacy study in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Childhood obesity study uses wearable sensors

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 5, 2011        

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Jawbone's UP wristband

As obesity increasingly becomes a worldwide epidemic, especially within children and adolescent populations, solutions to the problem are poised to become a major focus within mHealth. A handful of approaches were discussed during a panel, “Obesity, Diet, and Physical Activity,” at the 2011 mHealth Summit held in Washington, D.C. this week, including a noteworthy study by a Canadian research team.

Panelist Yan Kestens, an assistant professor at the University of Montreal, recently headed a study on childhood obesity focusing on the importance of geographic location for children participating in physical activity. While doctors can encourage recommended lifestyle interventions including positive encouragement, exercise classes, counseling, and set goals, Kestens said, “outside of the doctor’s office, they have no real tools to know about the everyday life of their patients.”

To that end, Kestens’ research focused on the Spatio-Behavioral Component (SBC) of the CIRCUIT lifestyle intervention program, which is aimed at children and youth with cardiometabolic risk factors. The study included 37 patients between the ages of 6 to 17 and took place over between March and November of this year. Data was collected from subjects over seven days from separate GPS, accelerometer, heart rate monitor sensors. The study’s data processing took the raw GPS and accelerometer data to discover optimal opportunities for physical activity within a child’s general living area.

Based on their study’s results, Kestens’ research team developed a multisensor wearable device, which includes an accelerometer, GPS, GPRS, ANT+ module, embedded memory, which will be used in studies in Paris starting in January of next year. It will join other devices featuring multiple sensors, such as Jawbone UP and Fitbit.

(Studies for finding effective use of SMS in teen weight loss took place by researchers at the University of Michigan earlier this year. Teens responded well to instructional messages from peers, including recipes and testimonials about weight-loss strategies. Positive messages were also well-received, including exclamations and emoticons, but colloquialisms were not.)

Kestens stressed that “raw data [from wearable devices] needs to be transformed into meaningful indicators.” He also noted the importance of “efficient visualization applications for sharing of data with patients and their families.” As an example, he showed his team’s software, which included a map tracing the route of children in their neighborhood during play and exercise and highlighting where children were most active.

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of the mHealth Summit 2011 is sponsored by Preventice.

Dr Topol: Haven’t used a stethoscope in 2 years

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 5, 2011        

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Dr. Eric TopolThe future of mHealth is bright, according to West Wireless Health Institute vice chairman Eric Topol, who spoke this week at the opening keynote of the 2011 mHealth Summit. “This is a most momentous moment in medicine,” he told the gathered audience. Topol’s keynote discussion included current wireless medical products as well as future speculation that will leverage genomics with biosensor data to revolutionize personal health.

Topol’s keynote, titled “The Creative Destruction of Medicine” after his recently released book, focused on Topol’s belief that right now is medicine’s “kairos”, the Greek term for a supreme, opportune moment. “We’re moving from the population level to the individual level” in health, he said. The digital world and the longstanding medical world cocoon are intersecting, creating an “extraordinary” convergence.

The digitized man is a big change that exemplifies the future of medicine. Topol said he recently used AliveCor’s iPhoneECG to diagnosis a heart attack while on a plane trip. “Pretty darn impressive device,” he said of the credit-card sized sensor. “It’s just an idea of where we’re going [in the future]. For the right people, it can make a big difference.”

Topol spoke of the importance of the invention of the stethescope for medicine, then added that he hasn’t used a stethescope to listen to a patient’s heart in two years. “Why would you listen to a heart when you have an ultrasound in your pocket?” said Topol, then he did a live demonstration of GE’s Vscan ultrasound device. Topol previously spoke on the subject of handheld devices “cannibalizing” existing medtech at the Wireless Life-Sciences Alliance Convergence Summit in San Diego this summer, saying that ‘“stethoscope” is a term that is outdated because it implies the ability to “look” or scope into the patient’s chest. Topol said at the time he had little reason to only listen to a patient’s heartbeat again.

Topol also mentioned a company called DNA Electronics, who have created a handheld genome analysis system; a swab from the users’ cheek analyses the users’ genotype, and an app tells them the correct dose of Plavix or an alternative medicine to use.

Topol’s keynote also included a hypothetical “Apps of the Future” discussion which include genetically-tailored apps for heart attack risk, cancer detection, and transplant rejection.”This isn’t crazy,” he said. “It’s the future…old medicine is about to change.

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of the mHealth Summit 2011 is sponsored by Preventice.

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Sebelius: Let’s keep mobile health safe, secure, American

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 5, 2011        

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sebelius“We are talking about taking the biggest technology breakthrough of our time and using it to address our greatest national challenge,” Kathleen Sebelius U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said during her keynote presentation at the mHealth Summit in Washington DC this morning. Sebelius envisioned a “remarkable future” where control over a patient’s own health was always within their control. She listed off a number of potential use cases for mobile health, including remote diagnosis of skin conditions using smartphone cameras; scheduling lab tests without a physician or medical office staff “lifting one finger”; working with your doctor to manage your own health every day instead of just once a year, she said.

Sebelius said that few industries have grown as quickly as mobile health has in the past two years since the first mHealth Summit in 2009, which Sebelius also keynoted. Sebelius noted the rapid growth of smartphones – more than half of all phones sold in the US this past year were smartphones – and that we are “increasingly” using our phones to track and manage our health.

Recent survey data published by Pew might throw a little cold water on that last statement: Pew found statistically insignificant growth for health app adoption among those surveyed for its 2010 and 2011 reports.

Sebelius also noted that there are “nearly 12,000 apps related to health” currently available in app store, and that’s a number “that is probably going up as I speak this morning,” she said. (This is true – dozens of health-related apps launch each week.)

Mobile technology has improved the consumer experience for almost every part of our lives, Sebelius noted, but healthcare has been until recently a notable exception. Sebelius said that healthcare has “stubbornly held on” to its old ways while other service industries like banking have embraced mobile. Keep reading>>

CareFusion releases wireless EEG amplifier

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 2, 2011        

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CareFusion Nicolet Wireless EEGCareFusion released its Nicolet EEG (electroencephalography) Wireless Amplifier this week, a device that captures high-resolution brain wave data and transmits it wirelessly to a monitoring computer. The device received FDA 510(K) clearance this past April.

The Nicolet (pronounced “nick-oh-lay”) EEG Wireless Amplifier is a portable unit, intended for hospitals, clinics, emergency vehicles and in-home ambulatory settings, which aids in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy, brain trauma, stroke, brain tumors, sleep dysfunction and clinical research. Data from the device can be transmitted wirelessly, in real-time, to a monitoring computer, or stored in the device’s memory  – if a monitoring computer isn’t nearby — for later upload.

Last summer, CareFusion joined the West Wireless Health Institute (WWHI) as a Technology and Education (T&E) partner (along with Cisco and Medtronic). The TE partners work closely with the Institute’s clinical and engineering teams on a variety of research, technology and educational initiatives focused on accelerating wireless health solutions.

While CareFusion didn’t mention an app component to its EEG system, mobile apps that display previously stored EEG waveforms are one of the types of medical apps included in the FDA proposed guidelines for mobile medical app regulation, according to its draft guidance released this summer.

“Wireless acquisition of EEG data gives patients admitted to the epilepsy monitoring unit greater freedom and comfort without risking loss of critical data due to disconnection of the amplifier,” stated Chad Carlson, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at the New York University Langone Medical Center Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, in a press release. “The ability to record up to 64 channels of EEG data at up to 12 kHz should allow for further advances in clinical EEG analysis and interpretation.”

See a product video of the EEG below: Keep reading>>