S. African insurer adds billing to mobile health plan

By: Neil Versel | Nov 17, 2011        

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In so-called “low resource” areas of the world, flexibility often is the key to sustainability. That’s why we noticed a recent deal between health insurer Sanlam Healthcare Management and systems integrator GlobeTOM, both of South Africa, to provide a billing platform for a new line of mobile healthcare services.

GlobeTOM will offer pre- and post-paid options and the capability to track transactions from multiple service providers over differing telecommunications networks through a package known as convergent billing. “Without a secure pre- and post-paid convergent billing gateway, third-party service providers will find the revenue assurance aspect of the mobile market quite complex and challenging,” GlobeTOM Managing Director Philip Stander said in a story that appeared on the site of the Africa Com telecommunications conference series.

“Convergent billing and revenue assurance in this sense, is as important to third party service providers and mobile networks as a watertight tax collection process is to a government,” Stander added.

Back in January, Sanlam entered into an agreement with MTN Group, a telecommunications company serving 21 African countries, to deliver various health-related services to mobile phones. These programs include MTN Care Connect, a 24-hour hotline that connects the general public to health information delivered by nurses. Users pay by the minute, and the GlobeTOM technology will allow for proper charges, whether the caller has a prepaid phone account or receives a monthly bill.

Late last year, Sanlam entered into an agreement with two healthcare information providers to deliver EHR, diagnostic and health insurance services to MTN subscribers. Both MTN and Sanlam have promised additional m-health applications, including for the collection of clinical and public-health data from remote, underserved locations and real-time monitoring of patient vital signs.

More news was to have been forthcoming earlier this year, but it seems as if this GlobeTOM deal might fill in a missing piece, namely the revenue element.

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FDA clears iGlucose mobile diabetes device

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 17, 2011        

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iglucosePositiveID announced that the FDA had cleared its mobile health diabetes management system, iGlucose. The iGlucose device transmits glucose data from compatible glucose meters to a secure database via a cellular connection supported by AT&T in the US and Rogers in Canada.

The iGlucose device is compatible with two glucose meters, including the LifeScan OneTouch and Nipro Diagnostic True monitoring systems.

“iGlucose eliminates the burden of keeping manual logbooks and empowers individuals with diabetes to be more engaged in the self-management of their condition,” according to the company’s press release. “iGlucose uses mobile technology to seamlessly communicate blood glucose readings from an individual’s data-capable glucometer to the iglucose diabetes management portal, where, with the user’s consent, glucose readings can be shared automatically with family members, caregivers and healthcare professionals via text message, email or fax.”

Another company received FDA clearance for its 3G-enabled diabetes management device earlier this year: Telcare.

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For more on iGlucose’s medical device clearance, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

18 percent of 65-and-older group has smartphones

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 16, 2011        

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Smartphone_agegroupsIn the US, 63 percent of mobile phone subscribers in the 25-34 age demographic own smartphones, according to a new survey from Nielsen. Apple is the most popular hardware manufacturer, producing 23 percent of all smartphones, but Android takes the top operating system title with 43 percent of the market.

About 18 percent of those aged 65 years and older are now using smartphones, up from 12 percent a year ago. Some 30 percent of those aged between 55 and 64 are now smartphone users, up from just 17 percent this time last year.

Other metrics from the report include:

  • 43 percent of all US mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone.
  • Apple’s iOS has 28 percent of the operating system market, with BlackBerry in third at 18 percent.
  • In the 18-24 and 35-44 demographics, the smartphone penetration rate is around 54 percent.
  • In the 12-17 year-old and 45-54 year-olds demography, the adoption rate is 39 percent.
  • Smartphone penetration among 55-64 rose 5 percent this quarter. Keep reading>>

Survey finds Text4Baby effective in San Diego

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 16, 2011        

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Text4babyPhoneA preliminary study of Text4Baby’s impact found that the service made an impact, according to a new study from researchers at UC San Diego Health System’s Department of Reproductive Medicine and the National Latino Research Center (NLRC) at Cal State San Marcos University.

Text4Baby is a free, SMS-based health information service for new and expectant mothers. The service, which launched in February of 2010, now has almost 250,000 subscribers thanks to its impressive collection of public and private sector marketing partnerships.

Voxiva, which powers the Text4Baby service, launched Text2Quit this summer, a similar service for smoking cessation. Alere is offering the smoking cessation service thanks to a licensing agreement with Voxiva.

The Text4Baby study took place in San Diego County and involved in-person interviews with 38 women and phone surveys of 122 women. More than 2,200 individuals have enrolled in the program in the San Diego area.

The results of the study revealed high satisfaction with the program, especially from Spanish-speaking women. About 63 percent of respondents said that text4baby “helped them remember an appointment or immunization that they or their child needed”; 75.4 percent reported that text4baby messages “informed them of medical warning signs they did not know”; and 71.3 percent reported “talking to their doctor about a topic that they read on a text4baby message.”

“Initial research indicates text4baby is increasing users’ health knowledge, facilitating interaction with health providers, improving adherence to appointments and immunizations and strengthening access to health services,” stated Yvette Lacoursiere, MD, MPH, UC San Diego Health System Department of Reproductive Medicine, in a press release.

Text4Baby is not without its critics, though. Dr Joel Selanikio, the co-founder of another mobile health services provider, DataDyne, wrote in a blog post in March that the small reach of the Text4Baby program was not worth the extent of its funding and promotion by the government: “So in the end, after millions of dollars, use of a professional ad agency, White House promotion, and one year they’ve reached about 2 percent of the 6 million pregnant women in the US,” Selanikio wrote. “Two percent? If that is success, I’d hate to see what failure looks like.” Selanikio’s math was based on Text4Baby’s 100,000 users at the time.

In response, Judy Meehan, CEO of National Healthy Mothers and the Healthy Babies Coalition wrote a rebuttal on MobiHealthNews last April. A nationwide evaluation of Text4Baby by the HHS is still forthcoming.

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Read the press release after the jump.

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Half of doctors to use medical apps in 2012

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 16, 2011        

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epocratesMore than 50 percent of physicians use a smartphone for work purposes, according to a new study by IT industry association CompTIA. CompTIA’s “Third Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities” study consisted of online surveys of 350 doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers or administrators, along with executives at 400 IT firms that work in healthcare IT. The association conducted the surveys over the summer.

Noteworthy metrics from the surveys include:

  • 25 percent of healthcare providers surveyed use tablets at their practice, while another 21 percent expect to do so in the next twelve months.
  • 38 percent of physicians with smartphones use medical apps apps on a daily basis, with that number increasing to 50 percent in the next twelve months.
  • Two-thirds said implementing or improving their use of mobile technologies is a high or mid-level priority in the next 12 months.
  • Almost one-third of providers use their smartphones or tablets to access EMR/EHR systems, with 20 percent expecting to start within the next year.
  • Some 38 percent of healthcare providers said they have a comprehensive EMR system in place and 17 percent have a partial system or module.
  • Only 14 percent of healthcare professionals actively follow news and trends in telemedicine, while 37 percent expressed little interest in the topic.
  • Telemedicine offers the greatest benefits for continuing medical education (61 percent), specialist referral services (44 percent) and patient consultations (37 percent).
  • Ten percent intend to use video conferencing with patients in the next twelve months.

“As mobile devices and applications have become more user-friendly, affordable and powerful, the appeal to businesses of all types, including healthcare providers, has grown exponentially,” stated Tim Herbert, VP research of CompTIA, in a press release.

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

Pfizer launches Robitussin flu tracker app

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 15, 2011        

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robitussinThis week Pfizer launched Robitussin Relief Finder 2.0, a free iOS app that allows users to track flu activity nationwide and also find nearby stores that sell various types of Robitussin products.

The app enables users to find Robitussin products tailored to their flu symptoms via an in-app questionnaire, locate stores nearby selling Robitussin products, and receive coupons. A flu alerts tracker shows the level of flu activity in the user’s area in an interface similar to Google’s Flu Trends. The first version of the app, released earlier this year, offered limited features: the product finder and store locater based on zip code only.

The Robitussin 2.0 app is the latest in a handful of apps that Pfizer has released to the AppStore, including: Plan Q, a smoking cessation app intended for use with a cessation program (perhaps Pfizer’s GETQUIT program that works in conjunction with Pfizer’s Chantix pill?), as well as Pfizer Engage, an extension of their healthcare professional resource portal.

The pharma company’s Pfizer Oncology RCC app appeared in a MobiHealthNews round-up of 10 iPhone apps created by pharma companies earlier this year, but, perhaps surprisingly, no longer appears in the AppStore.

In June Pfizer announced the first FDA-approved clinical drug trial involving all-electronic home-based reporting: The drug being “tested”, Detrol, is intended for use by patients with overactive bladders. However, the real purpose of the study, according to Pfizer, is to compare the mobile reporting of trial data to traditional methods of drug testing. Exco InTouch is providing some of the mobile technology involved in the trial.

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Read on to see a slideshow of the app’s features. Keep reading>>