Online community builder Sonnier joins WLSA

By: Neil Versel | Mar 8, 2011        

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WLSA Co-Founder Rob McCray


The Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance has hired industry community builder Paul Sonnier for the newly created role of vice president for partner development. In this role, Sonnier will help grow the organization’s membership and seek additional networking and business opportunities for existing members of the San Diego-based organization.

Sonnier has been successful in bringing together various players in this rapidly developing industry. Since founding the Wireless Health group on business networking site LinkedIn as an online community for the large number of telecommunications and mobile health professionals in San Diego-area, Sonnier has taken the geographic restrictions off the group and helped build membership to more than 5,100 people.

“He’s had the time and passion to put this together,” WLSA President and CEO Robert McCray tells MobiHealthNews.

Sonnier also co-chairs the Healthcare Communications Special Interest Group for CommNexus San Diego, an industry organization that promotes the large telecommunications industry presence in and around that city. There, Sonnier has engaged in many of the activities he will lead at WLSA, including facilitating business relationships and educating others about wireless and mobile healthcare.

“This [new job] is the validation of my efforts,” Sonnier says via e-mail.

Like the industry as a whole, WLSA is growth mode.

“I judged in 2009 that 2011 was going to be Year 1 in the wireless healthcare sector,” McCray says. Keep reading>>


USA Mobility buys Amcom for $163.3 million

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 7, 2011        

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Amcom Mobile ConnectLast week wireless paging giant USA Mobility bought Amcom Software for $163.3 million in cash. USA Mobility used $110.8 million of cash on hand and $52.5 million through a credit facility from Wells Fargo Capital Finance. The acquisition helps modernize USA Mobility’s messaging services beyond legacy paging services and into messaging and unified communications.

“Amcom’s strength in health care lies with their operator console products,” Medical Connectivity’s Tim Gee wrote in a recent blog post about the deal. “This PC-based software integrates with the hospitals PBX and ADT system via HL7, presenting a user interface to operators who can easily look up and connect calls to hospital patients. Amcom is one of the few vendors to offer an operator console with ADT and HL7 integration. ADT stands for ‘admission, discharge and transfer,’ the ‘hotel’ function of the hospital information system that identifies and tracks patients throughout their hospital stay.”

The acquiring company said Amcom’s revenue for 2011 will be between $239 million and $255 million with operating expenses between $175 million and $183 million and CAPEX in the $6 million to $9 million range.

“USA Mobility is by far the largest wireless paging provider in the US, with over half the market,” according to Gee. “But the best years for the paging business are behind us… World wide, paging subscribers peaked in 2000 at almost 180 million and have declined since.”

“Amcom Software, Inc. will operate as our software subsidiary,” USA Mobility president and CEO Vincent Kelly stated in a company press release. “Both companies will continue to function with their existing management structures. Chris Heim, Amcom’s former chief executive officer, will continue to serve as the president of Amcom Software, Inc. and Dan Mayleben, Amcom’s former chief financial officer, will serve in the capacity of chief operating officer of Amcom Software, Inc.”

For more on the acquisition, read the full release after the jump: Keep reading>>

Walgreens: 1M subscribe to prescription text alerts

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 4, 2011        

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Walgreens Refill By ScanAfter just four months of launching “Refill by Scan,” Walgreens have found that users of its smartphone application have embraced the feature which enables them to use the camera on their phone to scan the barcode printed on a prescription label to order a refill. Walgreens said half of all refill orders originating from a mobile device are now from Refill by Scan. The feature has been available to users of Walgreens’ iPhone and Android apps since November 2010.

Walgreens also announced that more than 1 million people have subscribed to its prescription text alert service, which informs customers when a prescription is ready for pickup. That service was launched in March 2010.

“Our customers have enthusiastically adopted our mobile applications and we’re continuing to bring innovative technology to our online and mobile platforms to enhance the customer experience,” Sona Chawla, Walgreens President of E-commerce, stated in the company release. “With refill by scan, prescription text alerts, unique photo features and the ability to shop or browse products all available on a mobile device, we’re adding new levels of choice, control and convenience for our rapidly-growing numbers of mobile customers.”

Walgreens plans to launch a new advertising campaign this week to promote Refill by Scan and its other mobile services.

Scanning barcodes via smartphone cameras have other use cases in mobile health. Last year we profiled a startup called ScanAvert, which offers an app that allows users to scan barcodes on various food items to see whether those foods contain ingredients they are allergic to, contain ingredients that might interact with their drug regimen and more.

For more on Walgreens’ mobile scanning and alerts, read the full press release below: Keep reading>>

PHRs, hype and closing thoughts on HIMSS11

By: Neil Versel | Mar 3, 2011        

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Neil VerselIn this week’s MobiHealthNews industry roundup, Brian Dolan hit the nail on the head.

“Do-It-Yourself Health Care with Smartphones: That’s the misguided title of an article in the New York Times this week,” he wrote. “The article starts with the 500 million people will be using mobile health statistic — which is the best confirmation we have for mHealth being atop the Gartner hype cycle — and devolves into a discussion about Microsoft’s HealthVault, Google Health and other PHRs.”

Look further into the article and you see how vendors and the mainstream media have bought the hype. “We decided to integrate with Google Health and HeathVault because, based on their potential, a lot of people are using them as a destination site,” John Hendel, chairman of Entra Health Systems, maker of the MyGlucoHealth mobile diabetes management system, is quoted as saying.


Whenever someone offers me a story about personal health records, I ask them to show me some evidence that their product is being used by more than a small test population. Not once has anyone produced a shred of proof.

Last year, Google actually had to deny a report from Chilmark Research’s John Moore that it had effectively pulled the plug on its little-used PHR platform. Microsoft hasn’t had the same image problem, but, let’s face it, the only PHRs being accepted right now are those directly connected to a large health system’s EHR.

Epic Systems has done a good job pushing its myChart portal to its customers, and some with home-grown EHRs such as Partners HealthCare System, have gained acceptance for their PHRs. But untethered PHRs — and there are plenty of products that have been around much longer than HealthVault or Google Health that don’t have the name cachet — remain a tiny niche market.

I mention this in part because we’re just a week removed from the largest health IT event of the year, the HIMSS conference. As always, there was a lot of substantive discussion on technology that is transforming healthcare — and HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber did indicate that mobile was “the future” — but the strengthening economy also meant that the HIMSS hype was back with a vengeance this year. Keep reading>>

Dr John Halamka endorses Apple iPad at iPad 2 launch event

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 2, 2011        

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iPad2FaceTimeThe original iPad, which launched early last year, proved to be a hit with physicians — some 22 percent of US docs were using iPads at the end of 2010, according to Chilmark Research. This morning Apple launched the iPad 2, a thinner, lighter version of the popular tablet device, which now includes two cameras, gyroscope, dual core A5 processor and more. It also features more of the same: Still $499 and the battery life is still 10 hours. As is tradition, and despite being on medical leave, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the new device from the keynote stage in Cupertino, California.

A few minutes into Jobs’ talk (and before the iPad 2 was debuted), he played a video that chronicled the iPad’s adoption and uptake in various vertical markets during the past year. The second “vertical” featured? Medicine.

“Sometimes doctors are overhwhelmed with data,” Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO Dr. John Halamka said during the video. “What we have tried to do with the iPad is to give doctors at the point of care the tools they need at the exact moment the doctor can make a difference. We’re finding with the iPad doctors are spending more times with patients. In fact, doctors are engaging patients by showing them images, showing them data on the screen. So it has empowered doctors to be more productive but it has also brought doctors and patients together.”

Halamka 3Halamka, of course, recently announced that he would step down from his post as chairman of the US government’s Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP). Perhaps he’ll become a healthcare market advisor to Apple?

“So I think what is so exciting about the iPad, is it will change the way doctors practice medicine,” Halamka concluded. (Interesting footnote: Not too long ago, Halamka was pitching BlackBerry devices, remember.)

Jobs also included a couple of images of medical apps during his opening remarks. After noting that there are now more than 65,000 apps in the AppStore that take “full advantage” of the iPad, meaning they are designed for that platform and its larger screen and faster processor, he showed screenshots of a handful of such apps: “All sorts of… wonderful, wonderful apps… and a lot of apps for business and vertical markets like medical. The things people are doing here are amazing,” Jobs said.

iPad medical“For those of you who have iPhone 4s, the new iPad 2 is actually thinner than your iPhone 4,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during the keynote. “We are incredibly happy with this. When you get your hands on one, it feels totally different,” he said. “And all these other tablets are coming out — most of them even thicker than the original iPad — nothing even approaching this.”

Between April 2010 and December 2010 Apple sold almost 15 million iPads — “That’s more than every tablet PC ever sold,” Jobs said. “The tablet PC did not invent the modern tablet PC. It crashed and burned. The modern tablet PC is the iPad.”

iPad medical appsThe iPad generated $9.5 billion in revenue for Apple in 2010. “Many have said that this is the most successful consumer product ever launched.” In 2010 iPad had “over 90 percent marketshare and our competitors were just flummoxed,” Jobs said. “They went back to their drawing boards. They tore up their designs because they just weren’t competitive.”

Apple also showed clips of how the iPad had proven helpful for some people with Autism. Apps like Proloquo2Go help people with autism (and others who have difficulty speaking) to verbally communicate with others through their iPad.

Here are a number of other details about what’s new in iPad 2:

  • iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than iPad 1.
  • Features Apple’s new dual-core A5 process, which makes it twice as fast according to Apple.
  • Rear-facing camera offers 720p video recording at 30fps along with 5x digital zoom.
  • Front-facing is VGA-resolution but also records at 30fps
  • Supports Apple video chat app FaceTime
  • 3G connectivity from AT&T or Verizon Wireless available
  • Available in white or black
  • Includes HDMI output capable of 1080p
  • Becomes available March 11

More in the press release from Apple after the jump: Keep reading>>

Nokia’s NFC technology helps fight cholera in Haiti

By: Neil Versel | Mar 2, 2011        

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Nokia 6212 PicNokia, the world’s No. 1 mobile handset maker that somehow hasn’t quite garnered the headlines of Apple or Google, continues to make inroads in mobile healthcare, albeit rather quietly. A post that appeared on the company’s blog Wednesday highlights how near-field communication (NFC) — with Nokia technology, of course — is helping a not-for-profit organization fight cholera in Haiti.

Yes, the situation in Haiti remains dire, more than a year after a deadly earthquake, even though world attention has turned to revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa and natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand. Among the challenges is providing safe drinking water to Haiti’s poverty-stricken population, the vast majority of whom don’t have running water in their homes, according to a Feb. 18 Scientific American article that inspired the Nokia blog post.

According to Nokia, the organization, Deep Springs International (DSI), has provided 35,000 Haitian households with chlorination systems in 5-gallon buckets equipped with RFID chips. The chips are activated whenever a health worker toting an NFC-enabled Nokia 6212 phone visits and passes the phone within a few centimeters of a bucket. Each health worker tests chlorine levels in the buckets, answers a short questionnaire on the phone, then sends results via SMS to DSI’s offices in Léogâne, Haiti, near the epicenter of the January 2010 quake.

The SMS questionnaire replaces paper forms that often take days to reach DSI headquarters. According to Scientific American, DSI picked the 6212, a model that has been around since 2008, since the phone has a long battery life but lacks a touch screen or other advanced features that would make it attractive to would-be thieves.

The Nokia Research Center, based in Palo Alto, Calif., turned to the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, to develop texting software on the open-source FrontlineSMS platform. Keep reading>>