Ford greenlights first health app: Allergy Alert

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 2, 2012        

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Ford Allergy Alert AppAs expected, Ford has announced the launch of the first mobile health app to connect to certain Ford models via the car company’s Sync AppLink platform: IMS Health’s Allergy Alert app, which is powered by data from IMS Health’s Pollen.com site. MobiHealthNews attended Ford’s media event in May 2011 when the car company unveiled its research pilots focused on mobile health. At the time the company said apps like Allergy Alert would take one to two years before commercially launching. That proved true: It took 14 months.

The car company said that automobiles were just another platform for apps, like smartphones or tablets. Last May, Paul Mascarenas, the Chief Technology Officer at Ford Research and Innovation, said at the media event: “[At Ford] we see health and wellness as a core area for us moving forward.”

Gary Strumolo, Manager, Vehicle Design & Infotronics, Ford Research and Innovation explained that Ford had architected three ways for mobile health services to interact with its cars: Bluetooth connectivity between the car’s computer and personal medical devices, remote access to cloud services via the car’s computer, and synching up to the health apps users already have on their smartphones.

Allergy Alert was one of mobile health apps that were on display at Ford’s event last year. Medtronic and WellDoc also showed off their wares: Medtronic demo’d a continuous glucose meter (CGM) that connected to the car via Bluetooth and allowed users to hear alerts about their blood glucose readings instead of having to fumble with their monitor’s screen while driving. WellDoc demonstrated its cloud-based DiabetesManager service, which could encourage drivers to double check their blood sugar right when they get behind the wheel if they had a low reading earlier that day.

More recently, Ford Motor announced that it had built on its in-car health monitoring initiative by teaming with Microsoft and Healthrageous to research how people can monitor their health and promote wellness with connected devices while in their vehicles. In January, the companies took advantage of the spotlight at the massive 2012 International CES trade show in Las Vegas to show off a prototype called “the car that cares.”

The number of allergy related apps is on the up and up. As we noted recently and following the completion of our recent consumer apps study, allergy-related apps, like IMS Health’s Allergy Alert, are an emerging and fast-growing subcategory of iOS health apps — a few such apps launch every month during the past year.

More on the Allergy Alert launch in the press release below: Keep reading>>

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EyeNetra scoops up $1M for mobile eye exams

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 2, 2012        

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EyeNetra Netra-GCambridge, Massachusetts-based EyeNetra, which is developing what it calls the most affordable mobile eye diagnostic tool ever developed, recently raised $1 million of a hoped for $1.2 million round of funding. The company’s peripheral device and software enables anyone to take their own eye test, get a prescription for glasses, and connect to eye-care providers right from their mobile phone. The funds come from as yet unnamed investors, but the SEC filing indicates the round of funding include two backers.

According to EyeNetra, some 2.4 billion people worldwide are in need of glasses but don’t have them — even though eyeglass makers can produce glasses for as little as $0.75 a care. The real issue is access to cost effective and quality eye diagnostics or care professionals. In addition to helping those underserved populations, EyeNetra aims to disrupt the $75 billion eyecare market.

According to an NPR report from earlier this year, the company’s mobile phone peripheral device only costs about $2 to manufacture. The report explained that EyeNetra determines a patient’s eye prescription like so: “The patient stares through the eyepiece and follows colored lines that appear on the screen. Software installed on the phone translates responses into a measurement of ‘refractive error,’ which optometrists need to make a pair of glasses.” NPR notes that since the test is automatic, detractors claim the crucial, if not subjective, question of whether the patient is actually happy with the results of the prescription — “is 1 better or 2, 1… or 2?” — goes unanswered.

The company will use the funds to further develop its cloud-based platform, called Test2Connect, along with its group of mobile eye diagnostics, to help patients connect to care providers and vendors, including eyeglass stores, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceuticals, or others. The company’s first diagnostic eye test is called NETRA-G, which is based on research conducted at the MIT Media Lab, can quickly measure near- and far-sightedness in addition to astigmatism via a mobile phone.

Future diagnostics might include a cataracts diagnostic test and retina diagnostics, according to the company.

Chiropractic EHR vendor ChiroTouch debuts three iPad apps

By: Neil Versel | Aug 2, 2012        

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ChiroTouch CT Provider EHR iPad appChiroTouch, a San Diego-based vendor of integrated electronic health records and practice management software for chiropractors, has released three native iPad apps, two of which are intended for patient use.

One, CT Provider Interface, gives chiropractors remote access to patient records, including treatment plans, SOAP notes and images.

The CT Patient Intake app records patient history, demographic and insurance information on iPads in the clinic waiting room, eliminating the need for the hated clipboard and associated paper forms. All the data are fed into the practice’s ChiroTouch server so office staff don’t have to key in data themselves.

The third offering, CT Outcomes Assessment, also is a self-service iPad app – also available as a Web portal – that walks patients through a series of questions to assess their pain and injuries. This saves the chiropractor time at the beginning of each office visit and shifts some of the onus for data collection from the practitioner to the patient. The app also creates narratives that can go directly into the EHR or produce reports for measuring outcomes and managing population health.

This reporting feature is a key component of the federal “meaningful use” EHR incentive program. The ChiroTouch EHR is certified to Stage 1 meaningful use standards, and the company says many of its customers already have received their Medicare and/or Medicaid bonus payments.

A company spokesman tells MobiHealthNews that all three apps offer seamless, instantaneous integration with the core EHR/practice management system.

As a chiropractic software package, ChiroTouch doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the physician- and hospital-focused health IT press, but it has been around in some form since 1999. Parent company Integrated Practice Solutions ranked 1,384th on the Inc. 5000 list for 2011, with $6.1 million in revenues in 2010 and three-year growth of 206 percent.

Walgreens clinics tap Aetna’s iTriage for mobile appointment setting

By: Neil Versel | Aug 2, 2012        

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iTriage WalgreensConsumer health app iTriage is providing mobile appointment scheduling for Walgreen Co.’s Take Care Health Systems clinics in two major markets in a pilot program announced Wednesday.

People in the Chicago and Denver areas can now tap their smartphones to make appointments at Take Care Clinic with the free iTriage app for iPhones and Android, and get an immediate confirmation. The same service works online in those markets—the home towns of Denver-based iTriage and Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens—through iTriage’s Web portal.

The service is available for 13 Walgreens clinics in the Denver area and 41 in and around Chicago. While online scheduling currently only works in those markets, iTriage has listings of all Take Care Clinics locations nationwide, according to iTriage spokeswoman Suzy Buglewicz.

Buglewicz tells MobiHealthNews that the iTriage database includes essentially every physician, hospital and clinic in the U.S., though some providers pay to be listed higher and include more information about their services. Patients can use the iTriage platform to check in at the emergency departments at certain hospitals, similar to the new service at Take Care Clinics.

“Today’s consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices to access health care information and services, wherever they are and whenever they need it,” Heather Helle, divisional vice president for Walgreens Consumer Solutions Group, says in a press release. “Integrating with the mobile and online appointment-setting technology of iTriage allows us to provide our patients with another tool to help them better manage their personal healthcare.”

iTriage, which has been owned by Aetna since last year, also offers a symptom-checking service and healthcare provider finder through its app and website.

“Consumers expect more control and convenience when accessing healthcare information and services, and iTriage is empowering patients to make more informed decisions,” iTriage CEO and co-founder Dr. Peter Hudson says in the release.

Hudson indicated that iTriage will expand the online scheduling service if the pilot proves successful. Buglewicz says future markets have not been determined.

Don’t forget, mobile is but a tool in the wider effort to improve healthcare

By: Neil Versel | Jul 31, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeWhat follows are some controversial remarks from last week’s 4th annual World Congress Leadership Summit on mHealth in Boston, where I represented MobiHealthNews as a panel moderator.

In the final, sparsely attended session on Friday afternoon, after many registrants had headed to the airport, Paul Meyer, chairman and president of Voxiva, the company behind Text4Baby and other mobile health coaching programs, dropped this bombshell: “I honestly think there shouldn’t be a fifth annual conference,” he said. Mobile health is not a field. Mobile health is a tool.”

Meyer, a former speechwriter in the Clinton White House who started Voxiva to help monitor disease outbreaks in developing countries, further said he would rather have been in Louisiana that day at a conference on diabetes prevention. He then added, “I think we’re done talking about the widget. Mobile health is a widget.”

For me, this recalled a similar eye-opener at a larger, higher-profile event put on by the same company, Woburn, Mass.-based World Congress. Five years ago at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C., then-Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen let out his frustration with the slow pace of progress in health IT. “Enough with the grants, enough with the conferences, enough with the pilot programs,” he said, while sharing conference stage with people who give out grants and sponsor pilot programs.

I mentioned this last year when the struggling Mobile Health Expo announced plans to start up a policy organization called the Mobile Health Association, which it did soon after. The association has touted a “tour” of 33 events with a total of more than 730,000 attendees this year, but it really only means that it has booth space and an educational program at massive conferences like the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting and the huge Medica show in Germany.

Already we’ve seen the demise of the mHealth Initiative and the largest mobile health event, the mHealth Summit become a HIMSS property. The Wireless Health group on LinkedIn has morphed into the Digital Health group.

What this tells me is that mobile and wireless health do not exist in a vacuum. They are part of the wider fields of health IT, medical devices and health informatics.

While I think there definitely is room for a fifth annual Leadership Summit on mHealth and other small-scale meetings – just as there is plenty of reason for mobile health to be part of bigger events like HIMSS and Medica and there is huge demand for news in publications like this one – Meyer is spot on. Mobile health is not a field. It’s a tool, just like any other technology.

Sometimes we focus too much on labels when we should be concentrating on making healthcare safer, more efficient and more affordable. When I’m a patient, I don’t care how that happens. But it needs to happen.

How healthcare stacks up in customer experience

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 31, 2012        

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PwCA recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Customer Experience in Healthcare: The Moment of Truth, sketches out the rise of consumer health, and, of course, mobile is increasingly a key channel that providers need to get right.

PwC points to five “forces” that are pushing providers in the healthcare industry to revamp their customer experience strategies: Increased cost sharing (including high-deductible health plans), the push for value by healthcare purchasers (including the rise of provider and facility ratings sites), the heightened desire for “on-demand” healthcare, increased access to personal healthcare information (PHI), and the newly insured thanks to health reform. PwC points to mobile health services as key to the increasing desire for on-demand healthcare, which is also being driven by an uptick in the percentage of patients who visit retail clinics (about 25 percent, according to PwC).

PwC also included a helpful industry comparison chart that provides examples of customer experiences in other industries and a comment about the closest parallel for the healthcare experience. For example, in banking consumers have mobile applications that allow payment, fund transfers and deposits, while in healthcare app increasingly give patients access to lab and exam information, physician contacts, claims, health and wellness support, according to PwC. The consulting firm also noted that while the airline industry offers mobile boarding passes and text and email alerts for flight delays, some emergency rooms and provider clinics now post wait times online and use appointment reminders via text.

Based on MobiHealthNews’ own research into available apps for iPhone users, both of these comparisons and health app summaries ring true.

Based on PwC’s surveys, about 65 percent of patients “value” online and mobile exchange of personal health information. Also, “young and urban respondents especially value electronic explanation of benefits and mobile wellness tips,” according to the research firm.

PwC did note substantial generational differences when it comes to digital channels:

“In a recent HRI survey, 42 percent of consumers aged 18-24 said they seek primary health services in non-traditional channels (e.g. retail clinics, phone, web) versus 15 percent for people over 55. Nearly 90 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said they would engage in health activities through social media.13 When age is combined with geography, the young and urban respondents value convenience three times more than the rest of the population. Other consumer segments value provider reputation the most,” PwC wrote.

The full PwC report is available for download here.