FCC picks Quinn as new director of health care initiatives

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 11, 2013        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWithout any noticeable fanfare, the Federal Communications Commission has chosen its new director of health care initiatives: Matthew Quinn. The agency first published a job posting for the position in December.

Quinn has previously worked at a number of government agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Before he switched to government work, Quinn was the healthcare industry program manager for Teradata, an enterprise analytic technologies and services provider. He also worked at NCR’s patient safety software division Quantros, GE Healthcare, and helped build an early PHR company after serving in the US military as an Army Engineer Officer.

According to the FCC’s job posting back in December, the Director of Health Care Initiatives will serve for a maximum of four years: “The incumbent will lead the agency’s efforts in facilitating and promoting communications technologies and services that improve the quality of health care for all citizens and help reduce health care costs; facilitating the availability of medical devices that use spectrum; and ensuring hospitals and other health care facilities have required connectivity,” the posting read.

The job description includes advising the FCC on health issues, providing guidance to the team overhauling the $400 million Rural Health Care program, working with other government bodies like the NIH and the FDA, and working with the private health care sector to develop effective FCC programs.

The West Health Institute’s director of public policy Kerry McDermott was the last person to head up health care initiatives for the FCC.  McDermott previously led the FCC’s healthcare efforts and helped Mo Kaushal and Spencer Hutchins write the healthcare chapter in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. Following the National Broadband Plan’s publication all three of them left the FCC to join the then-named West Wireless Health Institute. In 2011 the American Telemedicine Association published an open letter to the FCC criticizing the agency for going “silent” on healthcare since the publication of its National Broadband Plan in early 2010. In its letter the ATA also noted “the departure of every key professional staff from the Commission involved in healthcare policy.”

Last September the FCC held a public briefing this week with its mHealth Task Force, which formed in June 2012 to gather input from healthcare professionals and technologists to create a report full of “concrete” next steps that the FCC (and other agencies) can take to facilitate the adoption and acceleration of mHealth in the United States. One of the task force’s key suggestions was that the FCC hire a new healthcare director immediately.

Special thanks to Health 2.0’s Matthew Holt for mentioning Quinn’s appointment in a comment on a MobiHealthNews post this week. While the FCC itself has not confirmed the news, and we could not reach Quinn for comment, MobiHealthNews has confirmed the appointment with other sources. Also, Quinn is scheduled to speak at the Care Continuum Alliance’s upcoming event in Washington DC as the FCC’s Director of Health Care Initiatives.

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Five Boston-area health startups from our Mobile Monday event

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 11, 2013        

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taylor salinardi mobile monday

Taylor Salinardi talks about Bon App. (Photo by Aditi Pai)

This week, MobiHealthNews co-hosted a special healthcare-themed Mobile Monday event at Ned Devine’s bar here in Boston to showcase some local mobile health startups. The five startups presented a diverse range of products tackling different challenges in mobile health.

The first company, RxApps, is leveraging SMS and responsive web as tools to improve patient compliance.

RxApps, a Rock Health company formerly known as PrescribableApps, made their first public presentation at a Mobile Monday event a year ago. CEO and co-founder John Moore III (son of John Moore of Chillmark Research) presented, showing some slides from the app and some sample text messages. Physicians can use RxApps with patients who have mental health conditions. The platform sends customized check-in messages via SMS and mobile that ask patients about their mood or weight, worded so patients can respond easily with a few numbers.

That data is sent back to the physician and also recorded so it can be tracked, and patients and providers can see visual representations of fluctuations in their mood and status.

“In mental illness there are very few competitors, most of them are exclusively consumer-facing,” Moore said, in response to a question about what makes RxApps different from competitors. “We’re engaging doctors, that’s the big difference, and we’re using SMS. We’re engaging them with push prompts. We’re doing both mobile web and text messages. We’re trying to bridge that gap, make it accessible to anyone.”

Next to present was Javier Perez from FeedHenry, a company that builds mobile apps for enterprise clients, including some in the healthcare space. Perez presented an app the company built for Courtagen Life Sciences to give doctors mobile access to the results of specific genetic tests Courtagen offers.

“Doctors have access to this data, but they have a 20-page pdf report they have to read. So mobility was a no-brainer,” Perez said. “They needed to have everything on an iPad, they needed that color-coded gene map, to see those genes and see if there are any problems. This is where FeedHenry comes into play. We are a cloud-based platform that sits right in between those enterprise systems and the mobile app.”

He said FeedHenry provides HIPAA-compliance and security for companies in the apps it builds.

Keep reading>>

Mobisante launches Windows tablet-based, FDA-cleared ultrasound system

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 11, 2013        

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Mobisante MobiUS TabletRedmond, Washington-based Mobisante announced the launch of a tablet-enabled version of its portable ultrasound system, which received FDA 510(k) clearance in early 2011. The tablet version of the offering enables physicians to use more powerful ultrasound probes and, of course, brings a larger screen for review of high-resolution ultrasound imaging. Because the tablet provides the power for the peripheral ultrasound probe, the tablet version of MobiUS, called TC1, can power probes used for endocavity probes for gynecology or prostate imaging.

MobiUS TC1 will cost about the same as the smartphone version, Mobisante’s CTO and Co-founder David Zar told MobiHealthNews. While various pricing options are offered through Mobisante or its channel partners, Zar said physicians can also rent the system, which includes a tablet running Windows 7 and Mobisante’s software, for about $400 a month.

Zar said the 2011 FDA clearance actually cleared MobiUS for use on a tablet, but the company ran into issues with that particular model and is now using a different tablet, which Zar declined to name. Zar said because Mobisante changed the hardware it did have to go through more testing to update its 510(k), but a new 510(k) clearance wasn’t needed.

“Fundamentally [the tablet version] has the same look and feel, but with the more powerful platform, we can provide a higher frame rate and additional probes,” Zar said. “Our users have asked for these larger screens and frame rates, so we can give them that now. Some are using both the smartphone and the tablets versions. The tablet might be set-up in the exam room, while the smartphone version can be in their pocket while they’re wandering around.”

According to the Mobisante site, the tablet version of MobiUS provides up to 4.5 hours of continuous scanning time on a full charge, while the smartphone version can handle about 60 minutes of continuous scanning.

Both the smartphone and tablet versions leverage WiFi and email to transmit the images. The data can be moved via USB stick, SD card, or network drive, too, according to Mobisante’s FAQ. Zar said a crucial next step would be integrating their offering with various existing PAC systems and cloud-based imaging systems.

Startup looks to simplify iPad interface for dementia patients

By: Neil Versel | Apr 11, 2013        

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Clevermind iPad appA startup mobile app developer is testing and preparing to launch an iPad app intended to help people with dementia (and perhaps just technophobes) navigate the tablet screen with voice commands and a simplified display. The app, called Clevermind, from a Hillside, Ill.-based company of the same name, also will help caregivers manage treatment for their loved ones.

“My target market really is caregivers,” Clevermind founder and CEO Glenn Palumbo tells MobiHealthNews. Palumbo, a veteran IT professional and entrepreneur, is one himself, as his 82-year-old father has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for about five years.

“He’s extremely healthy from a vitals perspective, but his mind is deteriorating,” Palumbo says. “I wanted to create something to give him independence.”

The app essentially is a user interface in a controlled environment, according to Palumbo, with a limited number of large, color-coordinated buttons and voice control. It takes advantage of Apple’s Guided Access capability to lock a mentally impaired user into the Clevermind interface so the person does not get lost, inadvertently start deleting items or make unintended online purchases. “We want to avoid getting them confused and frustrated,” says Palumbo.

The initial release, set for June will have limited functionality, serving as the front end for communication and social hubs like Skype, Facebook and Twitter, with a simplified display including a basic Web browser. For example, the Facebook interface will show just key items such as friends, posts and pictures, not on-screen advertising or advanced options, Palumbo says.

The system will incorporate cognitive assessment training, tracking and reporting. “We’re going to track everything that [patients] do for research purposes,” Palumbo says. Keep reading>>

Welltok raises $18.7M for healthy social network CafeWell

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 10, 2013        

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CafewellOnly four months into 2013, we’ve already seen several big moves from companies presenting as “health social networks.”

In late January, Audax Health raised $21 million for its social network Zensey, and announced a partnership with Cigna. In February, employee wellness program Keas announced a new product that signaled a pivot into the health social network sphere. Last week, OneHealth raised $9 million for its health social network and announced a slew of employer and health plan partners.

Now Welltok, makers of the CafeWell social health management platform, have announced an $18.7 million raise. And although the company didn’t announce employer or health plan partners, their platform is clearly targeted at what they call population managers — reps for employers, providers, and especially health plans — as well as at consumers. The company has only disclosed one customer, Coventry HealthAmerica, but it reports that it has two of the nation’s largest health plans among its customers.

This is the second round of funding for the Denver-based company that’s been around since 2009. Emergence Capital Partners, InterWest Partners and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) contributed to the round, which the company says it will use to “accelerate product development and strategic partnership efforts, expand into new markets, and build account teams to support the rapidly growing base of clients.”

Welltok also announced that Jeff Margolis, the company’s executive chairman for the last year and a half, has been appointed CEO. Margolis founded TriZetto, a healthcare SaaS company that was acquired for $1.4 billion by Apax Partners in 2008.

“I have a lot of confidence that we have a significant enough capital base to go and win this space,” he said. “Not be one of the winners, but win it. And that ties very much with my excitement that we’re doing something that’s very important.” Margolis says he thinks Welltok can provide value not just to its shareholders and customers, but also activate “the missing leg of the stool in healthcare, which is the consumer,” and save money for the healthcare system in general.

Health plans sponsor consumers to participate in CafeWell. Once in, participants have access to health information, competitive wellness and fitness challenges, reward and incentive programs for healthier lifestyle changes, support for chronic conditions from peers and professionals, and anonymous social networking. The population managers, in return, get access to de-identified metrics on employee wellness and participation.

In a recent case study, the company found that engaging with CafeWell activities brought consumers up from 50 percent satisfaction with their health plan up to 66 percent.

The category of “health social network” is a hard one to pin down — online patient communities like PatientsLikeMe have a social component (although the company resists the label “social network”), as do most wellness and fitness consumer apps. And many of the latter are directly or indirectly gunning for the employer and health plan markets as well (for instance, we wrote about EveryMove’s backdoor employer strategy last week). What’s clear is that it’s an emerging and crowded field.

Unlike Facebook, whose back-end value to advertisers became clear after the juggernaut of adoption had already set in, these health social networks don’t have much choice but to be upfront about their business model: they are selling patient health engagement — and data to back it up — to employers and health plans. But the people who need to really buy into these networks to make them succeed are the patients, users, and employees themselves. It’s clear that many investors believe these platforms can secure that kind of engagement, and deliver value to payers. It remains to be seen if that confidence is justified.