H1N1 inspired FDA call for adverse reactions app

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 11, 2012        

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iPhone_FDAThe US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to develop a mobile app that helps it collect information and send out alerts about adverse reactions to experimental medications prescribed during public health crises. The agency realized the need for such an app during the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak.

The need for the app became apparent while the FDA was handling 2009’s H1N1 influenza outbreak. At the time, the FDA authorized the emergency use of an experimental drug called Peramivir. The only way health workers could report adverse reactions to the drug (and receive the FDA’s daily communications) was through a delayed system that depended on desktop computer access. According to the agency, 10 percent of cases went unreported due to the system’s inefficiency.

(During the H1N1 outbreak there were a handful of high-profile app launches. While hastily cobbled together, they did aim to keep providers and the general public informed about the much-hyped influenza.)

“FDA staff realized there were critical areas of the FDA’s implementation and communication process needing improvement in order to safely use investigational medications during national public health emergencies,” the FDA wrote in the work order notice.

The FDA is seeking out an app development vendor for the project, according to a posting on a government work orders website. Applications are due by January 18th.

The selected vendor will have one year to create a working prototype of the app, which the FDA calls RAPID (Real-Time Application for Portable Interactive Devices). The prototype needs to work on  iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry smartphones, and tablet support (the FDA specifically mentioned iPads) is expected once the smartphone version is complete.

The purpose of the RAPID app, as described in the notice, is to “develop an efficient bidirectional communications system enabling FDA to fulfill its medical countermeasures (MCM) mission of providing emergency use of investigational medical products during emergent health situations using mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets.”

To that end, features of the app must include: the ability to record video and pictures of drug reactions and audio of a patient’s medical history; support for viewing medical images (including X-ray and EKG); GPS functionality to track possible patterns in location for drug reactions; FDA communication to health workers through the app (“bidirectionally”) to issue warnings or directions. Finally, the app must be capable of supporting 4 million of these drug reports yearly.

The FDA isn’t the only government agency to create a mobile-based alert system. Last May, the FCC announced plans to launch an emergency alert system called Personalized Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), which sends alerts to only those mobile phone users in a certain designated area. Smartphones on the four major mobile carriers (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile USA) will receive text messages and vibration alerts during emergency situations such as a natural disaster, AMBER alert, or terrorist attack.

You can read the RAPID app request for applications in the FedBizOpps notice here.

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LG taps Independa to bring health app to TVs

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 11, 2012        

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angelaAt CES this week Independa announced plans to bring its health and social engagement platform, Angela, to senior communities through a pilot with LG Electronics’ US-based R&D subsidiary, Zenith.

The company also demonstrated a version of Angela that runs on iPhones and iPads — up until now the software has been available from Independa on 10-inch and 22-inch tablets running Microsoft Windows 7. While the move to iOS devices is not surprising, Independa has long been an example of a company that has bucked the iPad trend.

The strategic partnership with Zenith will bring Angela to LG’s Pro:Centric-enabled line of commercial TV sets. Independa launched Angela last summer as an integrated tablet and software offering for the independent elderly. The software, which sports large fonts and higher contrast, offers video chat, email, Facebook, puzzles, appointment reminders, and more.

As part of the deal, the companies will work together to conduct customer trials of Angela running on LG TVs. While there is no set date for a commercial rollout, the companies expect to bring the services to longterm care facilities once the trials are complete.

This isn’t the first collaboration between a TV manufacturer and a health or wellness company.

BodyMedia integrated its BodyMedia Fit armband into Panasonic televisions last summer. In that instance, a picture-in-picture setup onscreen presents fitness data while BodyMedia users work out in front of the TV. Skimble, which Rock Health incubated in its first class of startups, also brings workout apps to the TV through Apple TV.

In 2009, Continua Health Alliance’s Executive Director Chuck Parker revealed that Continua was considering the television set-top box as one potential hub for wireless health devices, and Bluetooth SIG executive director Mike Foley told MobiHealthNews that he had noticed an uptick in interest from television makers looking at ways to embed Bluetooth Smart into new TV models, which would allow for medical devices using that protocol to connect to TV sets. In 2010, the launch of Google TV led to more speculation about the TV as a home health hub.

Read the press release below.

Keep reading>>

Happtique steps up to certify mobile health apps

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 11, 2012        

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HapptiqueHapptique, a healthcare-focused appstore, announced plans to create a certification program that will help the medical community determine which of the tens of thousands of health-related mobile apps are clinically appropriate and technically sound. The company has tapped a multi-disciplinary team to develop the “bona fide mHealth app certification program” within the next six months. The program is open to all developers and will be funded by developer application fees.

It will certify apps intended to be used by both medical professionals and patients.

Happtique is a subsidiary of GNYHA Ventures, the business arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association, and it has used its considerable network to assemble an impressive panel of advisers to put this certification program together. The four-person panel includes experts in patient engagement, social media, mHealth, healthcare accreditation and certification programs, and medicine. Dr. Howard Luks, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at New York Medical College will chair the panel, which also includes Dave deBronkart (ePatient Dave); Dr. Franklin Shaffer, CEO of of CGFNS International — a certification organization for graduates of foreign nursing schools; and Shuvo Roy, Ph.D. a biomedical scientist and technologist who specializes in MEMS technologies.

While this level of curation seems to be a necessary and obvious measure for a healthcare-specific appstore, in late 2010 Happtique’s President Corey Ackerman told MobiHealthNews that his organization had no plans to go in that direction. It was frustrating to hear at the time.

“We are not in the business of opining whether an app is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ though. That’s not our role,” Ackerman told MobiHealthNews in an interview in October 2010. “Apple doesn’t do that and others don’t either. If the FDA indicates that an app is a medical device and needs to be regulated, well, that’s a different situation and we can take it out of the store. If it’s related to or used by healthcare professionals, then we want it. We want [Happtique] to be as full as possible. We don’t have plans to delve into whether an app is ‘good or bad’ at this point, since there are thousands of apps out there.”

As we noted at the time, if Happtique doesn’t step up to decide whether an app is worthwhile, it will miss the point of what is sorely lacking in the medical categories of appstores today — curation.

Despite the need, this certification program will be a Herculean undertaking. Once the program is developed the number of health-related apps for both consumers and medical professionals in Apple’s AppStore alone will top 20,000 based on MobiHealthNews’ own research.

For more details on the planned program and its “blue ribbon panel” of advisors, read the entire press release below: Keep reading>>

iHealth Lab plans to offer iPad glucose meter

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 10, 2012        

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iHealth Lab Glucose MeteriHealth Lab made an unexpected move this week at CES: It unveiled the iHealth Smart Glucometer, which attaches to the iPhone the same way Sanofi’s iBGStar device does. iHealth Lab announced more than just the glucose meter: It also unveiled a Bluetooth-enabled version of its Blood Pressure Dock and a new design for its Wireless Body Fat Scale. The company expects to begin shipping each of the three devices during second half of 2012, pending clearance from the FDA, of course.

The iHealth Smart GlucoMeter, a dongle similar in design to the Agamatrix-built, Sanofi-branded iBGStar, connects to iOS devices via the dock connector. iHealth Lab says the device will work with iPhone touch, iPhone, and iPad devices. (iBGStar only seems to work with iPod touch and iPhone devices.) It is unclear whether iHealth is planning to make its own test strips or partner up for those, but the press release describes them as “industry standard test strips”. The device works with a free companion app, also developed by iHealth Lab, that charts blood glucose readings in 7-day, 14-day, or 30-day averages. Users can also use the app to remind them to take readings, manage their measurement records, schedule medication reminders, and share test results with care providers (which means the results can be emailed probably).

The second generation Blood Pressure Cuff now transmits data via a Bluetooth connection, but otherwise retains the same features of the wired model. The newly redesigned weight scale brings a more stylish look to the device in line with scales from competitors Withings and (new competitor) Fitbit, but it appears to be a solely aesthetic update.

In addition, all three devices will upload their collected data to a newly launched cloud service, which is already available for free to owners of the first generation weight scale and blood pressure dock. (Users must download the latest update for each device’s companion app to access the service.)

“These products further exemplify our desire and passion for truly helping people manage personal health while improving their well-being and we greatly look forward to bringing them to market in 2012,” stated Adam Lin, GM of iHealth Lab, in a press release. “iHealth is excited to expand its robust product offering by assisting users to manage chronic and often life-altering health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.”

Read the press release below.

Keep reading>>

Fitbit debuts its Aria WiFi scale at CES

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 10, 2012        

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fitbitariaFitbit unveiled its first product outside of wearable activity monitors this week at CES: the Aria WiFi Smart Scale, a connected weight scale similar to Withings’ WiFi scale offering. The Aria scale measures weight, body fat percentage, as well as BMI and uploads the data via the user’s home WiFi network to Fitbit’s online portal. The device is expected to launch in late April and will retail for $129.95.

Fitbit Aria recognizes up to eight different user profiles and automatically determines which user is on the scale based on previous usage. (Withings’ scale also recognizes up to eight users.) Once uploaded to Fitbit’s website, the weight data over time can be analyzed through graphs and charts. Users can also create weight loss goals and food logs, earn motivational badges, and interact with fellow Aria users.

Fibit also announced that its main offering, the Fitbit Ultra pedometer, is now for sale in the United Kingdom and will be available in Target stores in the US nationwide starting January 15.

The Aria follows the lead of Withings WiFi body scale and the Bluetooth-enabled iHealth Weight Scale. While the Withings scale operates almost identically to the Aria by using a WiFi connection, the iHealth requires a user to have their smartphone or tablet close by during weigh-ins since it transmits data via a Bluetooth connection. Tanita and A&D also offer connected weight scales that can send results to smartphones and tablets. (Tanita explains how to use an ANT+ device to connect its weight scales to its iOS app in this short video. Looks cumbersome.)

A Fitbit representative told Engadget that the scale has a maximum weight of 400 pounds. Gizmodo learned that that the data can also be viewed on Fitbit’s mobile apps, including an Android app that is expected to be released in February. The fitness app maker launched its first iOS app when it introduced the new Fitbit Ultra device last October.

“As consumer demand continues to rise for products that combine health and technology, analysts predict the digital health industry to be worth $4 billion by 2014,” stated James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit, in a press release. “It’s gratifying to see a strong positive response from retailers, consumers and analysts to our products. We’re proud that Fitbit is playing a key role in building this new category.”

Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

Best Buy’s new health experiment: Selling Aetna’s wellness programs

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 10, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsThe biggest health-related news that broke ahead of the massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES) taking place in Las Vegas this week wasn’t the launch of some new connected health device or fitness tracker. Instead, the big story (so far) is about an unlikely experiment that a trio of Best Buy stores in the Chicago area are undertaking with health insurance provider Aetna.

While the pilot doesn’t include any specific connected health or fitness devices, it may help sell a few.

With the frequency of new consumer health and fitness devices that launched over the past year, it’s looking like Best Buy shouldn’t have too much trouble filling the health and fitness sections of its brick-and-mortar stores. Two and a half years ago a Best Buy executive predicted that in 2012 some 50 million cellular-enabled devices would pass through its stores, and he specifically mentioned connected health devices as an important subsegment of those devices. Toward the end of 2009 Best Buy announced plans to begin selling health and fitness devices at about 40 of its more than 1,000 stores nationwide. In mid-2010 New Jersey-based healthcare provider Meridian Health let it slip at a MobiHealthNews event that it had been working with Best Buy to test whether shoppers would be comfortable buying health-related devices at the electronics store. By the end of 2010 Best Buy had formally announced plans to bring health and fitness devices to about half of its stores (or about 500 stores) nationwide. This past year, Best Buy began selling wellness devices like Zeo’s Sleep Manager at all of its stores.

Best Buy wasn’t the only store to begin selling these devices in recent years, but it has led the charge. Of course, selling devices is not a wholly unexpected move from Best Buy. Its most recent foray into health — to try to sell wellness programs in collaboration with Aetna — is much more of a curveball.

Three Best Buy stores in the suburban Chicago area are now selling four wellness programs offered by Aetna focused on fitness, weight management, smoking cessation, and stress management. Shoppers can buy hanging cards that explain each of the online programs that they can then access online. Each program costs $19.99.

“Best Buy seemed a natural choice for trying out some of our well-being products with the general public,” Louise Murphy, the head of Aetna’s behavioral health and employee assistance programs, stated in a press release. “These online programs take the things you ‘should do’ and turn them into things you ‘will do’.” Keep reading>>