Healthbox startup CareWire measures patient experience by SMS

By: Neil Versel | Jan 24, 2012        

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David NicholsSometimes, a smartphone app is more than you need. Sometimes, it is not enough. Perhaps, the “just right” approach is simple technology like a text message.

That is the underlying principle behind CareWire, which automates appointment reminders and other administrative information so health systems can cut down on no-shows and unprepared patients in hopes of producing more productive encounters, reducing hospital admissions and boosting patient encounters. CareWire is the product of Minneapolis-based Healthy Heartland Inc. (HHI), one of the 10 startups that new health incubator Healthbox is supporting.

Each company gets $50,000 in seed funding and is participating in a three-month program in which they are given office space in Healthbox’s temporary Chicago headquarters, plus access to a team of mentors. At the end of the three months, companies will make pitches to venture capitalists in hopes of scoring larger investments.

Healthbox announced its first class of startups in December began the mentoring program in early January. The incubator held a kickoff event and open house in Chicago last week.

“The genesis of CareWire is that there is a variety of ways currently to listen for patient satisfaction and patient dissatisfaction,” Chief Operating Officer and co-founder David Nichols told MobiHealthNews in an interview during the open house. Those ways could include surveys, social media scanning or “ethnographic” interviews, according to Nichols.

“But we were thinking, what would be the least-cost, most widely available medium for engaging with patients and actually getting more or less a blink response from them as to their level of engagement, level of satisfaction, and so on?”

“SMS is nice in that there is no app to download and install. There’s no specific password or security routine you have to go through,” Nichols explained. Plus, most mobile phones made in the last 10 years are capable of handling SMS.

“At least currently, it’s one of the most immediate messaging mediums out there. It has the brevity and directness of Twitter but it has the impact of instant messaging,” said Nichols, who met business partner and CareWire CEO Scott Danielson when both worked at UnitedHealth Group.

At United, Nichols led the development of a business called UnitedHealth at Home, which provides short-term, post-discharge insurance for in-home care. Danielson later moved to AARP, where he helped launch AARPHealth, a health engagement portal for the organization and its members.

They founded Healthy Heartland in late 2009, and started working on CareWire in early 2011, developing the business model and getting feedback from providers, two of which became the company’s pilot sites. CareWire now is testing its technology at Park Nicollet Clinics in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and at Mercy Clinics in Des Moines, Iowa.

According to Nichols, the participating clinics have mobile numbers for 85 percent of their patients. One organization asks patients to opt in, while the other will include patients unless they opt out.

With Medicare cutting off reimbursements for some preventable hospital readmissions and with the advent of Accountable Care Organizations and bundled payments, health systems are finding less incentive to fill their beds and are more motivated to manage cases in primary care. Keep reading>>


Nike+ Fuel Band looks to compete on design

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 23, 2012        

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Nike+ Fuel BandThese days when it comes to connected fitness devices, what a device is capable of doing is less of a differentiator from how a device looks and how it engages its user. That’s why the unveiling of the Nike+ Fuel Band device this past week was less of a technological breakthrough for fitness devices, and more of a breakthrough in fitness device design.

At first blush, based on form alone, it sure looks like Nike has set itself apart from the pack.

The device’s name, Nike+ Fuel Band, comes from the virtual health currency, or the composite score, that the device tracks: Nike Fuel.

Nike launched the device at a media event hosted by talk show host Jimmy Fallon and guests including professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, professional basketball player Kevin Durant, and professional sprinter Carmelita Jeter. Nike is marketing the device with the slogan: “Life is a Sport.” While the Nike+ Fuel Band demo video claims the device is designed for use by anyone, the initial launch and other marketing materials show Nike isn’t shying away from marketing the device to the fitness-inclined and sports-minded.

At the event Nike executives announced that total Nike+ users now number more than 5 million. Keep reading>>

AT&T offers to secure tablets, messages for healthcare

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 23, 2012        

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Cisco Cius Tablet Docking StationAT&T announced two new mobile security services for healthcare providers: security services for tablets and secure messaging services that enable providers to send encrypted information in HIPAA-compliant ways. Appointment reminders, lab results, and payment notices were among the type of messages that AT&T provided as examples. AT&T is working with Soprano to power its secure mobile messaging platform.

The two new mobile security offerings are called AT&T Managed Tablets and AT&T Global Smart Messaging Suite for Healthcare.

The tablet security offering follows on the growing trend of tablet adoption among healthcare providers, especially physicians. As has been pointed out repeatedly in the past few years, tablets and other mobile devices likely increase security threats given their portable and sometimes highly desirable status. As physicians push to have better access to hospital information systems, especially EMRs, right from their mobile devices, companies like AT&T see an opportunity to provide security services and help CIOs feel more comfortable about enabling providers access to sensitive data on tablets.

AT&T says its tablet security offering can work with any tablet. Part of the offering includes remote wipe capability, so the device can be erased if it is lost or stolen. The mobile operator also says the offering works for both tablets that a healthcare facility deploys to its physicians as well as those personal devices that care providers bring in from home.

The AT&T Global Smart Messaging Suite for Healthcare, which AT&T is working with Soprano to offer, includes encrypted outbound messages that enable providers to send patients highly-secure healthcare communications when they opt-in to do so. Cipher is the part of the system that transmits the encrypted information, while a downloadable app, called AT&T Secure Messaging, decrypts the message. The offering works across mobile operators, on any smartphone platform, and on some feature phones.

“Text messaging is proving to be an effective way to engage patients in their care, improve patient satisfaction, and even improve clinical outcomes,” Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Founder and Director of the Center for Connected Health, Partners HealthCare, stated in the AT&T announcement. “Messaging programs have great potential for providing low-cost, accessible, educational messaging to patients, and we look forward to additional applications of these powerful tools for reaching diverse and large patient populations.”

For more, check out the press release below: Keep reading>>

Health plan to offer Telcare BGM to members

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 23, 2012        

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Telcare Blood Glucose MeterA health plan that services self-funded employers in New York and New Jersey, MagnaCare, recently announced that it would offer Telcare’s cellular-enabled blood glucose meter to its members. MagnaCare said the device and its corresponding apps will help its members be more proactive in managing their own health conditions, while also helping physicians stay better informed.

The deal with MagnaCare marks the first publicly announced distribution channel for the recently FDA-cleared, cellular-enabled glucose meter.

Here’s how the Telcare BGM offering works: Telcare BGM is a 3G-enabled blood glucose meter that wirelessly transmits glucose values using T-Mobile USA’s wireless network to an FDA-cleared online clinical server. Clinicians can then view the data if that server connects up to their electronic medical records system. The data is also pulled into a smartphone app that can be accessed by the user or by caregivers. Telcare says the device “transmits real-time access to readings, provides feedback and enables physicians and caregivers to intervene when blood glucose levels reach dangerous levels.”

The Wall Street Journal’s tech columnist Walt Mossberg recently gave the device a rather positive review.

“The biggest challenge in the treatment of diabetes is compliance, which, with a ten percent improvement in glucose control, can reduce the incidence of complications by thirty-seven percent,” Dr. Jonathan C. Javitt, CEO and Vice Chairman of Telcare stated. “The Telcare BGM was developed to eliminate non-compliance and inconsistency in tracking numbers.”

The executive team leading Telcare is impressive: Javitt is a former healthcare advisor in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations and he has previously founded four publicly-traded health IT companies some of which eventually got acquired by Siemens, Aetna and UnitedHealth Group. Javitt co-founded Telcare with John Dwyer, who previously served as CEO of e-MEDx and COO of Active Health Management, which was acquired by Aetna in 2005. Dwyer worked there with Javitt. After his last executive assignment as the CEO of Vetcentric, a specialty on-line pharmacy, he joined the Washington based law firm of Arent Fox LLP advising numerous early stage healthcare technology and biotechnology companies. (More on the executive team here.) Telcare’s team also includes Matt Tendler, one of the original developers of the popular GlucoseBuddy app.

More on the MagnaCare deal in the announcement below: Keep reading>>

Pew: US tablet adoption doubled over the holidays

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 23, 2012        

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95F8EFBB269B4BD7BD058C41C78B1A68About twice as many US adults are using tablets in January than were in the months preceding the holiday season, according to a recent survey funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Research Project. In a survey of almost 3,000 people in November and December found that about 10 percent of US adults had tablets. A similar survey of more than 1,000 people conducted in mid-January found that now about 19 percent of US adults had tablets.

Those with higher levels of education and those living in households that earn more than $75,000 each year saw the highest increases in tablet ownership. About 36 percent of those living in households earning more than $75,000now own a tablet computer, while about 31 percent of those with college educations or higher now have the devices. Perhaps not surprisingly the under-50 age group saw a “significant leap in tablet ownership” over the holidays.

Pew’s researcher stated that they were struck by the findings because there had been little uptick in tablet ownership in the months leading up to the holidays. From mid-2011 into the fall there was not much change in ownership levels of the devices, according to the research organization. Pew pointed to the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet, which are considerably less expensive than some other tablet devices, as one potential reason for the uptick.

Pew noted that the combined surveys have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, so tablet adoption is currently anywhere between 16.6 percent of US adults and 21.4 percent.

Read the full write up on the survey findings here.

Duofertility wireless sensor receives FDA clearance

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 20, 2012        

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The Duofertility Reader

Late last year the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared Duofertility, a computerized basal body temperature thermometer developed by Cambridge Temperature Concepts, with a 510(K). Cambridge Temperature Concepts developed the device, which is intended for use in measuring and recording basal body temperature as an aid in ovulation prediction to aid in conception, according to the summary document prepared for the FDA filing. The company wrote that the device is explicitly not intended for use as a contraception device.

Cambridge Temperature Concepts is one of a handful of companies that has received financing from Qualcomm Life’s recently launched investment fund.

MobiHealthNews first wrote about Duofertility last May: The device is a peel-n-stick sensor that adheres under the woman’s arm to monitor temperature and other indicators to provide 24-hour monitoring for more than six months. The device takes temperature readings up to 20,000 times per day and pits itself up against the much more expensive and invasive IVF.

While the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the Duofertility device took “nearly two years” to secure FDA clearance, the 510(k) summary document shows the application was submitted on August 31, 2010 so the time for this application to lead to clearance was actually closer to one year: It took 16 months. Perhaps more time from previous attempts were included in the WSJ’s figure. Keep reading>>