Microsoft sees pen, computing power as differentiators for Surface Pro tablet

By: Neil Versel | Jan 23, 2013        

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Microsoft Windows 8 Surface Pro tabletMicrosoft is upping the ante in the tablet game.

The Redmond Empire announced Tuesday that Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro, a business-class line of its Surface tablets, will hit stores in the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 9. The Pro models will have third-generation Intel Core i5 processors, touch screens with 1080p (1,920 by 1,080) HD resolution, plus an included digital pen and “Palm Block” technology that prevents extraneous marks and commands when users rest their palms on the on the screen while writing with the pen. Each one also has a full-size USB 3.0 port and a Mini DisplayPort interface that can output to external displays with up to 2,560-by-1,400 resolution.

Unlike basic Surface models that start at $499, Surface Windows 8 Pro tablets will run any Windows 8 application or Windows 7 desktop software, so they are just as powerful as a laptop. However, the 10.6-inch Pro tablets are not cheap: $899 for a 64-gigabyte version or $999 for 128 GB, with an add-on keyboard available for $100-$120 – more than the most expensive iPad. Apple’s 64 GB tablet with built-in 3G or 4G cellular connectivity tops out at $829; the entry-level 16 GB iPad mini with just WiFi costs $329.

In healthcare, Microsoft is pushing the computing power, the pen, and Palm Block features as a differentiator.

“For years I have been writing about the challenges of data input in clinical medicine. Doctors and other clinicians need all of the data input options possible including keyboard, mouse, touch, pen and voice,” Dr. Bill Crounse, Microsoft’s worldwide senior director for health, writes on the Microsoft HealthBlog.

“With Surface Pro, you’ll have it all. With EMR solutions and apps that have been optimized for Windows 8, you’ll be able to tap into discrete data fields and enter information (with handwriting to text conversion) using the pen. The pen can also serve as a navigation, tap and dictate tool if you are using voice recognition software,” Crounse continues.

Microsoft will sell the Surface Pro tablets through its own bricks-and-mortar and online retail stores in the U.S. and Canada, as well as at Best Buy and Staples locations in the U.S., the company says.

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Healthbox London holds demo day; Irish accelerator HealthXL launches

By: Jonah Comstock | Jan 22, 2013        

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Healthbox CEO Nina Nashif speaks at the Innovation Day in London.

Healthbox CEO Nina Nashif speaks at the Innovation Day in London.

Just a year after launching its first class in Chicago, Healthbox held a demo day in London to showcase its first European class. The seven startups, representing four countries, which were announced in October 2012, have now completed Healthbox’s three-month accelerator course. They were chosen out of an initial pool of about 200 applicants. Each company received some seed capital, access to a collaborative workspace in central London, and mentorship from Healthbox’s European partners: global innovation company Bayer, international healthcare group Bupa, Guys’ and St. Thomas’ charity, and Serco Health.

“In Europe we have 27 different systems which restrain innovation, which keep investors out of the country. Nobody knows the exact environments and it’s harder to investigate the risks,” said Ben Heubl, the chapter founder of Health 2.0 Copenhagen, who was involved in facilitating Healthbox’s Innovation Day. Heubl said accelerator programs in Europe are key to building the kind of multinational communities that encourage angel investors to look beyond their own countries and support the whole European health IT ecosystem.

Another European accelerator, HealthXL just had the first in a series of selection days in Dublin. HealthXL is a health-specific division of Startup Bootcamp, which Heubl described as the European equivalent of TechStars. The Irish accelerator will be focusing on later stage companies than Healthbox, he said, and will include partners like GlaxoSmithKline and IBM and mentors like O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly and Global Diagnostics founder Johnny Walker.

Here are the seven companies that featured at the Healthbox event in London:

HealthClinicPlus

HealthClinicPlus creates prescription software to guide patients through exercises and physical therapy at home. The Irish company is currently piloting their software at a London Hospital with post- and pre-operative patients. Their first consumer product, SportsClinicPlus for the sports industry market, is under development.

MIRA Rehab

Similarly, Romanian company MIRA Rehab converts existing physical therapy exercises into videogames, currently for the Microsoft Kinect system, which sports a sensor the software can use to determine whether patients are really following through with exercises. MIRA won the Innovation Award at the event, which came with a £10,000 prize.

SOMA Analytics

SOMA Analytics is a German company developing passive monitoring software for smartphones. Targeted at employee stress management, the software will measure voice affect and typing speed and errors to provide a realtime assessment of stress and wellbeing.

HomeTouch

HomeTouch employs a software-as-a-service model for helping aging-in-place elders with busy families. The company’s platform consists of two connected applications: a tablet app for older people which gives them easy access to services like messaging, video calling, calendars, and photo albums and a cross-platform app for families that lets them manage and help with that platform remotely. The software is currently in beta, with a full release planned for later in the year.

Portable Medical Technology, Ltd.

Irish company Portable Medical Technology, Ltd. makes ONCOassist, a smartphone app to help oncologists get fast and easy access to the latest research and clinical decision support tools. ONCOassist is one of the first European smartphone apps to get CE Mark clearance, according to the company.

Medopad

Medopad is a tablet interface for hospital servers, allowing doctors to access a patient information without needing to consult a fixed terminal.

Desktop Genetics

Desktop Genetics is developing the SynthBot, a gene printer that aims to make it easier and more affordable to create synthetic genes in the lab. The British company is currently beta testing the software and expects to be able to launch the SynthBot for construction by 2015.

About that meta-analysis of mHealth efficacy studies

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 22, 2013        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsTechnology moves too quickly for the world of academic publishing. That’s a long held belief by many but also a common topic of conversation among those working in digital health today. How to best study efficacy can be a tricky subject for digital health, however, the argument that efficacy data is unimportant rarely enters the debate — it is, especially for those companies that hope to convince payers that their services are worthy of reimbursement. Of course, the benefits of rigorous study go well beyond that in many cases, too.

There are some digital health studies, however, that are best published elsewhere. Any sensible person would agree that a scientific journal is no place for them. Take meta-analyses of mHealth efficacy data. Are you looking to determine whether the scientific evidence supporting clinical efficacy of mobile health was robust back in mid-2010? Well, you just had to wait until January 2013 to find out — in fact, you probably did last week.

The fact that the scientific body of efficacy data was lacking as of September 2010 should come as a surprise to no one. A quick poll of those mobile health companies with published efficacy studies informed me that the time it takes from when an mHealth service is ready to begin an RCT to the actual publish date of the study in a medical journal is at least two years. That might be appropriate for some intervention studies, but what good is a meta-analysis report on the state of current affairs if it arrives two years later?

As my colleague Neil Versel wrote last week: “British researchers examined 20 years’ worth of published studies on mobile interventions delivered to healthcare consumers and mHealth technologies intended to improve care delivery processes. In both cases, they were underwhelmed with what they found.”

The 20 years, of course, stretched from January 1990 to September 2010. Given the typical two years (minimum) it takes to get to the publish date, that means the study was only looking at mHealth interventions developed by mid-2008. That pre-dates MobiHealthNews by a few months. Apple launched its AppStore around the same time these studies were just beginning. At that time, Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya had hosted just one Health 2.0 event and a single Spring Fling!

So, yes, scientific mobile health research was found to be severely lacking as of September 2010. Since then, much has happened, including the publication of WellDoc’s landmark efficacy study in 2011. In a comment on our post last week, Wireless Life-Sciences Alliance strategic advisor Jack Florio noted: “This field has been evolving with lightning speed. It is likely that studies which were started in 2009 and 2010 have not reached the literature. This means there is an additional 5 years of past and ongoing work which is not accounted for in this research.”

He’s right, of course, and on that note, a much more current meta-analysis found that the future of mHealth efficacy data is bright.

Alain Labrique, Ph.D., the founding director of the Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative, and his team recently conducted a survey of the mHealth studies that were registered in the government’s clinicaltrials.gov database as of November 2012. Labrique writes: “We identified 215 unique mHealth studies that were registered in the clinicaltrials.gov database, of which 8.4 percent (n=18) were observational in nature while the remaining 91.6 percent (n=197) were interventional. Of the 215 studies, 81.8% (n=176) studies used a classical randomized trial design and 40 new studies were added to the database between May and November 2012 alone. Based on these results, we posit that the field is entering a new ‘era’ where a body of rigorous evaluation of mHealth strategies is rapidly accumulating.”

Labrique concludes: “The transition into an era of evidence-based mHealth supports our position that innovation in this domain can be evaluated with the same rigor as other public health strategies, attenuating some of the hype previously associated with mHealth.”

We’ll continue to cover that transition in near real-time here at MobiHealthNews.

Soon-Shiong’s NantHealth raises $31 million

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 22, 2013        

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NantLife AppEarlier this month Nant Health, the healthcare company that is a part of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s tight-lipped NantWorks portfolio of companies, raised $31 million in two rounds of funding, according to SEC filings. Another NantWorks company, NantiD, which appears to be the next generation of the iVisit LookTel technology that Nant acquired a few years ago, raised an additional $15 million in funding. (Correction: An earlier version of this article stated NantiD raised $25 million instead of the correct amount: $15 million.)

Last October Verizon announced that it had invested an undisclosed sum into NantHealth to help it develop a secure fiber-optic, cloud-based data infrastructure to deliver multimedia healthcare information to mobile devices — at the time the two companies were already collaborating on the Cancer Knowledge Action Network. Verizon Wireless also highlighted NantiD as one of its partners providing augmented reality technology for retail at CES 2013 earlier this month. Nant also offers a version of the technology to visually impaired or blind people.

NantHealth includes a number of Soon-Shiong’s acquisitions over the years, like medication adherence offering Vitality GlowCaps and the home health technology provider Boston Life Labs. Based on a short series of NantCare promotional videos on YouTube, Boston Life Labs’ suite of devices, which has since been rebranded NantLife Telehealth, still goes by their old device names, like the Hpod and Hcube. The NantCare videos focus on congestive heart failure (CHF) patients and point to a September 2012 launch in Europe. The NantLife Telehealth offering also includes an iOS and Android app.

In addition to the Verizon partnership, last year NantHealth forged a partnership with Blue Shield of California to develop and launch an integrated advanced technology system for at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA to establish a clinically-based “continuous learning center” (CLC) as part of a new accountable care organization (ACO). Of course, the ACO will leverage Nant’s various technology offerings.

NantHealth did not respond to requests for comment on the funding news.

Florida ACO looks to cut readmissions with telemonitoring

By: Neil Versel | Jan 22, 2013        

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AMC HealthLast week, an early participant in the Medicare Shared Savings Program, which provides financial incentives for coordinating care of and improving outcomes of Medicare beneficiaries, went live with a telemonitoring program to keep tabs on patients with chronic diseases.

Primary Partners, a physician-owned accountable care organization (ACO) in Clermont, Fla., is contracting with New York-based AMC Health for comprehensive home telemonitoring and remote care services to help reduce complications, hospital admissions and readmissions in patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension or some other common chronic ailment.

Select patients are monitored with wireless devices that communicate via Bluetooth with a cellular portal. An algorithm determines if a reading is out of range, based on thresholds primary care physicians determine for each patient. When something is abnormal, AMC contacts the patient by phone, either with interactive voice response or a live nurse to determine if there needs to be a change in the care plan of care, AMC Health Vice President Nawaz Jadavji tells MobiHealthNews.

“As independent practices, we can tailor care plans based upon the patient need,” explains Sheila Fuse, CEO of Primary Partners, which launched in April 2012 with 22 participating physicians. It now has more than 60, all in private practice.

The primary care physician makes any changes, but a nurse from AMC follows up with patients to make sure they understand their conditions, according to Jadavji. This is meant to help prevent ER visits and hospital admissions. “We are making telemedicine part of the process of care,” Jadavji says.

“This is what telemedicine allows,” adds Fuse.

Primary Partners is among the first group of 27 ACOs in the country under the Medicare Shared Savings Program and is paying for the telemonitoring services. Under the Medicare program, if the ACO and the physicians are able to deliver more effective care at lower cost, particularly in the area of reducing hospital readmissions, they split the money they save with CMS.

“As an ACO, we can see which patients need it,” Fuse says. “We are working with our high-risk patients to address gaps in care.”

AMC Health does most of the work, selecting the patients in consultation with Primary Partners physicians, enrolling and disenrolling them and installing, maintaining and uninstalling the monitoring equipment. “The ACO doesn’t need to hire staff,” Jadavji says.

AMC also provides the first level of monitoring. The practices are contacted if anything crosses set thresholds, such as a 2-pound weight gain for patients with CHF, according to Fuse.

The remote care is particularly helpful for keeping tabs on patients immediately after discharge to manage the transition. “Our physicians want to see patients when they get out of the hospital, ideally within three days,” Fuse says. Data from the monitors also come in handy for follow-up visits. “When the patient comes in, we are able to see a much more comprehensive view of the patient,” Fuse notes.

Before the program started, the ACO tried to engage patients and affiliated physicians in planning for remote monitoring by reviewing with some of them how the equipment would get shipped out, installed and used. “We have actually experienced what the patient experiences in getting the equipment installed,” Fuse says.

Though it is a small organization, Primary Partners was able to get the first patients hooked up within eight weeks of signing its contract with AMC, and that includes two weeks of downtime around the holidays, Jadavji reports.

AMC Health already has reported success with its technology in a two-year test at Geisinger Health Plan in Pennsylvania. Geisinger was able to cut 30-day readmissions by 44% by providing telemonitoring to CHF patients, compared to those without access to the remote care system, according to AMC.

Jadavdi says AMC Health President and CEO Nesim Bildirici got into the healthcare business because Bildirici’s father had CHF but received poor care because providers were unable to communicate the proper information in a timely manner.

Report: About 300K patients were remotely monitored in 2012

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 22, 2013        

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Last year healthcare providers remotely monitored about 308,000 patients worldwide for congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, hypertension and mental health conditions, according to a recent report from InMedica. By 2017 that number should spike to 1.8 million patients, the research firm predicts.

InMedica found that the majority of patients are being remotely monitored to prevent readmission following a visit to an acute care setting, but telehealth is also being used to monitor those that have never been hospitalized, and were diagnosed at an ambulatory care facility. The firm found that in the US, some 140,000 post-acute patients were monitored by telehealth technologies in 2012, as compared to 80,000 ambulatory patients.

InMedica Telehealth Patients Figure

InMedica: World Telehealth Patients (thousands) By Disease

“A major challenge for telehealth, is for it to reach the wider population of ambulatory care patients. However, the clinical and economic outcomes for telehealth are more established for post-acute care patients. Indeed, even for post-acute care patients, telehealth is usually prescribed only in the most severe cases, and where patients have been hospitalised more than once in a year,“ Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at InMedica, said in a statement.

The firm finds that CHF patients make up the largest group of those being remote monitored, and COPD patients made up the next largest group. By 2017, diabetes will likely overtake COPD, according to InMedica, as there is increasing momentum to provide care givers to remotely access patients glucose data.

Earlier this month Berg Insight claimed that at the end of 2012 some 2.8 million patients worldwide were using home monitoring services and devices with “integrated connectivity”, which means the devices had integrated chips to send data directly to in-home communication hubs or even directly to caregivers over cellular networks. Berg Insight says this number will grow by 26.9 percent annually to 9.4 million in 2017. While InMedica’s metrics are based on a patient population that only has a handful of conditions, it is hard to reconcile the two numbers.

InMedica outlined four key drivers of demand for telehealth:

Federal-driven demand: Readmission penalties introduced by the U.S. Centre for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are driving providers to adopt telehealth as a means of reducing readmission penalties. Faced with increasing healthcare expenditure, other governments, including the U.K., France and China are also promoting telehealth as a long-term cost-saving measure.

Provider-driven demand: Healthcare providers want to use telehealth to increase ties to patients and improve quality of care. In many cases this is being done irrespective of the lack of a clear financial return on investment.

Payer-driven demand: Telehealth is also being increasingly used by insurance providers to increase their competitiveness and reduce in-patient pay-outs, by working directly with telehealth suppliers to monitor their patient base.

Patient-driven demand: There is currently very little demand from patients actively seeking out and requesting telehealth services from their payer or provider. Patient-driven demand is mostly limited to rural/non-metropolitan areas where there is a poor availability of clinics and physicians. As fitness awareness increases and consumers adopt personal devices to track their fitness, they will also increasingly seek professional devices to remotely track disease state.