I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 17, 2011        

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It almost seems ridiculous that it needs saying, but it is indeed often said that mobile health tools and applications should not intend to replace the physician or other care providers. The prospect of apps diagnosing patients today is certainly a hype-filled one. It isn’t happening yet, anyway.

And yet a new super computer from IBM has proven itself more than capable of besting and replacing today’s top Jeopardy! players. In a television spectacle reminiscent of the super computer Deep Blue’s win over chess world champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, a room-sized computer developed by IBM managed to beat out a pair of Jeopardy! all-stars over the course of a three night game this week. The computer, named Watson, ended the run with $77,147 compared to Ken Jennings’ $24,000 and Brad Rutter’s $21,600.

Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsI only tuned in for the second night’s game, but that match included a medical related question — no, a diagnosis question really: “You just need a nap. You don’t have this sleep disorder that can make sufferers nod off while standing up.” Watson beat out the humans with the answer: “What is narcolepsy?” Maybe you don’t need an M.D. for that one, but still the computer got there first.

When one of Watson’s human opponents realized he could not beat the computer in final Jeopardy!, he referenced The Simpsons by writing “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords” as his wager.

Following Watson’s win on Jeopardy, IBM let it slip to the New York Times that the first application it intends Watson to tackle is medicine:

“For IBM, the future will happen very quickly, company executives” told the Times. “[Today] it plans to announce that it will collaborate with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a physician’s assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. The company also plans to work with Nuance Communications Inc. to add voice recognition to the physician’s assistant, possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months.”

Nuance, of course, offers the very popular Dragon voice recognition software for healthcare providers and others. Imagining a voice-enabled “physician assistant service” that taps into Watson and available as a smartphone app is not at all difficult. A desktop version of the service would be substantially less useful.

“I have been in medical education for 40 years and we’re still a very memory-based curriculum,” Dr. Herbert Chase, a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University who is working with IBM on the physician’s assistant told the New York Times. “The power of Watson-like tools will cause us to reconsider what it is we want students to do.”

It will cause us to reconsider the capabilities of smartphone medical apps, too.


Mobile Health News roundup: RWJF; CoActiv; Business models

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 17, 2011        

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CoActiv Medical TabletThe Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Steve Downs has penned this week’s must read commentary on mobile health: Pioneering Ideas: Data, Apps and the Rules that Bind Them. “Separating the apps from the data, expansion of the definition of health information, and the increasingly social nature of health care – all can potentially change how we view PHRs, and how we perceive health care at its very core,” Downs writes. More here

UCSF releases a study on the digital divide and how it impacts patients with diabetes. UCSF

Will the rumored cheaper iPhone make its mark on mHealth in emerging markets? Lots of speculation, but here’s the report on the supposed phone’s launch. WSJ

AIDS.gov gets mobile. Blog

CoActiv offers up a new Windows-based tablet designed for medical professionals. Qmed

Health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn previews her upcoming presentation on mobile health in this podcast. Audio

Doro inks a deal with wireless-enabled health device maker MyGlucoHealth. Release

Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo plans to use 3D touch screen technology in remote medicine applications. Seattle Times

Is pay per download the only business model present in mobile health today? One analyst group seems to think so. Insider Mobile

Dr. Leslie Saxon explains how Moore’s Law will effect the future of medicine at TedMed. MedGadget

Pharma investments in apps, Web rise 78 percent

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 16, 2011        

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Novartis VaxTraxAccording to a recent report from Ernst & Young, pharmaceutical companies led by Merck and Novartis have increased their investments in mobile phone apps and educational websites by 78 percent. The apps and sites generally aim to encourage patients to take their medications, eat well and exercise more often, according to the report. Pharma companies launched a total of 97 projects that made use of information technologies to improve patient health last year. E&Y mined press releases and analyst reports to tally the number of launches. Those 97 projects amount to an impressive figure, especially since pharma launched 127 such projects in during the previous four years combined.

Interestingly, about 41 percent of these projects were smartphone applications, according to the report. That marks an 11 percent increase in mobile health launches for pharma since 2006, Ernst & Young found. The analyst firm has dubbed these activities “Pharma 3.0″ initiatives.

“Pharma 3.0-related initiatives are being driven by investments in mobile health technology, particularly smart phone apps,” according to the press release. “Between 2006 and 2009, 16 percent of initiatives were in the mobile health space. In 2010, this category accounted for one out of every two new initiatives. These smart phone apps, previously focused primarily on diabetes management tools, expanded rapidly into other disease categories in 2010, with apps emerging in an estimated 14 disease areas. These apps ranged from tools to help patients and consumers track vaccination schedules, manage infusions for treatment of hemophilia, and find cancer clinical trials within 150 miles of their location.”

More in the press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

Sprint inks connectivity deal with BL Healthcare

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 16, 2011        

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BL Healthcare TCx-I SystemMobile operator Sprint has announced a partnership with BL Healthcare, a remote health management services company, that sees the operator providing 3G connectivity to BL’s telemedicine devices. BL announced a similar deal with Verizon Wireless last year and also announced an expanded partnership with Verizon Wireless for its high definition touchscreen devices at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

“The new embedded devices join a current ecosystem of wireline and wireless touch screen, kiosk and television-based solutions that enable patients to take a more proactive role in the management of his or her care plan,” according to the Sprint-BL press release. “The expanded range of capabilities now includes HD multipoint video conferencing, multimedia support for educational programs, instant messaging, real-time alerts and notifications, and the ability to communicate with a wide range of vital sign measurement and peripheral medical devices. BL Healthcare solutions are FDA cleared and HIPAA compliant for patient confidentiality.”

At the HIMSS event in Orlando next week, Lancaster General Health, a regional health care system serving Lancaster County in Pennsylvania will demo BL Healthcare’s Sprint-enabled kiosk, which is running on Sprint’s 4G network.

“Wireless technologies, 3G and 4G in particular, have really established telemedicine systems as the future of health care,” William Dunstan, vice president of home health services with Lancaster General Health stated in the release. “With functionality such as embedded multipoint videoconferencing, multimedia support, instant messaging, real-time alerts, and the ability to communicate with multiple wired and wireless vital sign measurement and peripheral medical devices hospitals and home health agencies are able to reduce costs while greatly improving the quality of care.”

For more on the partnership, read the press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

Obama seeks $10.7B for wireless public safety

By: Neil Versel | Feb 16, 2011        

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P031810PS-0013President Obama wants to spend $10.7 billion on a high-speed, wireless public-safety network that would allow first responders and healthcare professionals to transmit data, images and video during emergency situations as part of an $18 billion plan to bring wireless broadband access to 98 percent of America over the next five years.

This “Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative,” as the White House dubs it, encompasses the wireless-enabled video chats between patients and doctors that Obama referenced during his State of the Union address last month. The program also includes $3 billion to support development of strategies to harness the mobile Internet for health, education and energy-related applications.

The administration would fund the initiative by auctioning a portion of the wireless spectrum currently used by TV stations and government agencies. The White House says the auction would raise $27.8 billion, leaving a surplus of nearly $10 million to help reduce the federal deficit.

Speaking last week at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., part of the rather remote, mostly rural Upper Peninsula, Obama compared the effort to previous presidents’ large-scale connectivity plans. He cited Abraham Lincoln’s call for a transcontinental railroad, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s creation of the Rural Electrification Administration and President Dwight Eisenhower’s support for the Interstate Highway System.

“For our families and our businesses, high-speed wireless service, that’s the next train station; it’s the next off-ramp. It’s how we’ll spark new innovation, new investment, new jobs,” Obama said, according to his prepared remarks. He also lauded Northern Michigan University and Marquette for building a WiMax network to provide high-speed Internet service to students who could not get broadband in off-campus housing.

“Now, if you can do this in [the] snowy U.P.,” Obama said, “we can do it all across America. In fact, many places already are. So in Wagner, S.D., patients can receive high-quality, lifesaving medical care from a Sioux Falls specialist who can monitor their EKG and listen to their breathing—from 100 miles away.” Keep reading>>

HIMSS11: Mobile takes its place on health IT scene

By: Neil Versel | Feb 16, 2011        

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Neil VerselSo many mobile healthcare events, so little time.

A week ago, I was in Washington, D.C., for the release of a pilot study of a mobile app meant to improve medication compliance among Medicaid patients with hypertension. Not a huge deal, perhaps, but I made the most of my trip.

For one thing, I heard Kerry McDermott, healthcare director in the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, say that the new HHS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation was exploring ways to create an m-health research program.

I also learned about a text-based women’s health service in the same vein as the well-publicized Text4Baby. The GW Cancer Institute at the George Washington University Medical Center has teamed up with the Avon Foundation for Women in a program called Text4BSE, offering text reminders for women to conduct monthly breast self-exams. Text “BSE” to 64274 to enroll. The program also provides free mammograms for women who qualify.

This week, the worldwide mobile communications industry is holding its annual confab over in Barcelona, Spain. Once again, there’s a healthcare track at the Mobile World Congress, and once again, my budget—remember, I’m an independent contractor—doesn’t allow me to jet off to Barcelona.

I will, however, be in Orlando, Fla., next week for the 2011 HIMSS conference. MobiHealthNews principals Brian Dolan and Joe Maillie also are going, and Brian is presenting on Monday morning. (Vendors, please no more meeting requests. My schedule is full. Thanks.)

As the largest health IT gathering of the year—attendance could top 30,000 this year for the first time—the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in many ways has to be all things to all people. And that includes accommodating the growing number of people interested in mobile and wireless healthcare technologies.

Last year in Atlanta, HIMSS10 kicked off with a keynote address from Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. HIMSS11 won’t feature anyone from the wireless industry so prominently. While the agenda suggests mobile is here to stay, you may have to cough up a few extra bucks to take part.

Among the pre-conference events on Sunday is a full-day (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) RFID symposium. Another Sunday happening is the Privacy and Security Workshop (9 a.m.-5 p.m.), that will include much discussion of how to safeguard data on portable devices.

There’s a separate registration fee for both of those, as there is for HIT X.0: Beyond the Edge, a series of sessions on cutting-edge healthcare technologies. In addition to Brian’s presentation, you may be interested in these X.0 topics:

  • The Future of Home Care Today (Wednesday, 1-2 p.m), featuring Chuck Parker, executive director of the Continua Health Alliance.
  • Coming to Your Life Tomorrow: Today’s Military Technology (Thursday, 10-11 a.m.). Jeanette Rausche, technical director of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, will discuss the Army’s use of mobile messaging for case management of wounded warriors.

The regular HIMSS conference isn’t all that heavy on mobile and wireless healthcare, but there are a couple of relevant sessions for no additional charge:

Most of the mobile action, so to speak, will be in the massive exhibit hall. Booth 7381 will house the RFID/RTLS Showcase, and more than 200 of the 900 or so vendors say they offer mobile applications. If that doesn’t say mobile healthcare has arrived on the health IT scene, I don’t know what does.