FEMA’s wireless emergency alerts to launch this month

By: Brian Dolan | May 15, 2012        

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wireless-emergency-alerts-capableBy the end of this month, the major mobile operators in the US, which cover about 97 percent of the population, will support wireless emergency alerts from federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies about imminent threats to safety, including severe weather events and missing children. The messages, also called the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and Personalized Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), will appear similar to text messages but they will not cost anything or count against the receiver’s text plan. The messages are an additional method for getting the word out about emergencies and aim to be a supplement to the existing Emergency Alert System, which runs messages over radio and television.

The FCC and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) teamed up with US mobile carriers to create the supplemental service.

Only public safety entities can issue the alerts, which fall into three categories: Presidential Alerts, which are issued by the President of the United States or a designee. Imminent Threat Alerts, which include severe man-made or natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. AMBER Alerts, which meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child. While consumers can opt out of Imminent Threat alerts and AMBER alerts, they cannot opt-out of Presidential Alerts.

The alerts are location-specific and will be sent to people who have “WEA-capable” devices in the affected areas. Even if a consumer has a Massachusetts phone number, for example, and is visiting California, he will receive a message if an earthquake occurred while he was visiting the affected area of that state.

Interestingly, the alerts will have a “unique audible signal and vibration cadence to emphasize its important,” according the wireless association CTIA’s FAQ on the program. The messages will be no more than 90 characters in length, and include: an alert icon, info on who is sending the alert, what is happening, who is affected, and what action to take.

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2012: About 62 percent of physicians use tablets

By: Brian Dolan | May 14, 2012        

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Mobile MIM 3.0 iPadAbout 62 percent of physicians in the United States are now using tablets, according to the most recent data from Manhattan Research. Most of these physicians are using iPads and about half of all tablet-toting physicians use the devices at the point of care, the research firm found. What’s more, physicians who use smartphones, tablets, and computers tend to spend more time online on each device than those physicians who only have two of those devices.

The research firm polled more than 3,000 physicians in the US for its annual Taking the Pulse survey. One of the more surprising findings of the survey: Adoption of physician-only social networks stagnated year-over-year. Also, more than two-thirds of physicians said they use online video to keep up to date with clinical information.

“Physicians are evolving in ways we expected — only faster,” Monique Levy, Vice President of Research at Manhattan Research stated. “The skyrocketing adoption rates of tablets alone, especially iPads, means healthcare stakeholders should revisit many of their assumptions about reaching and engaging with this audience.”

In May 2011 Manhattan Research published survey results that found about 30 percent of physicians in the US used iPads to access EHRs, view radiology images, and communicate with patients. Keep reading>>

Aetna equips Arizona ACO with mobile tools, HIE

By: Brian Dolan | May 10, 2012        

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Aetna iTriage Aetna is building on its relationship with Arizona’s Banner Health Network, one of 32 organizations chosen by CMS last year to participate in the new Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) initiative, by equipping the health system with technology offerings from its subsidiaries: Health information exchange technology from Medicity, Active CareTeam clinical decision support tools, and smartphone-enabled appointment setting and pre-registration activities from iTriage.

The deal will add technology support more than 200,000 patients, which include 50,000 Medicare fee-for-service patients covered under the Pioneer ACO shared saving program.

Banner Health Network is a partnership between Arizona Integrated Physicians, the Banner Medical Group, the Banner Physician Hospital Organization and Banner Health. The network includes more than 2,600 affiliated physicians in the Phoenix area.

Last November Aetna and Banner announced the first stage of their ACO collaboration, called Aetna Whole Health, which is an ACO-based, commercial health care product for small and middle market employers. Members of that plan will receive similar health IT-supported services as those covered under the deal announced today, including the iTriage appointment and pre-registration service.

Last December MobiHealthNews broke the news that Aetna had acquired iTriage (then named Healthagen) for an undisclosed sum. Healthagen, developer of the popular health app iTriage, which offers a symptom navigator, healthcare facility locator, and appointment booking service, was one of the first exits for a high profile mobile health startup.

“iTriage is our patient engagement side of this [ACO offering],” Dr. Charles Saunders, Head of Strategic Diversification at Aetna, said during an investor day presentation during which he disclosed the iTriage acquisition. Saunders said that the care providers he has spoken with recently all recognize that consumers need to be engaged in order to help them navigate the healthcare system, understand how the system works, “prevent leakage” outside of the ACO network, and have a better patient experience. Saunders said all of this was key “to engaging them in behaviors that help them to be a partner in reducing the cost of care.”

This partnership with Banner for the Pioneer ACO in Arizona will be one of the first testbeds for Aetna’s recently assembled “technology stack.”

More details in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Prediction: A Shazam app for heartbeats

By: Brian Dolan | May 10, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsSoon enough people will be able to record a snipped of their own heart sounds, upload it to an analytics engine through a smartphone app, and receive a diagnosis. Sort of like a Shazam app for heart sounds.

That is, at least, according to Steinar Pedersen, Founder of Tromso Telemedicine Consult, who made the prediction — among many others — during his closing keynote Monday afternoon at the HIMSS mHealth Symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark. (I was honored to kick things off with an opening presentation on the mobile health landscape, but steered cleared of any prognostications.)

Shazam is a smartphone app that boasts more than 200 million downloads — it claims 1.5 million more download it each week — that helps people identify the music they hear. The idea is pretty simple: Hear a song at the mall or in the car and use Shazam to record a short piece of it and receive the artist, song, and album name. The app makes money a few ways but primarily by connecting users to various online music stores to buy the music they discover.

A Shazam app for heart sounds would work in a similar way except instead of using the smartphone’s microphone, users would use the smartphone’s camera, which can record heart rates via apps like Azumio’s Instant Heart Rate, or a peripheral medical device like AliveCor’s (not yet FDA cleared) iPhoneECG. Unlike Shazam’s database of (almost) all the world’s music, a repository of identified heart sounds that would be necessary to undertake a Shazam for the heart is not yet in existence.

Interestingly, cardiologist Dr. Leslie Saxon, who heads up USC’s Center for Body Computing, announced an initiative last month that aims to create just such a database. In a sense her hoped for database, dubbed EveryHeartBeat.org, turns the Shazam model on its head. People will record their heart sounds and upload them to EveryHeartBeat, but early adopters may not receive much in return at first. Saxon told FastCompany that over time “there could be all sorts of abnormalities that EveryHeartBeat could pick up with relatively simple algorithms” including atrial fibrillation, which typically produces no symptoms. Saxon said the platform could enable “unbelievably predictive analytics across populations.”

During her TEDMED talk, Saxon referred to EveryHeartBeat as a “Facebook of Medicine”, but it seems much more like Shazam based on its core value proposition: What is this I’m hearing? Keep reading>>

KP’s patient-facing Android EMR app has 100K downloads, launches iOS version

By: Brian Dolan | May 10, 2012        

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Kaiser Permanente iPhone AppDuring the last week of January, Kaiser Permanente went mobile in a big way: It created a mobile-optimized version of its website for its patients and it also offered up an Android app that included the same feature set as the website. Since then the Android app has been downloaded more than 99,000 times, Kaiser Permamente’s Principal Program Manager for its Mobility Center of Excellence Brian Gardner said on a conference call this week.

Kaiser Permanente’s website has attracted 4.8 million visits from patients using mobile devices since the new mobile site launched. About 15 percent of visitors to KP’s website are now visiting from mobiles, Gardner said.

This week KP announced that the iPhone version of the app is now available for download. Like the Android app, the iOS one is free and has the same features — including the same security protocols — as the KP website.

As we reported in January, the mobile offerings grant Kaiser Permanente patients access to their lab test results and personal health records. They can also email their doctors, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and locate Kaiser Permanente medical facilities right from the iPhone app, Android app or mobile site. Family members who are caring for a KP patient can also access the same services via their mobile devices, and those caring for elder patients can now refill prescriptions and communicate with the doctor’s office on behalf of the patient, too. The new apps also include the same features as Kaiser Permanente’s first iPhone app, KP Locator, which helps users to more quickly located KP facilities in their area.

Gardner said that 29 million lab tests were viewed online last year and making that information available through the apps and mobile site will likely cause that number to grow this year. Last year about 2.5 million appointments were scheduled online through KP’s website, Gardner said, clearly making it a “really important tool for members”. Last year about 12 million emails were sent to providers, Gardner said, and that number too is likely to go up now that the feature is better enabled for mobile devices. The messaging center on the app has a history of all messages sent to and from physicians.

Gardner emphasized that while the capabilities are the same in the mobile apps and site, the convenience of the platform and the user experience it enables will lead to quicker access to information and less navigating than is required by a desktop web browser.

One feature that is missing from the mobile versions: Registration. KP members still need to register via a desktop. The reason?

“On mobile phones people have a tendency to get interrupted,” Gardner said. “With text messages… [for example] And it is important to get that [registration] right, so we have not extended that to mobile at this time.”

Happtique to test its health app prescription platform

By: Brian Dolan | May 10, 2012        

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HapptiqueHapptique, a subsidiary of GNYHA Ventures, the business arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association, announced this week plans to launch a trial of its health app prescription platform, mRx, which aims to make it easy for physicians to prescribe health apps to patients. The patent-pending platform also enables physicians to know whether a prescribed app was downloaded if the app is an Android or HTLM5 one.

The trial, which Happtique’s CEO Ben Chodor stressed to MobiHealthNews was not a clinical trial, is currently recruiting physicians who specialize in heart disease, diabetes, and musculoskeletal conditions. Happtique is also looking for physical therapists and trainers to participate in the program. Chodor said that Happtique will work with the care providers in the trial to determine which apps will be included and available for prescription through the platform. The plan is to include between five and 10 apps, including those that connect to a web portal accessible by the providers and those that do not provide data to the providers.

Chodor said the app prescription platform has been a frequently requested offering during Happtique’s meetings with chief medical officers and physicians during discussions about Happtique’s enterprise healthcare appstore platform. The care providers participating in the mRx trial will not only be those who work at facilities that leverage Happtique’s appstore, Chodor said, but once mRx commercially launches it will only be available for the company’s customers that use its appstore. mRx is being developed to work on its own, however, so it is likely that at some point it will be available separately, too, Chodor said.

While some physicians may already be prescribing apps to patients, Chodor said many want help to make it easier for their patients to get the apps they recommend onto their devices. The mRx platform is an app on the physician’s phone that enables them to push an app recommendation to a patient’s phone. If it is an HTML5 app or an Android app, the physician can push the app to the patient’s phone. Patients who have Apple devices will receive a message instead that includes a link to the iTunes AppStore, which is the same way that Happtique’s health appstore works for its enterprise users. Physicians will know if a patient actually accepts the HTML5 app or Android app onto their device and whether their iPhone-equipped patients click on the link.

Chodor said the trial will begin later this summer. Happtique wants feedback on how easy-to-use its mRx platform is and whether prescribing apps to patients through the platform is convenient and effective for physicians and patients. Chodor said they will track how many apps physicians prescribe during the course of the study and how many patients download the apps that they are prescribed. Chodor said other indicators for the success of the informal study: Do participating care providers want to continue to use the platform after the study concludes? And, of course, did patient outcomes improve?

Part of the mRx platform is a reimbursement mechanism. Chodor said Happtique wants to do for mobile app prescribing what SureScripts and others did for e-prescribing.

More in the Happtique release below: Keep reading>>