Sculley: Domain expertise just as critical as technology in healthcare

By: Neil Versel | Jan 19, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeMobile and wireless health are trying hard to win over a public that at best is skeptical, but more likely has no idea what this stuff actually is.

As I argued in my previous column, most people don’t get the whole concept of connected health, but explaining it in simple terms could change that. I also said that there hasn’t been enough distinction made between healthcare and consumer health/wellness when it comes to mobility.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

No less an authority than John Sculley, former CEO of both Apple and PepsiCo, suggested that consumer-facing products like Google Health and Jawbone’s UP have failed because developers did not understand the market they were targeting or the hypercomplex healthcare industry as a whole.

Making his first appearance at International CES since 1993 to speak at the Digital Health Summit portion of the massive consumer electronics show last week, Sculley said that some companies have put too much emphasis on style over substance.

“The thing that is missing is getting the people with the domain expertise aligned with the people with technological know-how to turn ideas into branded services,” said Sculley, who famously clashed with Steve Jobs over whether Apple should discontinue the iconic Apple II computer in favor of the up-and-coming Macintosh, as Jobs had preferred. “You have to have domain expertise in addition to technical know-how,” Sculley added.

“You never compromise on the user experience,” he said.

Interestingly, reDesign Mobile analyst Rocky Agrawal recently wondered in a VentureBeat commentary whether Silicon Valley innovators were “too smart for their own good,” building products more suited for their own small world rather than for the masses. It is not unlike what I said in a controversial column last summer.

And healthcare is different from pretty much every other industry in that consumers often expect others to pick up the tab since they are generally isolated from the true cost of products and services, and that people have become conditioned to outmoded ways of thinking when it comes to health information. “This is not a typical Silicon Valley problem,” Sculley noted last week.

Hoping to effect some kind of change, Sculley now is putting his considerable amount of money where his mouth is. The Digital Health Summit showcased one firm Sculley invested in, Audax Health, a Washington-based start-up “social Web company” founded by 22-year-old Grant Verstandig, who endured seven surgeries in a 20-month period after wrecking his knee while playing lacrosse.

Audax hosts specialized communities that bring in social and condition-specific networks as well as elements of online gaming to help people find answers to health questions. I have no idea if it will succeed, but the fact that Sculley and Verstandig apparently understand that healthcare is not like other industries is a good start. Keep reading>>


Pharma’s mobile opportunity: Adherence, marketing, trials

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 19, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsIn recent months a number of deals, acquisitions, service and product launches have led to a growing discussion around the mobile health opportunities for pharma companies. There seem to be three big ones vying for the top.

Is it adding connectivity to clinical trials?

Earlier this month research analyst firm Cutting Edge Information (CEI) published a report that suggested pharma companies look to clinical trials and other pre-launch activities as the ripest opportunities for leveraging mobile health apps.

“With usage retention rates likely to continue hovering in the single digits, the industry may soon conclude the market is saturated with mobile health apps,” CEI wrote in a press release. “Despite the low cost of development, a reasonable [ROI] is much more difficult than first envisioned.”

CEI suggests two areas where pharma should focus: Streamlining trial data collection and analysis, and connecting potential trial patients to investigators. Those were opportunities for pharma companies to “differentiate themselves from the pack,” according to CEI.

Some pharma companies likely agree that clinical trials are a big mobile opportunity. Pfizer, of course, made a big splash last year when it announced plans to see how mobile tools could make clinical trials more efficient. Exco Intouch, which is helping Pfizer run the trial, just poached Mark Brincat, Pfizer’s Healthcare Informatics Director as their new product development director to head up their mHealth strategy.

Is it mobile marketing?

In recent months Digitas Health argued that pharma companies were missing the mobile health opportunity because so few websites for popular brands had mobile optimized websites: “Plavix has a brand site for consumers, Lipitor Savings provides information to consumers about their savings program, and only Nexium has a mobile site specifically aimed at HCPs,” Marty DeAngelo, vice president and director of interaction design at Digitas Health wrote. “In fact, based on recent research I’ve conducted, there are only a handful of mobile websites in all of the pharma space – 15 at my last count.”

Some companies are betting big on mobile marketing dollars from pharma companies. Last year Augme Technologies acquired Hipcricket for nearly $45 million. Augme’s health division counts 10 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies as mobile marketing clients. Remedy Ventures and Physicians Interactive Holdings, which owns Skyscape, also launched a healthcare specific mobile advertising network last year, called Tomorrow Networks. The network launched with a handful of pharma companies already signed on.

Is it mobile health services?

This past week a company that we have been keeping a close eye on for the past three years launched its first offering. Proteus Biomedical developed Helius, an intelligent medicine service, now available at Lloyd’s Pharmacies in the United Kingdom.

Lloyds will offer the Helius system as part of a personalized, medication adherence pack to its customers, which its pharmacists assemble for each individual customer. The new Helius packs will include the components of the Helius system as well as blister packs of the customer’s drug regimen. For example, if a person takes five medications each morning, one blister pack would include all five of those medication, but it will also include a Helius tablet.

The Helius tablet is a sensor-enabled pill that communicates to a peel-and-stick sensor patch worn on the patient’s body. When the patient ingests the tablet and it breaks down, it sends a signal to the patch to indicate the dose had been taken. The patch communicates this information to an app on the user’s mobile phone. The patch doesn’t only record when a pill is ingested, it also tracks sleep patterns and records physical activity levels.

Proteus told MobiHealthNews that eventually all pharmacy businesses will offer similar services.

Survey: 7 percent of perfusionists said mobiles distracted them

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 19, 2012        

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Female Doctor with TabletWith all the recent talk of the dangers of smartphones distracting physicians and other healthcare workers, Clinical Advisor managed to dig up a survey that included some real numbers — even if they were based on a small sample size: A survey conducted in October 2010 and published in last September’s issue of the medical journal, Perfusion, found that 7 percent of those health professionals polled admitted to being personally distracted by their mobile phones while on the job.

The 19-question poll was conducted using SurveyMonkey, an online survey platform, and included responses from about 430 perfusionists. Perfusionists are specially trained health professionals who operate heart-lung machines during cardiac and other surgeries.

About 56 percent of the perfusionists said they had used their mobile phones during the performance of cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Almost half of those polled said they had used text messaging during CPB. About 21 percent accessed email on their smartphones during the procedure, some 15 percent used the internet on their phones, and about 3 percent checked or posted to social networking sites during the procedure.

Interestingly, and despite those self-reports, about 78 percent of those polled said that mobile phones introduce a potentially significant safety risk to patients. Speaking on a phone during CPB was considered “always an unsafe practice” by 42 percent of the respondents, while about 52 percent said texting was always unsafe during CPB. However, only 7 percent of the perfusionists said that cell phones had personally distracted them, while more than 33 percent said they had witness other perfusionists be distracted while on CPB.

While the publicly available survey results did not include much more of an explanation, the researchers said that perfusionists of different ages had different opinions about the risks of being distracted by the devices. No surprise there.

Check out the full abstract over at Perfusion here or read the Clinical Advisor article.

NovaSom offers cellular-enabled home sleep test

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 18, 2012        

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man_novasomThis month at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) NovaSom, which makes home tests for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) unveiled an FDA-cleared OSA test kit that leverages Verizon Wireless’ cellular network to wirelessly collect and transfer sleep data up to a cloud-based platform for physician interpretation and diagnosis. Last summer the company scooped up $35 million in new funding.

Here’s how NovaSom describes the test: “The AccuSom, NovaSom’s second-generation home sleep test, is a smartphone-sized portable Type III cardio-respiratory monitor. Its multichannel sensor system monitors the five parameters necessary for OSA diagnosis: respiration airflow, oxygen saturation, pulse rate, respiration effort and snoring.”

Physicians first prescribe the home sleep test, then patients receive the device in the mail. The device helps the user set it up through a series of voice prompts. The device collects data over the course of a couple of nights, which NovaSom claims is more effective than spending one night in a sleep clinic. About 12 million of the estimated 15 million people with undiagnosed OSA could benefit from using the device, according to the company.

“When aiming to diagnose a serious medical condition such as OSA, speed and accuracy are critical,” stated Dr. Richard Hassett, CEO of NovaSom in a press release. “Through our work with Verizon Wireless, NovaSom has been able to improve data transmission from the patient’s bedside to our online cloud-based sleep management platform, where it is accessed and analyzed by the interpreting physician. We believe the integration of Verizon’s network into our home sleep test technology will lead to more efficient data interpretation and faster patient diagnosis.”

For more, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

Mobile-enabled patient satisfaction survey startup nets $750,000

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 18, 2012        

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Survey On The SpotOn The Spot Systems, a mobile phone-based survey provider, announced this week that it had raised $750,000 in seed financing from Kepha Partners, Angel Street Capital, and strategic investor Mike Sheehan. The company plans to use the funds to expand its business into the food industry, while building out its mobile data collection business for retail, healthcare, and service organizations.

The company’s core offering, called Survey On The Spot, is an in-the-moment customer and employee feedback survey that works on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and other smartphone platforms. The surveys include on-site insights, photos, text commentary, service alerts, digital coupons, and automated data reporting.

On The Spot Surveys are currently in use in multiple emergency rooms, transitional care units, and some facilities use them upon discharging patients to gauge how they were treated during their time in care, a company spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email.

On The Spot’s CEO and co-founder is Geoff Palmer, who also co-founded uLocate, which PayPal acquired last year. The company’s other co-founder is Ken Kimmel, who was previously the chief marketing officer of Dunkin’ Brands.

For more on the seed funding for On The Spot, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

CES: Pro athletes may hold key to wider patient engagement

By: Neil Versel | Jan 18, 2012        

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zephyr-under-armour-e39-shirtWant to empower consumers to improve healthcare and their own health status? Build a Tricorder and convince youngsters to “be like Mike.”

Those were the takeaways from a high-level session featuring Dr. Leslie Saxon of the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing and Qualcomm’s Don Jones at the third annual Digital Health Summit at 2012 International CES last week in Las Vegas.

Saxon, a cardiologist who is executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing, said that researchers are readying results from a study of wireless monitors on pro and college football players that revealed previously undetected conditions in elite athletes. “If the NFL monitored the heart rate of all players, they’d end up benching 30 percent of them,” Saxon declared.

That doesn’t mean that nearly a third of National Football League players have heart conditions, just that sometimes they overexert themselves, according to Saxon. This could easily be applied to children and weekend warriors, too, through the sensor-equipped apparel that athletic clothing maker Under Armour supplied for the NFL’s annual scouting combine.

Under Armour is a popular brand already. Adding sensors to clothing sold to the general public could spark a revolution of sorts.

“Kids won’t just want to wear Michael Jordan’s sneakers,” Saxon said. “You’re getting them to wear sensors to ‘be like Mike.'” Keep reading>>