Merck to invest upwards of $17M in Skyscape

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 5, 2012        

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Tomorrow NetworksPhysicians Interactive, which offers the popular professional medical app Skyscape, announced this week that Merck will invest up to $17 million in the company via its Global Health Innovation Fund (GHIF). Initially, the financing includes $8.5 million, but depending on whether the company meets certain milestones, Merck’s GHIF could bump the investment up another $8.5 million for a total of $17 million.

The funds will be used to grow “four key products” as well as other initiatives. Among the company’s key products and initiatives is the Skyscape app itself and a recently launched mobile advertising network, Tomorrow Networks.

Skyscape is a mobile medical content publisher whose main app offering, Skyscape Medical Resources, is a clinical decision support tool similar to Epocrates. Physicians Interactive, a digital marketing firm that targets doctors and other health workers via a number of mobile and web-based services, bought Skyscape in 2009. It now accounts for about 90 percent of its Healthcare Professionals Division. (MobiHealthNews’ own Neil Versel spoke to Healthcare Professional Division president Brett Miller last year about Skyscape’s storied 12 year history in the mobile healthcare space).

Last year, the company partnered with Remedy Systems to launch a mobile advertising network, Tomorrow Networks, that serves ads specifically targeted to healthcare providers. The network is also testing health-related ads targeting consumers. The network places ads in smartphone medical apps — it launched with some 54 different apps already onboard.

“This investment will allow us to further expand our internal product development and customer solutions, as well as explore new markets and additional customer segments,” stated Donato Tramuto, CEO and vice chairman of Physicians Interactive Holdings, in a press release.

As part of the deal, Merck’s Global Health Innovation Fund will appoint one of its executives to join Physicians Interactive’s board.

Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

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Telcare’s wireless glucometer to launch next week

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 5, 2012        

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Telcare Blood Glucose MeterWalt Mossberg, technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, broke the news this morning that Telcare’s cellular-enabled blood glucose meter will become commercially available next week. (Assumedly timed to launch at CES, the big consumer tech event in Las Vegas.)

Mossberg, who has Type 2 diabetes, also gave the device an overall positive review with very few caveats.

Telcare BGM is a 3G-enabled blood glucose meter that wirelessly transmits glucose values using T-Mobile USA’s wireless network to an 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 provides the example of parents of diabetes children, or adult children of older patients.

Coincidentally, Mossberg told attendees at the TEDMED conference in November 2010 that his traditional glucometer was a “piece of crap” because — among other things — it didn’t connect to smartphones, other mobile devices, or the Internet. Mossberg’s TEDMED speech did not mention any of the connected glucose meters that were already in development or commercially available at that time. In reaction to Mossberg’s TEDMED talk, MobiHealthNews pointed out Telcare’s offering (which was still in development) and Entra Health Systems’ MyGlucoHealth device as obvious oversights.

In his review, Mossberg includes Entra’s Bluetooth-enabled device as a Telcare competitor, along with Agamatrix’s iBGstar, which recently recieved FDA clearance .

Read on for a brief summary of Mossberg’s praise and criticism of the device: Keep reading>>

Drugs.com taps Healthline to monetize its 3.6M mobile users

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 5, 2012        

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Drugs.comHealthline Networks inked a deal with Drugs.com to become the exclusive provider of direct to consumer advertising for the popular site, which counted about 19.4 million unique visitors in the month of October. Drugs.com provides “free, independent, peer-reviewed, objective and up-to-date drug information” to both consumers and medical professionals. The deal is for consumer marketing on both the Drugs.com website and its mobile channels.

A key part of the deal sees Healthline monetizing Drugs.com substantial mobile user base. In October about 3.6 million unique mobile phone and tablet users visited the Drugs.com site. The group made up about 19 percent of the site’s overall user base for the month. The company said that its mobile user base is evenly divided between Android and Apple iOS users, which each account for about 9 percent of the site’s unique visitors.

Healthline will sell targeted consumer advertising campaigns on Drugs.com and create “relevant and engaging sponsored content centers” for the site’s visitors. Healthline’s Senior Vice President of Consumer Media David Kopp told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview that the mobile versions of the advertisements will be fairly similar to the web.

Kopp said that Healthline is a firm believer in mobile-optimized websites over mobile applications. Apps are important, too, but optimizing sites for mobile browsers should be health sites’ top priority. Keep reading>>

How will the mobile health market evolve in 2012?

By: Neil Versel | Jan 5, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeHappy new year, and welcome to 2012! As the year begins, I have some burning questions about mobile and wireless healthcare that I hope to see answered in the next 12 months.

Will consumers understand mobile technology in healthcare? When I checked into a San Diego hotel for the Healthcare Unbound conference last summer, the clerk asked me if I was in town for some big software show going on at the convention center. No, I said, I was there for this other, smaller meeting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt about wireless healthcare technologies.

She gave me a blank stare.

I then explained the concepts of connected health and aging in place with a simple question: What if you had an elderly parent faced with a decision to move into assisted living (or “assisted dying,” as my late grandfather once called it) or a nursing home? Would you rather spend thousands of dollars a month to institutionalize your loved one in a sterile, unfamiliar environment, or would you invest a few hundred dollars in monitoring technology that would allow mom or dad to stay safe at home?

Immediately, a light went on. The clerk got it.

Unfortunately, I have had to use this anecdote several times since then since people I encounter outside healthcare simply don’t understand. This shows me two things: that the general public hasn’t been introduced to new ways of thinking about healthcare; and that it really isn’t so hard to explain what we are talking about here. It’s just that nobody has taken the time to explain things in simple terms. Keep reading>>

Insurer: Apps may help unravel complexity of health insurance

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 5, 2012        

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UPMC ChildrensPgh iPhone appDavid Passavant, the senior director of consumer innovation at UPMC Health Plan, which is owned by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, sees the advent of mobile health apps as an important tool for unraveling the “incredibly complex and confusing” world of health insurance for consumers.

In an interview with Smart Business, Passavant noted that by the end of 2012 most health insurance companies will offer apps that enable members to search for healthcare providers and contact their insurer. Other features that basic apps from health plans will offer include personal health records access, location-aware provider search, and virtual member ID cards. The next generation of apps offered up by health plans will include real time updates on claims status, tools to understand “costs and quality of care”, personalized health tips, and various health trackers.

Passavant said that “the opportunities these devices provide are endless” and that health plans are only now “just scratching the surface”.

Passavant said that “soon it will be possible to include, for example, technology that could collect blood glucose level readings and send them directly to a member’s physician.” This service, of course, is already possible. WellDoc’s DiabetesManager enables it. Telcare’s recently FDA-cleared, wireless-enabled blood glucose meter also makes it possible. The even more recently FDA-cleared iPhone peripheral, the iBGStar from Sanofi and made by AgaMatrix, is another device that enables sharing of blood glucose data with physicians right from the patient’s mobile phone.

Perhaps the most promising quote from Passavant was this:

“Once the use of mobile technology is accepted and members are able to let us know how they want to use it and how it can best fit their needs, we will evolve.”

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which owns UPMC Health Plan, has developed a couple of iPhone apps already. ChildrensPgh is a free iPhone app developed by UPMC that offers a symptom navigator, medical advice, and more for parents. UPMC also created, UPMC EMS Navigator, an app to provide emergency medical services staff with an up to date set of clinical guidelines.

Be sure to check out Passavant’s insightful interview in Smart Business for more on UPMC Health Plan’s mobile health strategy.

Yoritex demos BlackBerry medical device hub

By: Neil Versel | Jan 5, 2012        

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Yoritex YoriMed BlackBerry medical device hubApple’s iPhone has been widely praised for its elegant design. Similarly, the much-heralded iPhone ECG from Dr. David Albert’s AliveCor is simplistic in its form, easily bolting on to the back of the iconic smartphone.

A competing offering from Canadian mobile medical products developer Yoritex seems more diverse in its potential uses. But it appears to be clunkier when it comes to design, raising the question of whether consumers will go for form or function.

Toronto-based Yoritex last week released a video demonstration of YoriMed, a medical network hub that connects small, home-based medical devices to smartphones via the micro USB port on most Android and BlackBerry models. YoriMed can accept a range of devices, including plug-in ECG/EKG sensors, blood-pressure monitors, thermometers and blood analyzers. Software loaded on the smartphone collects and displays readings in real time, and the data can be forwarded to medical professionals for analysis.

The hub is powered by a rechargeable battery that is separate from the phone’s battery. It has a 36-pin medical connector on one side — following the ISO/IEEE 11073 communications protocol for personal health devices — and a micro USB port on the other. Keep reading>>