Rite Aid plays catch up with Rx refill app

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 28, 2012        

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Rite Aid iPhone appThis week Rite Aid launched smartphone apps for iPhone and Android device users that lets customers refill their prescriptions by scanning the medication bottle with their device’s camera. Walgreens launched a similar app in November 2010. CVS launched its first prescription refill app in July 2010, but it didn’t have the refill by scan feature. Walgreens just added medication adherence reminders and Rx transfer features this month.

Rite Aid’s prescription refill app also lets users refill prescriptions by entering the prescription number by keypad, transfer prescriptions from competing pharmacies (where allowed), and it also lets them sign up for text, email and phone alerts for its Rx Reminders service.

“We’ve seen traffic to our mobile-optimized website grow steadily as proof positive that our customers’ communication preferences are evolving,” John Learish, senior vice president, marketing at Rite Aid stated in a press release. “With this new app for Android and iPhone-powered devices, Rite Aid is ready to further engage customers when and how they choose to communicate, adding relevant services inside the app that increase the convenience and value we can offer.”

The app also includes a store locator that leverages the smartphone’s GPS to find nearby Rite Aid stores. Like similar apps from competitors, it also lets users filter by which locations have in-store clinics or other services.

Rite Aid has been more pioneering than its competition when it comes to telehealth: Last year the retail pharmacy chain announced a deal with Optum to connect its customers with Optum nurses and other providers via Optum’s videochat-enabled NowClinic service. The service is currently available in select parts of Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to Optum’s site.

For more on mobile health at retail clinics and other clinics, check out MobiHealthNews’ complimentary report: Mobile Health at the Clinic.

More on the new app in the press release below: Keep reading>>

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US patient monitoring market worth $3.1B in 2011

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 28, 2012        

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Withings Blood PressureAccording to a new report from iData Research, the US patient monitoring market was worth more than $3.1 billion in 2011 and it is expected to approach $4.2 billion by 2018. The research firm points to a few key drivers of this growth: the rapid adoption of wireless ambulatory telemetry monitors, low acuity vital signs monitors, telehealth services for chronic condition management, and monitoring of cardiovascular implantable electronic devices. The firm also expects traditional monitoring products like multi-parameter vital signs monitoring, telemetry, fetal and neonatal monitoring, to continue to grow as they replace outdated systems.

The report comes just a few days after a similar report from GBI hit the wires: Earlier this week GBI predicted that the global patient monitoring devices market will hit $8 billion in 2017, up from $6.1 billion in 2010. The firm estimated the device market’s CAGR at about 4 percent for the next five years. Like iData, GBI pointed to advancements in wireless and sensor technologies as a key driver of the patient monitoring devices market.

iData also reported that physicians and clinicians are becoming more aware of remote monitoring of patients after discharge from the hospital. The firm also said that smartphone compatible monitoring products will drive sales for some corners of the market, including pulse oximetry and blood pressure monitoring. The benefits of a smartphone compatible monitoring device are: “convenience of monitoring, ease of use, familiar platform for smartphone users, new and exciting method for measuring blood pressure, and the ability to share and analyze results,” according to iData.

“The growing awareness of the benefits of remote monitoring, in addition to large purchases by the Department of Veterans Affairs has helped drive growth in the telehealth for the chronic conditions segment,” Dr. Kamran Zamanian, CEO of iData stated in a release. “By 2018, the US telehealth market is expected to more than double in value, with companies such as Honeywell, Bosch Healthcare and Cardiocom battling for market share.”

More in the release below: Keep reading>>

In mobile health, follow the money, not the hype

By: Neil Versel | Mar 28, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeA recent article in the Baltimore Sun about a series of mobile health studies underway at Johns Hopkins University referenced a person familiar to many a MobiHealthNews reader: Susannah Fox, the healthcare research guru at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

According to Fox, about 10 percent of U.S. adults who have cell phones – and nearly every adult in the country has one these days – had registered to use a mobile health app, a number nearly unchanged from a year ago. Many, Fox told the Sun, used the app only once, if they even tried it at all.

Granted, not every mobile phone user has a smartphone that can run third-party apps, but smartphone adoption continues to grow, so it might seem surprising that interest in health apps has reached a plateau at least for now. I, for one, was not surprised.

I’ve been saying for quite some time that direct-to-consumer health apps have limited appeal as long as they’re made for the same young, techie types who design them. And apparently I am not alone.

Earlier this month, The Atlantic ran a provocative story about why Silicon Valley has yet to design a good health app. “Homogenous teams of innovators make products for people just like them. And that’s a problem,” reads the subhead.

“Many great innovators build what they know, for whom they know,” the story says, noting that Mark Zuckerberg – or at least the Zuck depicted by Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network” – built the framework for Facebook because it helped him meet new people and “access the lives of the elite.” Obviously, there is a huge market for that sort of thing, and the scale of Facebook reflects that.

This model does not necessarily translate to healthcare, though. “[The] demographics of an audience of Lululemon wearers, yoga-practitioners, and vegans is a very different market segment than the obese, the chronically ill, and those with limited access to health education resources,” South Africa native Kanyi Maqubela writes in his Atlantic commentary. Keep reading>>

Vocera goes public as “VCRA” on NYSE

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 28, 2012        

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Vocera SmartphoneVocera Communications, maker of wireless communications systems for healthcare, went public this week by listing its shares on the NYSE with the symbol “VCRA”. Vocera’s systems are installed in more than 800 hospitals and healthcare facilities across the globe. The offering included more than 5.8 million shares priced at $16.

Vocera first filed for its IPO last August when it noted that the offering would help it repay outstanding debts under its credit facility. The company also said at the time it might use the proceeds to acquire or invest in complementary businesses, technologies, or assets. JP Morgan and Piper Jaffray were the lead underwriters for the IPO.

Vocera’s 2011 revenues grew 40 percent year-over-year to $79.5 million, which made for a $2.5 million net loss for the year. In 2010 Vocera raked in $56.8 million in revenues that earned them a net profit of $1.2 million.

Vocera CEO Bob Zollars told Forbes this week that the company’s market opportunity is about $6 billion, with half of that in the US and the other $3 billion in global markets. Zollars also told Forbes that Vocera co-founder Rob Shostak came up with the idea for the wearable communicator because he was a fan of Star Trek. He made the first prototype in his garage out of wood, according to Zollars. He also said that Medicare and Medicaid can give facilities 1 percent bonuses for using the device and that the technology saves nurses about 2 miles of walking each day.

Vocera is based out of San Jose, California, and it also has offices in Tennessee, Canada and the UK.

As of last August, Vocera said it generated about 98 percent of its sales from its voice communications products. Similarly, 98 percent of the company’s business comes from healthcare, however, Vocera has eyed mobile workers in the retail, library and hospitality industries, too.

In 2010 Vocera acquired Toronto-based Wallace Wireless, a competitor that enabled healthcare professionals to send pages, text messages, and alerts through their smartphones. Wallace billed its system as “secure, reliable, and traceable” and said it worked over both WiFi and cellular networks. Vocera did not disclose the acquisition sum.

In 2009 Vocera teamed up with Motorola to create the Vocera smartphone, which offered the same one-touch, voice user interface of the Vocera communications badge. The Vocera smartphone runs on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system, which supports alarm/alert systems, asset tracking, medical reference software and includes access to corporate email.

More on the IPO details in this AP report.

Mental health screening app benefits from CMS payment decision

By: Neil Versel | Mar 27, 2012        

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Mym3 appA recent decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to start covering preventive screening for depression and alcohol abuse is paving the way for wider use of a mobile app that helps primary care physicians find signs of mental illness that might otherwise be missed.

As part of healthcare reform efforts, CMS said in October that it would pay for annual screenings for both conditions. The news followed by just a few months the release of a $2.99 iPhone app called mym3, a screening tool that walks clinicians and consumers through a 27-item questionnaire in about three minutes to look for not only depression but also anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This one’s unique because it screens for four different disorders at once,” suggests psychiatrist Dr. Steve Daviss, CMIO of the app’s developer, Bethesda, Md.-based M-3 Information.

The mym3 app actually incorporates three components: the consumer-focused depressioncheck screening tool; a Web-based version for physicians called M3 Clinician; and My Mood Monitor, which lets patients track their moods over time and share that information with their doctors.

The screening test assigns a score that, according to the company, “reflects the patient’s overall need for treatment, measures functional impairment, and explores alcohol and substance abuse.” It has proven to be surprisingly accurate. M-3 Information reports that a trial at the University of North Carolina showed that a score of 33 or higher corresponded to a 90 percent likelihood a patient had a diagnosable mental illness, while a score below 30 indicated a 10 percent likelihood.

The same UNC researchers, funded by M-3 Information, discussed the efficacy of the four-illness screening test in a paper that appeared in the Annals of Family Medicine in March 2010. The accuracy of the My Mood Monitor checklist “equals that of currently used single-disorder screening instruments and has the additional benefit of combining them into a 1-page tool,” the study concluded. Keep reading>>

Clark’s seven deadly mobile myths

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 27, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsAt MadPow’s Healthcare Experience Design 2012 conference this week in Boston, Josh Clark the founder of design consulting firm Global Moxie shared his “Seven Deadly Mobile Myths” in a presentation that would likely resonate with many working in mobile health today. Clark’s first major foray into healthcare apps was with the very popular Couch-to-5K website and app, which originally launched in 1996. More recently, Clark helped Asthmapolis design and launch its app for inhaler medication tracking and asthma trigger mapping.

Clark argued that there are a range of “mobile cultures” out there and too often designers and developers have a simple or even condescending view of mobile. It’s an “every user and platform is the same as the next” mindset, he said, and the result is often “dumbed down apps” and sites that “patronize” users, Clark said.

Here are Clark’s “Seven Deadly Mobile Myths”.

Myth #1. Mobile users are always distracted and in a rush.

While it’s true that mobile phones and smartphones are a great way to look something up on the go, mobile users are not always distracted or in a rush. Mobile isn’t just on the go, Clark said. It’s also on the couch and accessible during that three hour layover at the airport. Clark said a recent survey found that some 40 percent of people use their phones in the bathroom, too. When it comes to mobile, sometimes these device have our complete attention. It’s a mistake to assume that mobile users are “all jittery” and using the devices for short sessions. The result of that thinking is a lot of bad ideas, Clark said.

Myth #2. Mobile means less.

Clark argued that mobile should not mean “lite”. Mobile content and features should be at least the same as other platforms and in some cases they should offer more, Clark said. This is very obvious in mobile health where third party peripheral devices are just starting to spring up. Clark said designers should ask: How can we do more with these devices?

Myth #3. Complexity is a dirty word.

Complexity is “awesome”, according to Clark. Complexity is what gives our apps richness. For many health services all that complexity of data is what we need for them to be useful. We can’t just dumb it down, Clark said. He drew a sharp distinction between complexity and “complication”. The trick is to “make complexity uncomplicated,” Clark said. Create “complex yet comprehensible applications.” Clark pointed to his favorite weather app, which just lets him know whether he needs to take an umbrella with him to work in the morning. That’s all he cares about. The app itself manages to leverage a lot of complex data to arrive at its conclusion, but Clark only cares about one thing: umbrella or no umbrella? What kind of complexities do health app users need revealed to them?

Myth #4. Extra taps and clicks are evil.

Clark made an interesting point about this widespread belief that too many taps, clicks, and menus leads to less usable apps: “This comes from network latency,” he said. With today’s cellular networks and WiFi networks, information is pretty quickly and readily available, he said. As long as each tap delivers extra information or even a smile, then extra taps are okay. Even good. It’s a more about “tap quality” than “tap quantity”, according to Clark.

Myth #5. Gotta have a mobile website.

Clark said we should focus on designing things that look great on any platform, including desktop, mobile phones, tablets, and maybe even voice, television or devices we haven’t even imagined yet. There is not a separate web for any of these: “If you want to reach as many people as possible – create sites and apps that will adapt for their container,” Clark said. He also noted that if your site bumps users on mobile phones to a “mobile.mysite.com”, then you are probably doing it wrong. The “u” in URL stands for universal: You only need one.

Myth #6. Mobile is about apps.

The focus on creating apps for different platforms and devices is what has us running in a panic right now, Clark said. An app is not a strategy though. Your product is not an app though — it’s the content. Make that content work for all platforms.

Myth #7. CMS and APIs are for data nerds.

CMS (content management systems) and APIs not for the data nerds anymore, Clark said. “Metadata is the new art direction,” he noted, quoting Ethan Resnick. Designers and developers need to let go of some of the control about data and “face the multiscreen future” by designing structured content.

Clark concluded that if we can get rid of these “stubborn myths” then designers can better recognize that they have some of the most interesting work right now: “We should embrace this uncertainty we face and think big,” Clark said. “And please, go make something amazing.”