Bam Lab: Mattress monitor for heart rate, sleep apnea

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 9, 2011        

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BAM_001_300Bam Labs aims to make health monitoring easier for people while they sleep. Notably, the company’s sensor is not wearable, but it tracks heart rate, breathing, and movement during sleep, and the company says it can even diagnose sleep apnea — all from a mattress pad located beneath the user.

MedGadget notes that the Bam Labs device was designed by former Apple employees. It is intended for use both in clinical settings and for home health.

The system works via a sensor “at one corner of the pad [tracking] air-pressure fluctuations caused by the tiny tremors caused by heartbeats or the more sizable shaking that occurs when someone turns over or gets out of bed,” according to Technology Review.

The data is transmitted via USB to a box that connects to cloud via a WiFi network. That’s where the data is analyzed for and interpreted as heartbeats, breaths, and so on. According to Bam Labs website the WiFi-enabled gateway device can track multiple beds.

The data can later be viewed via an online dashboard, iOS app, or Android app, showing trends in sleep quality and duration. Technology Review points out that sharing the bed with other people or pets could confuse the sensor.

Bam Labs first marketed the sensor to nursing homes under the name Touch-free Life Care (TLC) to track those at-risk for falling out of bed or wandering at night. Staff could track the elderly and be notified on their smartphones about an awake patient. The company has plans to market to acute-care situations and home users beginning next year. Next year it also plans to market the device for managing chronic conditions.

Bam Labs, which was founded in 2006, raised $2.4 million in March.

Other startups working in the sleep monitoring space include Zeo, and NovaSom. Activity monitoring companies that also offer basic sleep monitoring functions include Jawbone Up and FitBit.

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Merck partner pays doctors to validate PHR data

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 9, 2011        

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miHealth appMerck Canada announced this month a deal with Mihealth to promote its PHR offering to Canadian doctors. According to Mihealth, which has an exclusive license to Diversinet’s MobiSecure platform in Canada, its PHR data is validated by a physician once a year to ensure accuracy of the health information.

Mihealth’s PHR is available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows smartphones. The software helps patients track medications, allergies, and chronic disorders information, but it has plans to add lab tests information soon. The Mihealth service is free for physicians while patients pay from $59 a year per person and up to $224 for a family of four. Mihealth pays physicians a small fee for their yearly validation.

In January, miHealth inked a $5 million deal with Diversinet to act as the secure mobile health services provider’s exclusive distributor in Canada. miHealth’s PHR is built upon Diversinet’s MobiSecure platform.

“Strengthening patient-doctor communications will improve the quality and quantity of information available,” stated Dr Wendy Graham, president of Mihealth, in a press release. “The adoption of physician-validated PHRs is a particularly vital new tool to facilitate the care of the one in three Canadians living with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and lung disease.”

Physician validation was stressed by Merck as a distinguishing feature for Mihealth compared to other PHRs. Dr Graham stated that “When patients use existing services to independently keep a PHR, the non-validated data may be seen as unreliable by health professionals, a major drawback. With Mihealth, physicians validate the information once a year, ensuring accuracy and credibility and making it useful to all health professionals.”

It is not entirely clear what Merck gets out of the deal other than a new product it can offer to physicians for free, which could end up helping them make a little extra pocket change each year: “This is a new type of implication for Merck to be bringing to our health system, but no less important than a new medicine. It is another way for Merck to help Canadian healthcare providers give the best care to their patients as well as providing important efficiencies for our healthcare system,” Merck’s Canada’s Vice President of Customer Innovation Christian Sauvageau stated in a press release. “We were motivated to get involved with Mihealth because it will assist health care practitioners in improving patient health outcomes.”

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

VA launches online consultations with American Well

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 8, 2011        

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American Well iPhone appThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it had inked a deal with American Well to deploy the telehealth vendor’s online care system for veterans, particularly those in rural areas of the US.

American Well’s service will enable veterans and their care providers to have online consultations via video, text, and phone messaging. The VA is creating three online practices to make up the new initiative, they include:

  • The Minneapolis VA Health Care System (MHCS)’s Behavioral Health Practice will create an online practice that remotely provides mental health services.
  • The Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System (NWIHCS)’s Oncology Practice will create an online practice that brings together healthcare providers from the Omaha VA Medical Center (VAMC) with cancer patients across the state, including many who live in rural areas.
  • The NWIHCS will also establish an online perioperative practice that brings post-operative care to patients with support from a home-based primary and extended care team.

American Well quietly launched an iPhone app for its Online Care offering at the end of August. The app, called Online Care Mobile is free and designed to be used by both iPhone and iPad users. The app is intended for use by healthcare providers who use the American Well Online Care platform with patients. The app enables users to read and send secure messages, see the day’s appointments, see who’s in the waiting room, and receive notifications and reminders. The VA announcement makes no mention of the app, but it is likely the VA would take advantage of it.

In October, the VA announced plans to acquire as many as 100,000 tablets, primarily for use by their medical clinicians staff, marking one of the largest such deployments by a civilian agency. A few weeks ago — before the iPad deployment began to roll out — one of the unopened iPads was stolen from the VA, according to a GovHealthIT report.

“VA is dedicated to providing Veterans with the highest quality, most patient-centric care possible – and we see technology as a critical enabler in our mission,” stated Jonah Czerwinski, director of VAi2, in a press release. “This initiative with American Well will allow VA to use telehealth to deliver needed care directly into the homes of veterans, who might otherwise struggle with barriers such as distance, mobility or the need to take time away from work or family.”

As we reported earlier this year, patient-to-physician video consultations are President Obama’s favorite use case for mobile health.

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

Cedars-Sinai rolls out iPhones with Voalte

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 8, 2011        

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VoalteCedars-Sinai Medical Center will deploy Voalte’s point-of-care voice, alarm, and text group of services. The hospital plans to deploy 1,000 iPhones pre-loaded with the software over the course of the next 12 months.

Voalte’s offering combines high-definition voice calls, critical care alarms and presence-based text features and is intended for use by staff in acute care hospitals in the US and Canada — especially nurses. The company also bundles in medical reference information via a partnership it recently announced with Epocrates. Voalte says the offering enables faster response to patient needs. Voalte’s list of customers includes Nebraska Medical Center, Texas Children’s, Heartland Health, Huntington Hospital, and Sarasota Memorial.

“As a hospital dedicated to innovation and the patient experience, we realized several years ago that mobile-based technology was the leading edge of point of care,” stated Darren Dworkin, senior vice president and chief information officer at Cedars-Sinai, in a press release. “Choosing Voalte’s system is in alignment with Cedars-Sinai’s dedication to incorporate state-of-the-art technology to increase efficiencies, improve patient safety and keep nurses and clinicians continuously connected throughout the hospital’s units.”

Voalte added approximately 30 additional features focused on workflow, delivery and support technology to the application based on feedback from the new customer.

“By listening to Cedars-Sinai’s observations and incorporating the nurse and clinicians’ suggested features, we were able to provide advanced clinical efficiencies and faster responses to patient needs,” stated Trey Lauderdale, Voalte’s vice president of innovation, in a press release.

Last month, Voalte announced Voalte Connect, a mobile device management (MDM) solution for hospital networks that utilizes the AirWatch platform’s technology. The new service allows the company to remotely secure, monitor, manage and support mobile devices deployed across a hospital.

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

BlackBerry lauded for enabling disaster recovery efforts

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 7, 2011        

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blackberryResearch In Motion (RIM) is this year’s recipient of the International Medical Corps’ Global Impact award for aiding disaster-recovery efforts worldwide with its BlackBerry smartphone. The 2011 Annual Awards Celebration takes place in Los Angeles next week.

International Medical Corps (IMC) is a non-profit organisation that provides first-response healthcare and medical assistance to areas affected by war, disease, or natural disasters. Other recipients at this year’s ceremony include Darfur country director Dr. Solomon Kebede and Wells Fargo.

On the BlackBerry’s effectiveness in global health, “You just don’t know what kind of a setting you’re going to arrive in,” Dr. Neil Joyce told BizCommunity. Dr Joyce helped lead the IMC’s Emergency Response Team in Haiti after last year’s earthquake. “As we arrived in Port-au-Prince, the cellphones were not working, but I was able to send messages with my BlackBerry smartphone.”

Dr. Joyce was also part of the disaster relief efforts in Japan earlier this year, and used his BlackBerry to communicate with hospitals and physicians, and direct material and equipment to relief areas.

Margaret Aguirre, director of IMC’s global communications, told BizCommunity that utilizing social media during the relief efforts was crucial to their operation. “Being able to upload pictures to social media was really important,” she said. “Our social media posts in the early days enabled military personnel to know the needs of various humanitarian groups on the ground and where to direct assets.”

While BlackBerry devices proved helpful in the trying situations discussed above, fewer and fewer physicians in the US are using the devices, which were as of May 2010, still the most popular smartphone in healthcare, according to Manhattan Research. This year the research firm said 75 percent of US physicians owned some kind of Apple device.

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Read the BizCommunity article RIM’s award here.

FDA small survey: Hospitals eye patient tracking

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 7, 2011        

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Awarepoint real-time dashboardA small FDA survey of nine hospitals found that the most popular use cases for RFID (radio frequency identification) technology are infusion pumps, portable monitors, wheelchairs, beds, and ventilators. Eight of the nine hospitals surveyed use RFID or RTLS (real time location services) technologies. These hospitals are part of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) MedSun network, which aims to identify and solve problems in primary care hospitals and healthcare facilities related to medical device use.

According to the survey summary, the FDA wanted to learn how RFID and RTLS systems operated in a hospital with various medical devices, including their usage, planning and deployment, location within the hospital, and whether there was interference between the systems and other medical devices.

Interestingly, “several” of the respondents expressed interest in patient tracking services: “Some reasons include tracking patients who may be confused or have a brain injury and also for tracking patients in the Emergency Department to avoid delays with x-rays and lab testing,” the press release stated. “Two facilities are using RFID/RTLS technology to protect infants from abduction with a system that alarms when infants are taken outside of certain locations. In contrast, some respondents know that management and employee unions have concerns with implementing these types of systems. Additional comments relate to hospital cultures that are not ready to implement ‘tagging patients’ at this time.”

Other insights from the survey include:

  • Most of the hospitals use RFID technology throughout the entire facility.
  • Most do not use RFID devices to track medications or other pharmacy products. (One respondent’s facility uses bar codes for medication administration, and another expressed interest in using RFID to track expiration dates of medications.)
  • Times for transmitting information from the readers range from every millisecond to once every 10 minutes.
  • Minimal interference issues were reported using the devices.

Overall reaction to using RFID or RTLS was positive, and some respondents reported improved patient care.

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Read the FDA summary here.