Wellcore officially unveils NewYu fitness device

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 11, 2011        

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newyuAt the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2010, a new startup named Wellcore launched a fall detection system for aging in place. This week Wellcore officially announced the launch of a new product called NewYu, a fitness monitor that can identify specific body movements and track fitness progress via an Android app. The device weighs less than an ounce.

Quite a pivot for a fall detection startup except the original Wellcore device included some activity monitoring services, too. The startup’s first device was designed by Frog Design founder Dr. Hartmut Esslinger.

NewYu’s sensor device, worn on the waist, shirtsleeve, or collar, distinguishes between running, cycling, an elliptical machine or everyday activities and tabulates the number of calories burned doing each. The device will retail for $99.99 and is expected to be available in September, according to the company.

“The NewYu team has developed groundbreaking motion detection technology that can distinguish a wide variety of physical movements in the human body… The more accurate the tracking, the more likely users are to reach their goals,” stated Van Krueger, President and CEO of Wellcore, in a press release.

The biometric data is synced via Bluetooth to an online dashboard that can also be viewed via an Android app. The online portal includes ConnectYu, an online social community where users can connect with each other to find workout partners, get encouragement and more. There, users can get fitness information from experts, who can view clients’ fitness and diet progress everyday and then offer exercise and diet recommendations.

One of the notable features of Wellcore’s fall detection system was that the company offered a simple fitness tracking service as part of the offering. The seeds of NewYu were present in the startup’s first product offering, but NewYu is clearly meant for a broader user group than the aging in place market. More on the fall detection device and service here.

Read the full press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

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Why doctors’ pagers still trump smartphones

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 11, 2011        

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Doc_PagerMore than 80 percent of physicians in the US now have smartphones. About a third have tablets. Despite the aggressive adoption rates of these devices many physicians still carry pagers. Yes, plenty of healthcare-specific messaging services are now available for physicians with smartphones, and we cover the launch of these services at MobiHealthNews. Is it really time to move away from the pager? Ted McNaught, President of Critical Alert Systems, the third largest paging carrier in the United States, argues that smartphones aren’t up to snuff when it comes to critical messaging. I invited McNaught to make the case for pagers despite the rise of smartphones in healthcare settings — here’s his take:

By Ted McNaught, President, Critical Alert Systems

New smartphone paging apps are promising emergency medical personnel the same fast, reliable service as pagers. But before you retire your pager, remember that smartphone apps are only as reliable as the cellular or WiFi network they operate on. A comparison of cellular and paging networks and devices shows important differences that can dramatically impact the reliability and speed of critical messaging, as well as patient and public safety.

First and foremost, when using a smartphone paging app, your critical messages will be delivered on a cellular system. Those are the same networks that are notorious for dead zones, dropped calls and poor in-building coverage. Cellular systems were not designed for the delivery of critical messaging. In fact, most cellular carriers provide a disclaimer and caution users not to rely on their system for the delivery of critical messaging.

During many major disasters in the United States over the past 10 to 12 years, local cellular systems were quickly overloaded or disabled — proving virtually useless for emergency communications. Consider the aftermath of the tragic tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011. The cellular systems in that area were off line for up to four days.

However, even though the paging transmitter and antenna on top of St. John’s Regional Medical Center were blown off the building, Midwest Paging’s simulcast network delivered uninterrupted critical messaging when it was needed most. The surrounding transmitters continued broadcasting critical messaging to medical personnel inside the hospital, as well as first responders throughout the Joplin area.

Unlike a cellular network that sends a message from only one site at a time, a paging network sends the message over every transmitter in the network at exactly the same time. This is called simulcast technology, it’s unique to paging and is significantly more reliable than the cellular networks used by smartphones.

Paging systems also have the unique capability to set up a common group address in any pager so that the same message is sent and received at exactly the same time to as many people as needed in a group. Stemi and Code teams are generally set up this way. Smartphone apps can’t do that. Mass message delivery with cellular networks can result in different delivery times for each device, often measured in minutes that can be critical for emergency responders. Keep reading>>

More pharma reps toting iPads, but docs don’t always like it

By: Neil Versel | Aug 11, 2011        

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iPad medicalNot only are physicians picking up iPads in astounding numbers, so are pharmaceutical sales representatives. However, the presence of an iPad doesn’t always make for a better detailing session.

Among the 87 percent of U.S. physicians who interact with pharma companies online, 38 percent report being visited by a pharma or biotech sales rep with an iPad or other tablet-style device in the 12 months ended in June, Manhattan Research reports. However, only a third who have encountered tablet-toting sales reps believe that the experience is better than with a laptop or printed material.

The reason? Some drug companies seem to have developed iPad apps in a hurry to take advantage of the rapid uptake among doctors.

“iPads are all the rage for pharma at the moment, which makes sense given the potential of these devices to support intelligent, nimble sales conversations,” Manhattan Research VP Monique Levy says. “Unfortunately, some of the detailing programs that are being rushed out the door are sub-par—really really no better than something you’d see on tablet PCs six years ago. Doctors won’t waste their time with these.” Keep reading>>

ATA: Telemedicine is proven already

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 11, 2011        

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Jon Linkous, CEO, American Telemedicine AssociationTelemedicine is no longer “turning the corner,” American Telemedicine Association (ATA) CEO Jon Linkous wrote in a recent blog post.

“For years we talked about reaching the point when telemedicine services became self-sustaining outside of temporary grants, going from promise to reality,” wrote Linkous. “We have long passed the point of telemedicine being a new application. After eighteen years the corner is turned and I promise to put that phrase away.” Linkous added that he is tired of having to “prove the case,” and that a variety of telemedicine is now reimbursed by Medicare.

In July, Linkous published an open letter to the FDA criticizing them for their inaction towards rural healthcare. He spoke to MobiHealthNews in 2009 about the emerging wireless health industry, and last year wrote a column on whether or not mHealth is revolutionary. (Hint: He doesn’t think so.)

Linkous provides multiple statistics to support his claim that telemedicine arrived long ago, including: At least half of the 5,000 U.S. hospitals are using teleradiology or other forms of remote imaging; The Ontario Telehealth Network manages over 100,000 live physician-patient video consults a year for a variety of specialty and primary care services; The MedTrix Group provides 10-12 thousand video-based pediatric consults per month for the largest HMO plan in the Israel; The VA is using remote health monitoring for 55,000 veterans; Revenue generated from telemedicine has resulted in profits for independent service providers and is a self-sustaining business within some healthcare delivery systems; A recent survey of Washington, DC hospitals found that every hospital in the metropolitan area was using one or more telemedicine applications as part of their normal delivery of health care for area residents.

Be sure to read the full blog post here.

USC aims to become epicenter of wireless health

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 11, 2011        

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CBCThe USC Center for Body Computing (CBC), an initiative to study and create the future of wireless medicine, recently announced its 17 founding members. The members will support wireless health research and innovation, and help develop product prototypes.

The founding members of the CBC include Agamatrix, AirStrip Technologies, Apollo Health Resources, Avery Dennison Medical Solutions, Ayogo Games, Boston Scientific, eHow.com, Impact Sports Technologies, Independa, Karten Design, Massive Health, Medtronic, Proteus Biomedical, Sotera Wireless, St. Jude Medical,The Sexton Company, and Zephyr Technology.

CBC plans to conduct efficacy studies focused on how mobile phones can be used in the prevention of illnesses and epidemics. The center also studies social media’s role in healthcare, develops medical apps, and produces conferences.

“We are establishing the University of Southern California as the epicenter of wireless health,” stated Dr Leslie A. Saxon, the executive director of the CBC, in a press release. “Our founding members are a critical part of the Center for Body Computing. We are jointly creating product prototypes and economic models for wireless health. We believe wireless medicine has the potential to help millions, if not billions, of people. Wireless health solutions can democratize medicine by breaking down the barriers between health care providers and patients, leading to faster and more cost-effective cures, and increased access to health solutions for people worldwide.”

Read the full press release after the jump.

Vocera files for $80 million IPO

By: Neil Versel | Aug 10, 2011        

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Vocera SmartphoneVocera Communications, maker of wireless communications systems for healthcare, has filed for an initial public offering worth as much as $80 million. The filing is dated Aug. 1, before completion of the federal debt-reduction agreement that has sent the stock market into a tailspin.

The company, which expects to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol VCRA, has not indicated the timing of its IPO, nor has it specified a price range for its shares. “We expect to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes, including repayment in full of outstanding borrowings under our credit facility and working capital. We may also use a portion of the net proceeds to acquire or invest in complementary businesses, technologies or assets,” Vocera says.

According to the filing, San Jose, Calif., Vocera posted its first annual profit in 2010, earning a net $1.2 million on $56.8 million in revenues. Revenue was up 38.1 percent from $41.1 million in 2009. That year, Vocera lost $992,000.

Strong sales growth has continued in 2011, but expenses have piled up. For the first half of the year, the company reported revenues of $37.4 million, an increase of 45.9 percent from the $25.6 million in revenues during the same period a year earlier. However, Vocera lost more than $1.3 million in the first six months of 2011, after earning $2.2 million during the first half of last year.

“We expect our expenses to increase due to the hiring of additional personnel and the additional operational and reporting costs associated with being a public company,” Vocera says in the filing.

Vocera generates about 98 percent of its sales from its voice communications products, but recently added messaging with its December 2010 acquisition of Wallace Wireless and consulting services by purchasing ExperiaHealth last November. Similarly, 98 percent of the company’s business comes from healthcare, though there has been an effort of late to target mobile workers in the retail, library and hospitality industries.