Bluetooth toothbrush, app to track oral hygiene

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2012        

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Beam BrushAccording to a report over at GigaOm, one-year-old startup, Beam Technologies, plans to commercially launch a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush and companion app next month. Beam’s connected toothbrush leverages a sensor and Bluetooth to send brushing data to its companion smartphone app. The company sees an opportunity to build out a number of features and services based on the toothbrush tracking and also plans to add some gaming elements to the offering in the future.

Beam CEO Alex Frommeyer told GigaOm that the $50 Beam Brush will become available in early March. Replacements for the toothbrush head will cost $3. Frommeyer said that the Android companion app is already finished and the iOS version will launch around the time the toothbrush does. Beam is also expecting to land its first round of funding (less than $1 million) in the next few weeks.

MobiHealthNews first reported on a similar device we learned about in 2009 at the BodyNets conference in Los Angeles. Rice University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Lin Zhong told us that his team of Rice University researchers had developed an intelligent toothbrush that was able to determine how long a person brushed for, what type of movements the toothbrush was making and whether the user brushed comprehensively. Zhong noted that teaching kids to brush correctly is a difficult prospect.

Another high profile startup, GreenGoose, has mentioned plans to offer a very similar offering to the Beam Brush. Around this time last year GreenGoose demonstrated how its tiny sensors and accelerometers could be used to track usage of everyday items. The Brush Sensor that GreenGoose thought up appears to attach to pretty much any toothbrush, unlike the Beam Brush, which is a toothbrush itself. Beam Brush has a built-in business model, however, users have to reorder $3 toothbrush heads to keep using it.

More on the Beam Brush over at GigaOm here.

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Lumeris and three Blues buy NaviNet

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2012        

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NaviNet iPhone appLast year the Essence Group raised $70 million in funding from investors that included Passport Capital, Camden Partners and Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Partners. Essence is an umbrella organization, founded by venture capitalist John Doerr, that includes three healthcare companies: Essence Healthcareoffers people on Medicare a health plan that focuses on wellness, care coordination and personal service in six states; ClearPractice offers electronic health records; Lumeris is a supplier of analytic software that tracks procedures and patient results for insurers and physicians.

This week it seems Essence found a way to spend some of the millions it raised last year. Through its subsidiary, Lumeris, Essence teamed up with three other health plans, Highmark, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Independence Blue Cross, to acquire provider and insurance real-time transactions network provider NaviNet for an undisclosed price. The deal should be final within 30 days, according to the companies.

In 2010 NaviNet moved away from the desktop extended its offering into the exam room by acquiring mobile-enabled e-prescribing company Prematics. At the time of the acquisition Prematics only had 4,000 physician users and its service was only available for iOS devices and Windows Mobile devices. In 2010 NaviNet claimed that about 70 percent of US physicians plus hundreds of thousands of clinicians and other healthcare professionals in the US used NaviNet to access real-time clinical information from health plans, the company stated at the time.

Here’s how NaviNet described its offering after the Prematics acquisition: “As a result, when physicians are in the exam room prescribing medications via handheld device, they can also use the device to receive information about generic or alternative drugs; submit real-time authorizations; and view benefits information in real time to determine patient financial responsibility,” according to the company’s 2010 press release.

Now that NaviNet is set to become a bundled offering with Lumeris’ accountable care organization platform, the companies expect to power the ACOs offered by health plans across the US: “All over the nation, health plans, including Highmark, Horizon, and IBC, are developing new value-based payment models that reward physicians for highly coordinated, high-quality accountable care. The integration of NaviNet and Lumeris’ capabilities would allow plans to develop next generation accountable care delivery systems to contain costs and improve quality, while continuing to handle administrative transactions easily and cost-effectively,” according to the press release this week.

One of the other Essence Group subsidiaries, ClearPractice, offers an EHR called Nimble that was specifically developed for Apple iPad users. ClearPractice offers Eden, a cloud-based EHR offering that works across Apple iOS devices and Mac computers — iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and Apple PCs.

The New York Times has a great writeup on the Lumeris-NaviNet deal here.
For more from the press release, read the full announcement below: Keep reading>>

Qualcomm Life, iSonea to offer mobile asthma monitor

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2012        

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iSonea's Wheezometer

iSonea's Wheezometer

Annapolis, Maryland-based asthma monitoring technology company iSonea has inked a deal with Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, to combine iSonea’s proprietary Acoustic Respiratory Monitoring (ARM) devices and forthcoming mobile health asthma management offerings with Qualcomm’s recently launched 2net platform.

The deal will enable users of iSonea’s asthma monitoring devices to “automatically and securely link” asthma symptom data via Qualcomm’s 2net platform to a cloud-based portal that physicians and caregivers can access. iSonea will leverage Qualcomm Life’s 2net Hub, a plug-and-play connectivity gateway.

iSonea’s core offering today is a medical device called the Wheezometer, a point of care, handheld device that “analyzes 30 seconds of breath sounds using advanced signal processing algorithms to detect, quantify and objectively document the presence of wheeze and its extent,” according to iSonea’s website. The company is currently seeking an over-the-counter (OTC) status for the Wheezometer from the FDA.

At the end of last year, iSonea’s CEO Michael Thomas explained his company’s future plans to a radio host in Australia. Thomas said that once iSonea receives an OTC status from the FDA, it will be able to launch its smartphone initiative. While iSonea is currently a medical device company that makes its own hardware, it believes that at its core it is a smart algorithm and software company. It intends to become hardware agnostic.

iSonea believes smartphones will allow them to do that.

Assuming the FDA grants the Wheezometer OTC status based on the bench validation study the company currently has underway, iSonea plans to create smartphone-based versions of the medical device for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices, Thomas said. Thomas said since there were about half a billion smartphones sold the world over in the past year, and there are expected to be about 1 billion smartphones sold in 2015, the smartphone has become the most efficient way for iSonea to get its technology to the 300 million people worldwide who have asthma.

During his radio interview, Thomas hinted at the impending strategic partnership with a global wireless technology communications company, which we now know is Qualcomm. He also mentioned a potential partnership with a pharmaceutical company. Of course, Thomas did not say which one.

Pure speculation, but worth noting that GlaxoSmithKline is one pharmaceutical company that has touted smartphone apps for asthma management in recent months.

Read more about the Qualcomm-iSonea partnership in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Telcare offers up diabetes management app for iPhone

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2012        

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MyTelcare Diabetes PalThis week Telcare, makers of an FDA-cleared, cellular-enabled blood glucose meter, launched a free, companion iPhone app, called MyTelcare Diabetes Pal that helps Telcare BGM users to track their glucose readings, medications, nutrition, activities and more. The app automatically receives glucose readings from the TelcareBGM device, which means no more manual logging of blood glucose readings. Other non-Telcare BGM device users can still use the Telcare app to manually log their readings.

While there are other ways to transmit blood glucose readings to an iPhone app, like Sanofi’s iPhone dongle blood glucose meter the iBGStar, Entra Health System’s Bluetooth-enabled meter, or by using Glooko’s $39 cord, Telcare explained to MobiHealthNews in an email that since the app was engineered to wirelessly connect to the Telcare BGM via its secure cloud server the Telcare blood glucose meter and the iPhone can be 1,000 miles away or two feet away from one another and it will still sync in real-time. The other devices require users to have both the meter and the smartphone handy.

The MyTelcare Diabetes Pal app also helps users discover trends by reviewing more than ten professionally designed graphs and charts that help users identify trends based on time of day, prescription adherence, target zones, day of the week, standard deviation, before and after meals, before and after activity, and more. The app also enables users to generate and email a one page, “physician-optimized” report in about five seconds, according to the company. What’s more, all data can be exported to Microsoft Excel.

The app also provides feedback to users and their caregivers: “Patients and caregivers receive feedback from Telcare’s proprietary rules-based algorithms and the entire Telcare patient community,” according to the company.

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Europe to be bigger market for mHealth than North America

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2012        

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Vitality iPad App

Vitality GlowCap iPad App

The worldwide mHealth market will grow to a revenue opportunity worth $23 billion by 2017, according to a new report conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and funded by the GSM Association. PwC notes that while advancements in medical technology and a general worldwide increase in income levels would suggest progress for healthcare, issues of affordability, complexity and access are still big problems for the industry. Given the near ubiquity of mobile networks as well as the rise of smartphones and other connected devices, PwC believes mobile will play an increasingly important role in developed and developing countries to help healthcare stakeholders overcome these challenges.

PwC estimates that mobile-enabled monitoring services, like those offered for chronic disease management, will make up 65 per cent of the worldwide mHealth market and account for $15 billion in revenues by 2017. The second largest segment will be diagnostic services, which will generate $3.4 billion in revenues worldwide, and make up 15 per cent of the global mHealth market. (PwC notes that mobile telemedicine and health call centers are included in that segment.) The third largest market opportunity is in what PwC calls “treatment services,” which include medication and treatment adherence devices (like Vitality’s GlowCap) and services. These will make up 10 percent of the overall market or about $2.3 billion.

According to the PwC report, mobile operators stand to capitalize on mHealth-related revenues of about $11.5 billion by 2017. Device makers have an mHealth market opportunity of $6.6 billion, while content and application developers have an mHealth market opportunity of $2.6 billion. Finally, healthcare providers stand to generate $2.4 billion in mHealth revenues by 2017, according to the researchers.

According to PwC and the GSMA, Europe will be the biggest mHealth market in 2017. The region has a $6.9 billion mHealth market opportunity, while North America’s mHealth market opp is $6.5 billion. Here’s a quick list of other regions and countries mentioned: Latin America, $1.6 billion; Africa, $1.2 billion; United States, $5.9 billion; China, $2.5 billion; Japan, $1.4 billion.

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

12 trends for mobile health in 2012

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 14, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsLast week MobiHealthNews hosted its first webinar of 2012. During my presentation I shared my 12 trends for 2012. Our co-presenter, Aaron Kaufman from Kony Healthcare Solutions also shared his take on the year ahead. Check out the complimentary, hour-long webinar on demand right here.

1.) The Adoption of Smartphones and Tablets. This is by far the most obvious trend because it has been so steady for the past few years. It is still an important one to consider. By the end of 2011, Nielsen expected half of the US population to own a smartphone. At the end of 2011 62 percent of 25 to 34 year olds had smartphones. About 53 percent of 35 to 44 year olds did. The fastest growing age group for smartphone adoption in the past year was the 55 to 64 year old age group. Adoption among this group went from 17 percent to 30 percent a year later. Similarly the iPad has had the fastest adoption rate of any consumer electronics device in history. We know that now more than 80 percent of physicians in the US have smartphones. Between 30 percent and 50 percent have tablets now depending on who you ask.

2.) Increased FDA Clarity. This was the big trend of 2011: The FDA proposed guidelines for how it translates existing medical device regulations into the world of apps, smartphones, and tablets. For the most part these guidelines were well-received, but a number of questions remained over where exactly the FDA would draw its lines. The mHealth Regulatory Coalition recently asked the FDA to re-publish an updated set of proposals that take into account changes it should make based on comments from the industry. While it is unclear whether the FDA will publish new guidelines for a new commenting period, it is expected that the FDA will publish either the final guidelines or a new draft set by year-end. While the regulatory discussion will continue to be an important one — there are still a number of loose ends including how the FDA views clinical decision support, for example — this won’t be the primary focus of mobile health discussions in 2012.

3.) Consumer Devices in the Healthcare Enterprise. This is the trend that is really at the heart of the mobile health IT discussion for healthcare providers. While a good number of healthcare facilities are deploying consumer devices like the Apple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and in rarer cases Android devices, for the most part these devices are being brought into work by healthcare workers. BYOD is the name of the trend and its a big one for everyone working in all areas of IT today. The big issues stemming from this trend include security concerns, HIPAA compliance, and user experience. Security solutions and broader mobile device management solutions will find a lot of customers in healthcare this year. The other issue brought about by BYOD is accessing enterprise apps. As the Seattle Hospital’s iPad debacle last year showed, these devices aren’t enough — they require well-designed native apps to ensure that providers will use them for accessing EHRs and other HIS apps. I expect design and usability concerns vs. security concerns to be a huge headache for providers this year. Finally, these consumer devices provide access to distracting consumer apps. Healthcare providers are being distracted by these devices while on the job. While this might be controversial, I think this is a rather absurd concern. We trust them to do so much, we should trust them to know when not to be surfing Facebook. Keep reading>>