Zephyr raises $2.4M for wearable health, fitness monitors

By: Aditi Pai | May 10, 2013        

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slide_Healthcare_Feb2013Annapolis, Maryland-based Zephyr Technology, a wearable remote monitoring company, has raised $2.4 million from undisclosed investors, according to an SEC filing. Former investors include 3M New Ventures, Alsop Louie Partners and Motorola Solutions Venture Capital.

Zephyr products include the BioHarness 3, which a user wears around his or her chest to monitor heart rate, breathing rate, ECG, posture and more. Additionally, Zephyr carries health care specific devices, such as the BioPatch and ZephyrLife, the software that supports BioPatch. In late 2010, FDA granted Zephyr 510(k) clearance for the BioHarness.

Over the past few years Zephyr has used their products in a variety of applications that monitor fitness levels, vital signs and substance abuse. Popularity in recent months is due to Zephyr’s appearance on CNN when the network’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta worked out while wearing the BioHarness.

In late 2012, Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a clinical trial to monitor women giving birth while wearing the harness. The results of the trial will determine how quickly MGH’s Center for Global Health could move it to Uganda where the technology would help physicians know who is in most dire need of help during pregnancy.

Most recently, researchers at Baylor have started a pilot to combat drug abuse with Zephyr technology. The harness monitors the heart rates of addicts to verify that the addict stays clean.

The company is also known for its part in the rescue of the Chilean miners after the 2010 collapse as well as the introduction of Zephyr’s E39 health sensing shirts into professional football.


Baylor psychologists fight drug abuse with wearables, apps

By: Neil Versel | May 9, 2013        

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Zephyr BioHarnessNumbers don’t lie, but some substance abusers do.

That’s why treatment facilities and researchers are increasingly turning to digital health tools – sometimes augmented with nurse case managers – to help recovering alcoholics and drug users kick their habits and stay clean long after discharge from treatment programs.

For example, as attendees of the American Telemedicine Association annual conference heard May 6, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas is employing the Zephyr BioHarness wireless vitals monitor – the same technology others are testing to measure performance of elite athletes and to track vitals during childbirth – to assess cardiovascular and respiratory changes in cocaine users.

Cocaine abuse may not be as widespread as it was in the 1970s or ’80s, but it is still an issue, according to Dr. Jin Ho Yoon, a psychologist at Baylor. During a presentation to the ATA meeting, he said cocaine today represents just 1.5 percent of all illicit drug use but 41.7 percent of ED visits related to overdoses from street drugs. “There are profound social consequences,” Yoon said, naming a propensity for incarceration, violence, homelessness, crime, infectious disease and death.

Yoon has been leading an NIH-funded trial of the BioHarness to see how effectively the device could measure changes in heart and lung function when people are exposed to cocaine.

Trial participants, all volunteers who had been hooked on cocaine, were infused with low-dosage intravenous cocaine in standard hospital beds, while a control group received saline solution. The BioHarness detected a sharp uptick in heart rates for the first 10 minutes after exposure, and the hearts of users continued to beat noticeably faster than those in the control group throughout the entire 30-minute measuring period, Yoon reported.

Breathing rates also were higher for people exposed to the IV cocaine, based on the BioHarness readings, particularly for the first 10 minutes.

The researchers also measured heart rate every 5 minutes with standard hospital equipment, and found that the BioHarness readings were similar, but more useful. “BioHarness detected significant differences in heart rate and breathing rate,” Yoon said.

The Zephyr product could yield data on more metrics and at a lower cost than hospital monitors – and it works outside clinical environments, opening up the possibility of continuously monitoring people during the post-discharge recovery process to make sure they don’t fall off the wagon. However, the battery life is only one day, fine for inpatient applications but perhaps not good enough for home monitoring since it gives recovering drug abusers an easy way to avoid detection.

In the future Yoon wants to try BioHarness to see if it helps people quit cigarette smoking and helps people exercise more to fight obesity.

Another Baylor psychologist, Dr. Jan Lindsay, noted earlier research showing a correlation between recovering drug addicts calling an interactive voice response system for treatment and staying abstinent after inpatient discharge. Those who were given rewards for calling were nearly five times more likely to call an IVR-based support line daily and those who called more often were more likely to remain sober.

“That got me to thinking about mobile apps,” Lindsay said. Lindsay, who works with addicts at the DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, is developing and testing an app to help extend treatment into patients’ everyday lives and tailor interventions to individual needs.

The app will help identify what triggers relapses, and send data to each patient’s therapist so the clinician can work with the patient in search of ways to change behaviors that lead to triggers.

“We’re designing an interactive mobile app and then using those real-time data collection tools in the context of therapy,” Lindsay said. “We have to understand that lapses are common. It’s kind of the rule.”

Apple’s top 11 iPhone apps for nurses

By: Aditi Pai | May 9, 2013        

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Cedars Sinai LA iPad maternity wardPhysicians are widely known as early adopters of smartphones, and that might be partly because they have been a popular subject for researchers conducting surveys about the impact of mobile health in hospitals. But a study last year by Wolters Kluwer Health’s Lippincott Williams Wilkins (LLW) of 3,900 nurses indicated in early 2012, 71 percent of nurses were already using smartphones professionally.

Later that year, a survey conducted by digital health communications firm Enspektos found that physicians were more trusting of medical information in their mobile apps than nurses were. That statistic complements another finding from the LLW nurses survey: Of the 71 percent of nurses who already use smartphones, 87 percent also want a printed version of the same content they have in their app.

Back in January 2012 we wrote about a New York Times report that profiled the increasing role smartphones were playing in nursing schools. The report noted that while nurses still must commit vast amounts of information to memory, reference apps act as a helpful and perhaps increasingly necessary supplement.

“It is not that nurses need to know less, educators say, but that the amount of essential data has exploded,” the report said.

Last year Apple compiled a list of its picks for the top eleven apps available in the AppStore that are designed specifically for nurses. Most of these nurse apps have remained on Apple’s list since it first published its iTunes section for healthcare providers. Here’s Apple’s roundup for the top 11 apps for nurses. Keep reading>>

Half of US physicians use Epocrates on tablets

By: Aditi Pai | May 9, 2013        

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Epocrates iPad appOne again, Epocrates tops the list as the most popular app for physicians, according to Manahattan Research’s Taking the Pulse 2013 survey results. Of the 2,950 physicians surveyed, Epocrates was used by 70 percent of physicians via their smartphones and 50 percent via tablet devices.

Epocrates, which was acquired by athenahealth in January, provides physicians with a range of medical reference apps, especially pulling from its drug information databases. Although athena’s Epocrates acquisition was announced round the same time Manhattan Research was conducting its physician survey, any resulting fallout or boom because of that deal won’t likely be apparent until next year’s poll.

“We are confident that we can provide Epocrates with the stewardship and resources it needs to grow and develop within health care, and that Epocrates’ capabilities are going to mesh exceptionally well with athenahealth’s cloud-based physician and patient services,” athena CEO Jonathan Bush said earlier this year. “Together, we’re excited by the opportunity to redefine the mobile toolset for care givers.”

Other Epocrates apps include, but are not limited to Anatomy on the Go, an interactive app exploring human anatomy; Cadiology Tool, which performs cardiology calculations; and Pocket Medical French or Spanish with over 400 visual, text and audio pronunciations of key questions. Only the Rx and Essentials apps are available for Android or BlackBerry users.

That same Manhattan Research study also asked physicians how they felt about self-tracking patients, to which 75 percent answered positively, agreeing that this practice leads to better patient outcomes. Already, 7 of 10 patients in the study are self-tracking. The survey also found that 72 percent of US physicians now have tablets.

Doctor Q&A startup HealthTap raises $24M from Khosla

By: Brian Dolan | May 8, 2013        

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healthtapSan Francisco-based HealthTap announced this week that it had raised $24 million in its second round of funding. Khosla Ventures led the investment with return backers Mayfield Fund and Mohr Davidow Ventures contributing, too. As part of the deal, Khosla Venture’s Keith Rabois and former Square COO will join HealthTap’s board of directors. Vinod Khosla will join as an advisor, too.

HealthTap’s core offering is a question and answer platform that helps users find health information written by physicians — both online and through the mobile apps. It has also added physician ratings and a data insights feature that helps users better understand doctors’ referral patterns to find doctors their doctors trust.

HealthTap now counts more than 38,000 physicians as part of its network — marking a near quadrupling over the past year, the company says. It also claims that it serves “tens of millions of people worldwide” through its website and apps.

HealthTap plans to use the funds to build out its web and mobile offerings and build out its team.

“In its current state, our healthcare system is expensive, difficult to access, and error prone,” Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures stated. “The future of healthcare is at the confluence of big data, smart algorithms, and simple-to-use interfaces that will provide amplification of our MD’s resources: HealthTap is breaking ground in all three, and we’re excited to help them make their compelling vision a transformative reality.”

At the mHealth Summit last year Khosla made a number of provocative statements about healthcare:

“The right way to look at it is to say ‘How does innovation happen and how do very large systems like the healthcare system change?’ Most of the time change comes from the outside. Not the inside where there are too many vested interests, too many people with very good intentions who have too much experience to be unbiased,” Khosla said at the time. “They are not naive enough to ask naive questions. The answers have changed because of the circumstances — because of technology. Healthcare innovation will be consumer-driven not doctor-driven. It will be driven by devices that power the consumer to have better data about themselves.” Khosla was quick to point out that technology is an important component but not the only one: “It is necessary but not sufficient.”

Since the beginning of last year, Khosla Ventures has made a number of investments in digital health companies, including Ginger.io, Cellscope, AliveCor, and Misfit Wearables.

Nonin debuts Bluetooth 4 pulse oximeter

By: Jonah Comstock | May 8, 2013        

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Nonin 3230 Pulse OximeterAt the American Telemedicine Association in Austin Texas, Nonin showed off its newest product, the Nonin 3230 Bluetooth Smart-enabled pulse oximeter. The product is still awaiting FDA 510(K) clearance, but the product is on track to be the first wireless pulse oximeter to use the low energy communication protocol, also known as Bluetooth 4 or Bluetooth LE.

The device is worn on the fingertip with a display built in that shows the user’s blood oxygenation. Bluetooth Smart will allow the device to pair more quickly and easily with connected hubs and apps, have a longer battery life, and be offered at a lower cost.

Early last month, IMS Research projected that Bluetooth Smart would boom in the health sensor market, covering more than 50 percent of the market by 2016, with 5.7 million shipments.

Like Nonin’s existing Bluetooth pulse ox, the Onyx II, the 3230 will likely be offered only via Nonin’s partners and not directly to consumers, a spokesperson for the company told MobiHealthNews. Nonin’s partners that employ the device in remote patient monitoring and telemedicine include Bosch, GE Intel Care Innovations, and Qualcomm Life.

Nonin told MobiHealthNews the company expected the device to receive FDA clearance by late August or early September. The company also expects to get Continua certification for the new device. Nonin’s previous Bluetooth pulse ox was the first product to ever be certified by the Continua Health Alliance, back in 2009.

Nonin has high profile partners and looks to have a leg up on Bluetooth Smart, but the company has seen a rise in competition for its core offering in recent months, with iHealth announcing a Bluetooth pulse ox at CES and Masimo introducing a consumer-marketed connected pulse oximeter last December.