Bam Labs app now remotely validates sleeping position

By: Neil Versel | Oct 1, 2012        

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BAM_001_300In remotely installing a software upgrade for all of its U.S. customers, the maker of a “smart bed” system for hospitals and post-acute rehab facilities, claims to have developed the country’s first application that biometrically validates bed position changes through a secure, cloud-based monitoring platform.

The new Position Change feature from BAM Labs, Campbell, Calif., an optional feature in the latest update to Bam Labs Health Monitoring app, verifies whether a patient has changed positions in bed. This helps assure that patients are turned regularly to avoid pressure ulcers and alerts staff in case of a bed exit that can lead to a fall.

The app, which supports BAM’s Touch-free Life Care, or TLC, smart bed system, is available not only though the Web, but for Apple iOS mobile devices. Users can get immediate alerts on their iPhones and iPads in case of motion that could be the precursor to a fall. Bam reports that facilities using the app have seen a 43 percent reduction in falls out of bed and an hour of daily staff time saved per bed.

“Since starting the smart bed program, we’ve had improved outcomes on those clients using the technology. It took a couple weeks to gain valuable data which allowed us to trend daily movement patterns with each client. With this data and the technical applications, we were able to develop custom programs to intervene before incidents could occur,” Eric Mock, administrator at Winter Park (Fla.) Care and Rehabilitation, says in a Bam Labs press release.

The new release now can run on wireless network connections as slow as 256 kilobytes per second, according to Bam Labs, but it also supports WPA/WPA2 security.

As MobiHealthNews has reported, the TLC system is a mattress pad that detects patient motion as well as biometric signals such as heart rate and respiration. It transmits readings over the hospital or other healthcare facility’s network to Bam’s cloud for instant analysis, and data can be exported into electronic health records.


Bill would create FDA Office of Mobile Health, HHS support for app developers

By: Neil Versel | Sep 28, 2012        

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iPhone_FDAThough the Food and Drug Administration is developing regulations for mobile medical apps, at least one member of Congress believes the federal agency is not currently equipped to handle the rapid pace of innovation in mobile technology.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), whose district covers much of Silicon Valley, is preparing to introduce legislation that would address this perceived shortcoming by establishing an Office of Mobile Health within the FDA. The office, according to Kaiser Health News, would make recommendations to FDA regulators on issues related to mobile health apps.

The planned legislation, reportedly known as the Healthcare Innovation and Marketplace Technologies Act (HIMTA), also would set up a support program within the Department of Health and Human Services to help mobile health technology developers follow HIPAA privacy standards as they design new apps.

“Currently, our healthcare system works against small-to-large startup entrepreneurs with a multitude of barriers to entry,” Honda says in a statement. “Why have the principles of Silicon Valley, which I represent – competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship – not fully manifested themselves in the healthcare information technology space? This bill gets us closer to that space.”

Predictably, in this divided political climate, opinions of the forthcoming bill are mixed.

Andrew Rosenthal, chief strategy officer for Massive Health, a startup developer of consumer health apps, tells Kaiser Health News that he is hopeful an FDA Office of Mobile Health could help smaller companies like his navigate the “confusing” and often expensive regulatory process. However, Joel White, executive director of the Health IT Now Coalition, a group of major corporations and the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, would prefer a new agency that works outside the bureaucratic FDA framework so as not to discourage innovation.

Kaiser Health News reports that the bill would be introduced “later this month,” though September ends Sunday. As of Thursday afternoon, no bill had been introduced. Honda’s media spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Unregulated health apps used as “standby stethoscopes”

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 27, 2012        

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Click to watch the segment from CBS Boston

In July a television company that produces news segments and feeds them to local network news stations across the country came to interview me at MobiHealthNews headquarters in Cambridge, MA. They asked me to demo a few medical devices and companion apps, including a connected blood pressure cuff, a WiFi-enabled weight scale, a skin scan application and a variety of other ones that didn’t make the final cut. I was only involved in the interview on-site, but they had mentioned plans to find at least one person (other than me) in the area that used these apps in their daily life.

I was surprised by the final edit. My comments were well-represented even though they turned into a few sound bites after an hour of shooting, but that’s the way it is in the television news business. No, the way the patient they found is using these apps surprised me.

The local CBS news affiliate’s cut of the story started with a shot of a young mother tracking her infant daughter’s pulse oximetry with an app on her iPhone that used the phone’s camera and an algorithm that assesses changes in blood flow under the skin to determine heart rate. Her daughter has a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, which according to the Mayo Clinic is caused by abnormal circuitry in the heart and creates a loop of overlapping signals.

The voice over narration does not mention a single device or app in the piece by name, but many if not all would be recognizable to a reader of MobiHealthNews.

“Meghan Cooper finds this approach helpful, particularly when it comes to her young daughter who needs constant monitoring,” the reporter explains. As Cooper takes the heart reading with what is clearly the very popular Instant Heart Rate app from Azumio, Cooper explains: “She has a condition called SVT. I need to be able to check her heart rate on a regular basis so I’m able to do that with the camera.” The reporter then says, “so in this case her smartphone becomes a standby stethoscope.”

Of course, Azumio does not officially intend or directly encourage those who download Instant Heart Rate to use it for tracking medical conditions. The description of the app in Apple’s AppStore begins with this: “See every heart beat on the monitor, just like ER rooms.” It also describes the app as “the same technique used by medical pulse oximeters is now available on your iPhone!”

“Currently, Azumio’s focus is on developing mobile applications designed to improve user health and wellness, rather than dedicated medical solutions,” Azumio’s VP of Marketing Jennifer Grenz told MobiHealthNews in an email. “While we offer tools to gather bio-feedback data, Azumio does not diagnose health concerns or offer treatment plans.”

Azumio’s Instant Heart Rate app is not FDA-cleared.

“While we are not currently pursuing FDA approval for our apps,” Grenz explained to MobiHealthNews, “Azumio is interested in providing leadership and recommendations to the FDA and other leading health institutions, based on our insights and data gathered from our 30 million satisfied users worldwide. The beauty of working in the mobile health space is that we are working in new, uncharted territory. As pioneers in the space, mobile health developers are part of an ever growing community, which is largely self-regulating. Through getting involved and learning together, health developers are creating new, innovative solutions for people around the world.”

It is clear that Azumio is on the FDA’s radar and has been since before the agency officially announced its draft guidance for the regulation of mobile medical apps. FDA policy adviser Bakul Patel included an image of Azumio’s Instant Heart Rate app in his presentation about the draft guidance when it first published last year. Patel included the screenshot of the app on a slide about unregulated apps currently in the market that might fall into the proposed definition of a regulated mobile medical app.

Patel told MobiHealthNews in an email that one of the reasons he included the app on the slide was to show that if you offer a medical device that is already regulated by the FDA in the form of an app the FDA needs to review it so users have the same confidence in it. That said, Patel noted that some pulse oximetry devices are regulated and some are not — those embedded in fitness machines or used for recreational purposes are not. “Those used in diagnosis or [for] managing certain diseases or conditions is where we would focus,” Patel wrote.

From a regulatory standpoint, anyway, it matters more how a company markets a device, not how a consumer uses it. Finalized regulatory guidelines around mobile medical apps from the FDA are still forthcoming.

Glooko connects Walmart meters to iOS devices now, too

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 27, 2012        

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Glooko IR AdapterPalo Alto, California-based Glooko, which offers an app and a cable that connects various blood glucose meters to the iPhone, announced an updated version of the Glooko Logbook app and support for an additional six blood glucose meters. The Glooko meter can now connect 17 different meters to iOS devices with its $40 Glooko MeterSync Cable.

The newly supported meters include two new meters from Walmart: the ReliOn Confirm and ReliOn Prime. Walmart just launched the meters this past July. The stores sell the low-cost ReliOn Prime meter for $16.24 and $9 for 50-ct strips, which is about 18 cents per test. The other four meters are Bayer’s Contour Next EZ, Bayer’s Contour XT, Arkray Glucocard 01, and Arkray Glucocard Vital.

“By adding compatibility for meters from Arkray and ReliOn and additional meters from Bayer, we continue to pursue our goal to provide a meter agnostic logbook solution for anyone with an iOS device,” Yogen Dalal, Chairman of Glooko, said in a statement.

In June Glooko announced that it had launched in Europe and also told MobiHealthNews that it was mulling a transition to Bluetooth Smart since the newest iOS devices are no longer using the 30 pin connector dock that Glooko’s cable leverages to connect to meters. Glooko said that future versions of the Meter Sync cable would still plug into meters but instead of plugging into the iPhone’s 30-pin connector, they might use Bluetooth Smart instead. The company is also said the company is looking at the method that mobile payments company Square uses to connect to smartphones — through the phone’s headphone jack.

“There is still a certain amount of interconnect anxiety going around in the industry with the much rumored changes to the iPhone’s connector,” Dalal told MobiHealthNews in June. “Apple has been encouraging accessory vendors to come in through a wireless connection unless you have to come in through their new 19-pin connector.”

In January Glooko raised $3.5 million in its first round of funding, which was led by The Social+Capital Partnership, and included return backers Bill Campbell, Vint Cerf, Judy Estrin and Andy Hertzfeld, Venky Harinarayan, Russell Hirsch and Xtreme Labs.

PingMD raises $1.33 million for parent-to-pediatrician app

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 27, 2012        

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PingMDNew York City-based pingMD, also known as Dauphin Health, recently raised $1.33 million, according to a regulatory filing with the SEC. The company had previously raised about $400,000 in mid-2010. PingMD describes itself an app that offers parents a quick and easy way to message their child’s pediatrician and a more efficient way for physicians to communicate with their patients.

PingMD’s Co-Founder CEO Gopal Chopra told StartUp Beat that the company’s target users are “doctors who are motivated to provide better service to their patients… [who] are searching for a solution, but they’re frustrated by their EMRs and portals, and bogged down by email and text. We know they’re using smartphones, tablets, and apps in their professional and personal lives, and that they’re open to change. PingMD is for the doc that loves technology and providing care, who does not see communication as an administrative task.”

While there are a number of other companies offering comparable apps as a product or product feature, Chopra believes that pingMD’s biggest competition is from patient portals and EMRs as well as from legacy communication lines like phone, email and text. PingMD banks on “professional boundary and security” as two reasons for physicians to choose it over regular phone calls and common text messaging or email.

Chopra said the company would use the funds to make a few big updates to the app, expand sales and marketing efforts, and recruit more employees. The company will continue to focus on growing its physician user base, while working toward a friction-less patient-to-provider experience for both doctors and parents. Both the recent SEC filing and the one from mid-2010 claim that the company has had zero revenue to date.

More over at StartUp Beat.

mHealth Alliance, UN award 8 grants for maternal, child health

By: Neil Versel | Sep 27, 2012        

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mHealth Alliance Executive Director Patricia Mechael

Eight companies, programs and non-governmental organizations — including one associated with former President Bill Clinton — have received two-year “catalytic” grants to foster wider use of mobile technologies in the name of improving maternal and child health worldwide.

The mHealth Alliance, a global project founded by the United Nations Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation, joined with the UN’s Innovation Working Group to announce the grants Tuesday. The Innovation Working Group is a panel, co-chaired by the government of Norway and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, tasked with identifying innovations that support the United Nations Every Woman Every Child effort to improve maternal and children’s health worldwide.

“The power of innovation in mobile technology can only be fully utilized if success factors are identified and evidence is widely shared and utilized,” says Helga Fogstad, head of global health for the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), which is funding the grants. “The catalytic funding mechanism is intended to do just that. Taking to scale these innovations will improve provision, access, quality or use of highly needed maternal and child health services,” Fogstad adds in a statement.

“These grants will not only allow the grantees to scale up, but they will also provide others in the mHealth space the opportunity to learn from grantees experience and findings, adding to broader efforts to strategically mainstream mobile technologies to improve the lives of women and children,” explains mHealth Alliance Executive Director Patricia Mechael.

Notable among the winners is the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which is applying technology from Frontline SMS to help the Malawi Ministry of Health track down patients who miss appointments, communicate test results and identify patients with urgent medical conditions. The program is particularly concerned with preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Another winner, VillageReach, also operates in Malawi, as well as nearby Mozambique. The Seattle-based nonprofit social enterprise has been piloting a toll-free hotline to improve case management of maternal and child health in resource-poor rural areas of Malawi. According to the mHealth Alliance, the grant will help VillageReach expand the project to other parts of the Southeastern African nation and build an evidence base to demonstrate effectiveness in hopes of taking the service nationwide.

Other grantees include: Keep reading>>