Pfizer’s mobile clinical trial vendor gets $4.7M

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 3, 2011        

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Exco InTouch PfizerLondon-based Exco InTouch, which is providing Pfizer with the mobile clinical trial technology its using in its REMOTE study, has secured about $4.67 million from Scottish Equity Partners (SEP). Exco plans to use the funds to expand and take advantage of the “significant growth opportunities” in the emerging mobile patient communication market, the company’s press release stated.

Exco claims to count nine of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies as customers for its mobile phone and Internet-based clinical trial services. Exco’s technology is used for “supporting patient recruitment and retention; aiding compliance; and facilitating the electronic capture of patient reported outcomes data (ePRO) during clinical trials and in Late Phase observational studies.”

In June Pfizer announced the first FDA-approved clinical drug trial involving all-electronic home-based reporting: The drug being “tested”, Detrol, is intended for use by patients with overactive bladders. However, the real purpose of the study, according to Pfizer, is to compare the mobile reporting of trial data to traditional methods of drug testing. The drug had previously been tested against a placebo during a four month 600 patient trial in 2007. Trial participants will not be required to go to a testing facility at any point during the study. Participants will not be required to live near a test site either. Pfizer plans to recruit them via online ads. Pfizer plans to mail participants the medication and them have them use diaries on their smartphones to track symptoms, conduct blood tests at home, and fill out periodic assessments online.

Exco InTouch has been in the mobile-enabled clinical assessment business since 2004. As of June 2010, the company had supported more than 500,000 patients in more than 60 countries. Exco had facilitated more than 3 million text messages for its customers.

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For more on the funding news, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

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Amcom middleware now a Class II medical device

By: Chris Gullo | Sep 30, 2011        

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amcomAmcom Software announced this week FDA 510(k) clearance for its Amcom (Commtech) Messenger middleware as a class II medical device intended for hospital use.

The Amcom Messenger middleware sends critical secondary notifications from patient monitoring and other alert systems to staff carrying wireless communication devices, including smartphones, pagers, and Wi-Fi phones.

“Systems like this — that pass alerts from clinical systems to caregivers on mobile devices — were not required to get the OK from the FDA until its February 15th ruling,” Amcom VP Mike Devine told MobiHealthNews in an email. “At that point, Amcom Software started the process and is pleased to announce this milestone.”

In mid-February the FDA announced changes to its MDDS rule — read more in the FDA release from February here.

A few weeks after that change of rules at the FDA, paging company USA Mobility bought Amcom Software for $163.3 million in cash. The acquisition looked to help USA Mobility modernize its messaging services beyond legacy paging services and into messaging and unified communications.

“Amcom Messenger helps hospitals improve how quickly staff can react to a variety of time-critical events, which in turn helps improve patient safety and outcomes,” stated Chris Heim, President, Amcom Software in this week’s press release. “We’re pleased to have received FDA clearance for this solution as it’s an important consideration for our customers today.”

Amcom recently updated their Amcom Mobile Connect software to support wireless IP phones and Cius tablets in addition to BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android smartphones.

Read the press release about the FDA clearance below.

Keep reading>>

UnitedHealth Group taps CareSpeak for SMS

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 30, 2011        

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CareSpeakCareSpeak Communications announced this morning that it has inked a deal with UnitedHealth Group to bring the health plan’s members two-way mobile text messaging services focused on improving adherence to treatment regimens. CareSpeak expects its service to come online over the course of the next year.

The CareSpeak-powered UnitedHealth SMS service will alert caregivers when those under their care are not complying with recommendations, which could help them intervene more rapidly.

Two years ago CareSpeak and Mt. Sinai published results of a SMS-based adherence program they set up for teenage liver transplant patients. The results, which were published by the journal Pediatrics, showed that the number of rejection episodes went down among the patients using CareSpeak’s two-way messaging adherence program. For the Mt. Sinai pilot, each patient could customize when she or he would receive their reminders — right before the dose was due, an hour before, etc. Patients could also choose how many reminders they would receive throughout the day. An hour after taking their medication, the teenagers had to text back that they had taken them, if they didn’t, their care giver or parent would get an alert to get on their case.

“If we can save one patient from needing another transplant, we’ve saved a life and at least a half-million dollars. The investment is relatively little and the benefit enormous.” Dr. Tamir Miloh, assistant professor of pediatrics and surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said at the time.

Here’s how CareSpeak describes its offerings in the UnitedHealth Group partnership press release:

“CareSpeak Communications specializes in developing software that facilitates personalized two-way communication via mobile text messaging, which can be customized to address the needs of different disease states. For example, participating UnitedHealthcare medical benefit plan customers can receive text messages that remind them to refill their medication or prescriptions, and escalation alerts can be sent to care givers if compliance is not confirmed. More complex interventions enable patients to report, via text message, their biometric data (blood glucose levels, blood pressure, weight, etc.) and receive educational and motivational messages, incentives and rewards for meeting their health goals, and more.”

Check out the press release over at CareSpeak’s site here (PDF)

Care Innovations CEO Burns pushes ‘coopetition’ in remote monitoring

By: Neil Versel | Sep 29, 2011        

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Louis BurnsLouis Burns, CEO of Intel-GE Care Innovations, doesn’t much mind that telehealth technology vendor Robert Bosch Healthcare, a major competitor, has been getting a lot of press lately. In an industry with plenty of room to grow, a rising tide will raise all boats.

“I’ve always pushed this issue of ‘coopetition,’” Burns told MobiHealthNews at this week’s Health 2.0 Fall Conference in San Francisco. In fact, Burns was more than happy to cite a 2009 study at the Department of Veterans Affairs that found clear reductions in hospitalizations among patients monitored with the Health Buddy system that Bosch now owns. That showed that the concept of home-based remote patient monitoring works, even if it wasn’t Intel Health Guide.

Care Innovations, which launched in January, represents the combination of the Digital Health Group of Intel and the Home Health Division of GE Healthcare. Burns headed the Intel group.

Still, this is a very immature industry segment. Burns said that he would like for the various players in wireless patient monitoring to come together to standardize technology for the purpose of interoperability. If he were the head of some major healthcare purchaser like the VA or Britain’s National Health Service, he would demand greater adoption of standards, Burns added. Keep reading>>

Mobile represents realistic side of Health 2.0 conference

By: Neil Versel | Sep 29, 2011        

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Centricity

GE's Centricity

Health 2.0 ostensibly is about interactive technologies and user-generated content for health and healthcare (yes, they are two different things). The Internet is the primary enabler for these types of innovations, but as the Internet has become more mobile, so has the idea of health 2.0.

Many of the sessions featured demos and even introductions of mobile apps, some more interesting than others. A look at the tweetstream is instructive; Microsoft’s Sean Nolan offered this: “At odds with myself after a long day at #health2con. So much great stuff, but so much shiny hyped iVapor too. Let’s make it REAL folks!”

Plenty of 1,500 people in attendance at the just-concluded Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco were happy to drink the Kool-Aid and act like the event was a pep rally for their cause. In many cases, people seemed to confuse “health 2.0″ with “fitness 2.0.” But there certainly were a whole lot of intriguing technologies and ideas on display that the healthcare industry could get behind.

Happtique, featured elsewhere in MobiHealthNews this week, seemed to win some plaudits for curated app store for healthcare professionals. “You can deploy the apps the way you want, when you want. Apple doesn’t have to see it,” Paul Nerger, Happtique’s Chief Technology Officer, said. Nerger added that the company is looking at how to include apps for non-Apple mobile platforms like Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.

Ringful Health, a producer of mobile clinical decision support and communications technologies, demonstrated an iPad app that delivers educational content and videos to walk patients through the hospital discharge process. CEO Dr. Michael Yuan said the app also includes a self-guided process for post-discharge assessments, an important consideration as Medicare gets ready to cut reimbursements for some preventable readmissions.

Nephosity, a company with the motto, “mobilize your cloud,” showed consumer and professional versions of an iPad app that lets people in different locations manipulate radiologic images. It’s not yet FDA-approved for diagnostic purposes, but Nephosity founder and CEO Michael Pan, a former DreamWorks Animation image-rendering pro, said the image quality is suitable for consultations.

Aetna Chairman, CEO and President Mark Bertolini announced that the health insurer would introduce an app next spring to allow members to make physician appointments on their smartphones. He was part of a high-powered session on health 2.0 for employers and payers that included Louis Burns of GE-Intel Care Innovations (interviewed in MobiHealthNews this week) and Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson.

Numera, the telehealth firm formerly called iMetrikus, launched Numera Social, a white-labeled platform for care coordination that is embedded within Facebook or delivered as an iPhone app. “Our philosophy is, go where the people are,” CEO Tim Smokoff said. The system can pull data from various wireless devices and health databases and deliver alerts as necessary. Users can create challenges among their friends, too. “We think there’s an opportunity through this interface to drive clinical recruitment, too,” Smokoff added.

Other highlights included GE Healthcare’s Richard Peters showing off the new Centricity EHR iPad interface, as well as a demo by Adam Odessky, a U.S.-based product manager for France Telecom subsidiary Orange, of a prototype triage device that combines voice recognition, avatars and Microsoft’s Kinect motion-capture technology.

Revation pushes unified communications on consumer-grade devices

By: Neil Versel | Sep 29, 2011        

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“Unified communications” was a buzzword of sorts in mobile health a couple of years ago, but today it mostly remains an unrealized goal.

One company trying to move the healthcare system closer to true unified communications is Revation Systems. The Bloomington, Minn.-based vendor unifies many forms of communications on a computer desktop and is helping to lower the cost of entry to telemedicine, though it hasn’t yet delivered it all to a single mobile device.

A recent InMedica report predicted that the global market for telehealth services would reach $6.28 billion by 2020. “Please, let’s hope that’s not the case,” Revation CEO David Hemler told MobiHealthNews this week at the fifth annual Health 2.0 Fall Conference in San Francisco.

It’s not that Hemler is against growth in remote healthcare services, it’s that he believes telehealth technology costs too much. Historically, telehealth has been limited to fixed, point-to-point connections and specialized videoconferencing equipment, with store-and-forward content delivery a notable exception. Either way, technology dissemination has been limited.

Revation believes it can deliver “medical-quality” service on consumer-grade devices such as standard PCs, tablets and smartphones over normal broadband Internet connections and mobile networks instead of requiring multiple, specialized devices and dedicated communications infrastructure. The lower cost creates a lower barrier to entry and thus a wider potential market, according to Hemler.

Revation’s roots are in the financial services and banking industries, but the company entered healthcare about a year ago with a product called LinkLive Healthcare.

The system facilitates videoconferencing with consumer-grade webcams, secure file transfers such as a PDF of a patient record, VoIP telephony, secure e-mail that meets HIPAA privacy standards, secure screen sharing—including the ability to share some telemetry data—instant messaging and text messaging.

Healthcare organizations install the LiveLink software on their computers, providing a control panel resembling a typical IM window. Users can drag and drop people from their contact lists and groups into a conference, dial calls with a single click or send text messages to cell phones. Hemler said that a conference can handle perhaps six to 10 simultaneous video streams over a typical home or small-business broadband connection. Large health systems with heavy bandwidth can have greater capacity.

All communications are time stamped and logged. Keep reading>>