Five reasons virtual doctor visits might be better than in-person ones

By: Jonah Comstock | May 8, 2013        

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Vidyo Healthcare PhilipsIn relatively few years, videoconferencing has advanced tremendously, from something that required expensive and complicated hardware setups to something most smartphone, tablet, and PC owners have easy access to. Using video for virtual visits in healthcare is a little more complicated — the connection has to be reliable and the service HIPAA compliant to protect patient medical information — but nonetheless virtual visits are gaining popularity as a new way to deliver healthcare.

Becky Wai, a spokesperson for online video service VSee, told MobiHealthNews on the sidelines of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) meeting in Austin this week, that of the 900 million doctor visits that took place in the US in the last year, about 50 percent of them could have been done remotely.

Of course, virtual visits can’t do everything that a doctor can do in-person. But in the average primary care checkup, a patient sees a doctor for about 7 minutes. In that context, it’s not hard to see the advantage of cutting out the extra time and making the most of a short visit. Many speakers at ATA said that virtual visits aren’t just a “good-enough” replacement for when a “real” visit isn’t possible. In many ways, virtual visits are actually superior. Keep reading>>

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At ATA, optimism is high amidst many challenges

By: Jonah Comstock | May 8, 2013        

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Dr. Reed Tuckson

Dr. Reed Tuckson

While attending the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) meeting in Austin, Texas this week, Dr. Andrew Watson, a colorectal surgeon and executive director of telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, stumbled across a petting zoo. His young daughter wasn’t with him, but he wished she was. Luckily, he was in a telemedicine mindset.

“I took my daughter on a tour of the petting zoo via FaceTime on my iPad this morning,” he told the crowd at ATA. “Who knows what the point of care is anymore? But it’s certainly not in the offices and the ERs and the ORs. It’s going to be in the home and in the cloud.”

Video visits, remote monitoring, and better data integration are moving us into a world where we don’t think of distance as an impediment to care. And many of the stories told at ATA were stories about scaling telemedicine to meet the growing needs of hospitals to cut costs and reduce readmissions. But medical practices implementing telemedicine still face challenges around licensure, reimbursement, and regulation, as well as challenges about how best to implement and scale their programs.

“The average American is looking to you to deliver on the promise of telemedicine,” Dr. Reed Tuckson, former executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group said at the event. “We have so much illness that is washing over  us. We are living longer, but what we are living longer with is chronic illness, which comes earlier in our lives. So we’re living sicker, earlier.” Keep reading>>

Apple’s picks for top 42 iPhone fitness apps

By: Brian Dolan | May 8, 2013        

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Top iPhone Fitness AppsOver the past year connected fitness devices — activity trackers and sensor-laden wearables — have consistently made headlines. By far the largest company working in wearable fitness devices, Nike, which offers the wrist-worn FuelBand, recently announced the first class of startups accepted into its Nike+ accelerator. The company aims to build an ecosystem of apps around its Nike Fuel platform and, in the process, to increase loyalty among users of its FuelBand device. Jawbone, which is the next largest company working on fitness wearables like its UP device, made a big move last week by acquiring longtime health sensor company BodyMedia for an undisclosed sum. Fitbit just commercially launched its latest activity tracking device, Fitbit Flex, this week. Misfit Wearable’s first generation Shine device is set to ship next month and Basis has the next batch of Basis Bands in-stock and for sale again, too.

While all of these devices connect back to companion smartphone apps and online dashboards (some more easily than others, of course), the smartphone itself is still a very capable piece of sensor-equipped hardware in its own right. Fitness apps abound for iPhone and Android users.

Apple sells many self-tracking devices both online and at its brick-and-mortar stores, but judging by the 42 apps that Apple hand-picked to feature in its “Let’s Get Moving” section of the iTunes AppStore, the company is clearly rooting for the fitness apps that don’t require any additional hardware, too. In fact, not a single companion app for a dedicated health tracker device is featured among the activity tracking apps that Apple highlights in this AppStore section.

Apple divides its “Let’s Get Moving” section into a few key subcategories: Top iPhone Workout apps — mostly for lifting weights and other in-place type exercise routines; Top iPhone Running apps; Top iPhone Cycling apps; Top iPhone Swimming apps; Top iPhone Walking apps; and Top iPhone Yoga apps. Notably, many of the “walking” apps have tracking capabilities for running and cycling, too, as do some apps in the “running” category. Many of the more popular activity tracking apps aim to track more than just one type of activity.

While there’s plenty of excitement around dedicated health and fitness tracking devices, Apple’s software-only list of standalone fitness apps is a good reminder that the smartphone can track most activities without the help of peripheral fitness devices.

In the pages to follow is MobiHealthNews’ guide to Apple’s list of top iPhone fitness apps along with a few screenshots, a short description, links, and pricing information. Skip ahead to app categories using these links: Workout Apps; Running Apps; Cycling Apps; Swimming Apps; Walking Apps; Yoga Apps.

Keep reading>>

Three April FDA clearances for smartphone-enabled diabetes devices

By: Brian Dolan | May 8, 2013        

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GlookoLast month the US Food and Drug Administration gave three medical devices 510(k) Class II clearances that aim to help people with diabetes better manage their condition via glucose meters that connect to apps on smartphones and tablet devices.

Palo Alto, California-based Glooko received its second 510(k) clearance for glucose monitoring logbook app and cable that connects various off-the-shelf meters to iPhones. The newly cleared app now includes the option for users to set goals to motivate healthy lifestyle choices. The five goals that can be added are limited to: Test blood glucose regularly; sync meter more often; keep readings within range; add meal tags to readings; and exercise more often.

Notably, with this second clearance the company also added a login credential feature to protect sensitive health information from unauthorized access during transmission. According to the company, now all data on the Glooko network is protected using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)protocol. Glooko also now forces the https:// standard for all mobile and web communication features, all data in the Glooko system is encrypted end-to-end using 256-bit Advance Encryption Standard (AES) encryption for message data both intransmission and storage.

Salem, New Hampshire-based AgaMatrix received an amendment to its 510(k) clearance from the FDA for its smartphone-enabled blood glucose meter, iBGStar, which has the distinction of being the first glucose meter with FDA clearance to directly plug into the iPhone. The iBGStar now can connect to the iPhone 5 and iPod touch 5th generation via an adapter or a connecting cable that allows it to connect to Apple’s new Lightning connector, which replaced the old 30-pin connector dock Apple has since phased out.

San Francisco-based iHealth Labs, which is a subsidiary of China-based medical device company Andon Health, also secured another 510(k) for its iHealth Glucose Meter device. The company first revealed the smartphone-enabled blood glucose meter at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 2012, where it displayed the tiny glucometer connected to both an iPad and an iPhone via the old 30-pin connector the legacy iOS devices use. iHealth’s initial FDA clearance for the glucose meter described the device as having to physically connect to an iPhone or iPod touch to “complete its function”, but the new 510(k) clearance describes it as connecting to those devices along with the iPad via Bluetooth. iHealth’s companion app for the device is called iHealth Gluco-Smart, which works on iOS devices ranging from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 5.

The Wireless vital signs monitor (WVSM) from Athena GTX also secured a 510(k) clearance from the FDA during April. This device is meant to be used as a remote patient monitor for adult patients, and it includes: “a single or multi-parameter vital signs monitor for EGG, noninvasive blood pressure (NIBP) and SpO2.” The devices uses a wireless connection to transmit data to a handheld device or PC. It is only meant to be used by trained healthcare providers.

US Army uses big data, mobile devices for injury prevention

By: Jonah Comstock | May 7, 2013        

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MC75A_LGAccording to United States Army Lt. Colonel Deydre Teyhen from Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Army has piloted a combination of mobile devices and big data to prevent musculoskeletal injuries to soldiers. (CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Lt. Teyhen’s title as private.)

Speaking at the American Telemedicine Association conference, which is taking place in Austin, Texas this week, Teyhen said that those injuries make up the majority of conditions among returning soldiers. For active personnel, musculoskeletal injuries resulted in about 2.4 million medical visits to military treatment facilities and $548 million in direct patient care costs. And 73 percent of VA disability claims include a musculoskeletal component, she said.

However, screening tests are already being used among professional athletes to determine who’s most at risk for these injuries and what kind of training or therapy can reduce those risks. Technology and innovative program design enabled Fort Detrick to scale a similar screening process to be used in a military setting.

Rather than taking place during a clinic visit, units of soldiers devoted a single day of physical training to the screening process. Soldiers answered questions on netbooks and participated in administered field tests designed to have easily readable measures, so that they could be conducted by non-medical professionals. Administrators entered data from the field tests on Motorola MC75 handheld computers with barcode scanners to identify soldiers and catch data entry errors. Additionally, the information was uploaded to a central server.

The algorithm that calculated injury risk was a modified version of sports injury prevention company Move2Perform’s technology. The system stratifies soldiers into one of four risk categories, with prescriptions for each one, including exercises for moderate-risk soldiers and clinical visits for high-risk soldiers. The report is then printed and given to patients, but also sent directly to their electronic health record. Finally, unit commanders also receive data on the percentage of their group that falls into each at-risk category. If they find that a substantial part of their unit has the same needs for injury prevention, they can incorporate those into training.

Follow-up studies are underway to see whether the platform really prevented injuries among soldiers, although Move2Perform’s general software is already supported by clinical data. The Army has already determined from the data that the pilot saved time thanks to the introduction of mobile devices. Teyhen said she calculated that 2,829 man-hours were saved per brigade of 3,500 soldiers because of the handhelds.

Six 2013 mobile health mergers and acquisitions

By: Brian Dolan | May 7, 2013        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWe’re just a few months into 2013 and already there have been announced at least a half dozen M&A deals — large and small — in mobile health. While one rumor floated around that WellDoc would be acquired early this year — one report said Alere would buy it — so far that prediction has proven unfounded. A number of companies, however, have been snapped up. This past week alone has brought about the announcement of three acquisition deals.

Here’s a quick round-up of the digital health M&A deals so far in 2013:

January 2013 — athenahealth buys Epocrates: athenahealth, a provider of cloud-based EHR and practice management software, announced a definitive agreement to acquire Epocrates, a popular mobile medical app provider, for about $293 million in cash at the beginning of the year. The deal will lead to a combined company that can leverage Epocrates’ mobile expertise and athena’s cloud-based network to develop “new mobile applications that deliver high-value information to the clinical community when, where, and how they want it,” according to the companies. Moving forward athena will work with the Epocrates team to develop “new mobile workflows” that initially might include ones that focus on care coordination, provider-to-provider communication, and patient engagement tools. More

February 2013 — Jawbone acqui-hires Massive Health: San Francisco-based Jawbone, a company best known for fashion-minded Bluetooth headsets and iPod speakers, acquired mobile health startup Massive Health and design firm Visere for an undisclosed sum to help it refine and improve its own wearable health device, UP. Massive Health had been relatively quiet since it first launched in late 2010, but it did publicly launch one app, called The Eatery, and quietly tested out another diabetes management-related app, which was at one time called Penguine. Massive Health raised $2.25 million from a number of investors. More

February 2013 — Practice Fusion acqui-hires 100Plus: Practice Fusion, developer of a free, web-based EHR system, has acquired consumer health app startup 100Plus for an undisclosed sum. 100Plus was co-founded by data analytics pro Chris Hogg and Practice Fusion CEO Ryan Howard in late 2011. 100Plus was the first company to leverage Practice Fusion’s data set, and it was also based out of the Practice Fusion offices in downtown San Francisco. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. While 100Plus will continue working on consumer-facing apps, they will also begin focusing on apps that help patients and providers better work together. More

April 2013 — Jawbone acquires BodyMedia: San Francisco-based Jawbone acquired Pittsburgh-based BodyMedia for an disclosed sum. BodyMedia CEO Christine Robins will stay on as general manager of the BodyMedia brand and VP of Health and Wellness Business Development at Jawbone, and Jawbone will continue to sell and support existing BodyMedia products. More

April 2013 — Health Reviser snaps up FitPal: Seattle, Washington-based app developer Health Reviser, has acquired FitPal, developer of fitness apps like Health Snapshot, Biological Age Test, Stress Sweeper, Stress Monitor, and Fitness Test. More

May 2013 — Qualcomm Life buys HealthyCircles: Qualcomm Life, the Qualcomm subsidiary that offers the 2net platform and hub for connecting home remote monitoring devices to the cloud, announced that it is acquiring San Diego-based HealthyCircles, a software-as-a-service startup that helps different care providers share patient information securely in a hospital setting. HealthyCircles Founder and Chief Strategic Officer Dr. James Mault, who was also one of the founding architects Microsoft HealthVault, will join the Qualcomm Life team as Chief Medical Officer. The companies are not disclosing the financials of the deal. More