Interview with HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber: Mobile is the future

By: Neil Versel | Feb 21, 2011        

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LieberHealth IT is very much in a transition phase right now. The “meaningful use” incentive program for electronic health records is underway, though in its early phases. National health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal is departing government service in April, even as federal officials work to develop regulations for Stage 2 and Stage 3 of meaningful use.

And right at the nexus of all the change is mobile healthcare, according to H. Stephen Lieber, president and CEO of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

“The laptop is almost becoming a bit outdated as we move to smartphones and tablets,” Lieber said last week in a wide-ranging interview ahead of the organization’s annual conference, now underway in Orlando, Fla. Mobile is the next evolution in information technology, and we’re right on the cusp of the mobile era.

“It’s where we’re headed. It’s the future,” Lieber said. “The ability to deliver care from somewhere else [while] the patient is in still a different place, that very much is where we are headed.”

Lieber did acknowledge that some people are already there. “It’s certainly current for many. It’s the future for all,” he said. Keep reading>>

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FDA clears Monica’s wireless fetal heart rate monitor

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 17, 2011        

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MonicaLast week the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted 510(k) clearance for UK-based Monica Healthcare’s AN24 wireless fetal monitor for use during labor and delivery. The clearance allows AN24 to be used for intrapartum term monitoring for all singleton births in the US, according to the company.

“The Monica AN24 uses innovative wireless, non-invasive technology to collect real-time electrical signals from the abdomen of a pregnant mother,” the company stated in a press release. “The device uses complex algorithms to correctly identify signals related to the fetal heart rate and uterine muscle (contraction signals) on the abdomen of singleton pregnant women using ECG-style electrodes. This method of using electrophysiological signals differs from current external monitoring devices that collect FHR and uterine activity data based on physical changes (e.g. change in reflected sound waves and changes on strain gauge) that may cause problems in data interpretation such as discerning FHR vs. MHR data.”

Interestingly, Monica points out that clinical trials in the US demonstrated that Monica performs well for obese pregnant women.

“We found the Monica AN24 performed excellently in very obese women (BMI >35) when compared with available Doppler ultrasound/tocodynamometer techniques,” Professor W. Cohen of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York stated in the press release. Conventional external monitoring is sometimes challenging with obese women, according to the company, and obesity in pregnancy is becoming more prevalent as the obesity rate in general continues to surge in the US.

For hospital use cases, Monica’s AN24 device will be sold exclusively through Glenveigh Medical and its distribution partner Norgenix in the US.

More on the FDA clearance in the press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 17, 2011        

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It almost seems ridiculous that it needs saying, but it is indeed often said that mobile health tools and applications should not intend to replace the physician or other care providers. The prospect of apps diagnosing patients today is certainly a hype-filled one. It isn’t happening yet, anyway.

And yet a new super computer from IBM has proven itself more than capable of besting and replacing today’s top Jeopardy! players. In a television spectacle reminiscent of the super computer Deep Blue’s win over chess world champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, a room-sized computer developed by IBM managed to beat out a pair of Jeopardy! all-stars over the course of a three night game this week. The computer, named Watson, ended the run with $77,147 compared to Ken Jennings’ $24,000 and Brad Rutter’s $21,600.

Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsI only tuned in for the second night’s game, but that match included a medical related question — no, a diagnosis question really: “You just need a nap. You don’t have this sleep disorder that can make sufferers nod off while standing up.” Watson beat out the humans with the answer: “What is narcolepsy?” Maybe you don’t need an M.D. for that one, but still the computer got there first.

When one of Watson’s human opponents realized he could not beat the computer in final Jeopardy!, he referenced The Simpsons by writing “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords” as his wager.

Following Watson’s win on Jeopardy, IBM let it slip to the New York Times that the first application it intends Watson to tackle is medicine:

“For IBM, the future will happen very quickly, company executives” told the Times. “[Today] it plans to announce that it will collaborate with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a physician’s assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. The company also plans to work with Nuance Communications Inc. to add voice recognition to the physician’s assistant, possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months.”

Nuance, of course, offers the very popular Dragon voice recognition software for healthcare providers and others. Imagining a voice-enabled “physician assistant service” that taps into Watson and available as a smartphone app is not at all difficult. A desktop version of the service would be substantially less useful.

“I have been in medical education for 40 years and we’re still a very memory-based curriculum,” Dr. Herbert Chase, a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University who is working with IBM on the physician’s assistant told the New York Times. “The power of Watson-like tools will cause us to reconsider what it is we want students to do.”

It will cause us to reconsider the capabilities of smartphone medical apps, too.

Mobile Health News roundup: RWJF; CoActiv; Business models

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 17, 2011        

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CoActiv Medical TabletThe Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Steve Downs has penned this week’s must read commentary on mobile health: Pioneering Ideas: Data, Apps and the Rules that Bind Them. “Separating the apps from the data, expansion of the definition of health information, and the increasingly social nature of health care – all can potentially change how we view PHRs, and how we perceive health care at its very core,” Downs writes. More here

UCSF releases a study on the digital divide and how it impacts patients with diabetes. UCSF

Will the rumored cheaper iPhone make its mark on mHealth in emerging markets? Lots of speculation, but here’s the report on the supposed phone’s launch. WSJ

AIDS.gov gets mobile. Blog

CoActiv offers up a new Windows-based tablet designed for medical professionals. Qmed

Health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn previews her upcoming presentation on mobile health in this podcast. Audio

Doro inks a deal with wireless-enabled health device maker MyGlucoHealth. Release

Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo plans to use 3D touch screen technology in remote medicine applications. Seattle Times

Is pay per download the only business model present in mobile health today? One analyst group seems to think so. Insider Mobile

Dr. Leslie Saxon explains how Moore’s Law will effect the future of medicine at TedMed. MedGadget

Pharma investments in apps, Web rise 78 percent

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 16, 2011        

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Novartis VaxTraxAccording to a recent report from Ernst & Young, pharmaceutical companies led by Merck and Novartis have increased their investments in mobile phone apps and educational websites by 78 percent. The apps and sites generally aim to encourage patients to take their medications, eat well and exercise more often, according to the report. Pharma companies launched a total of 97 projects that made use of information technologies to improve patient health last year. E&Y mined press releases and analyst reports to tally the number of launches. Those 97 projects amount to an impressive figure, especially since pharma launched 127 such projects in during the previous four years combined.

Interestingly, about 41 percent of these projects were smartphone applications, according to the report. That marks an 11 percent increase in mobile health launches for pharma since 2006, Ernst & Young found. The analyst firm has dubbed these activities “Pharma 3.0″ initiatives.

“Pharma 3.0-related initiatives are being driven by investments in mobile health technology, particularly smart phone apps,” according to the press release. “Between 2006 and 2009, 16 percent of initiatives were in the mobile health space. In 2010, this category accounted for one out of every two new initiatives. These smart phone apps, previously focused primarily on diabetes management tools, expanded rapidly into other disease categories in 2010, with apps emerging in an estimated 14 disease areas. These apps ranged from tools to help patients and consumers track vaccination schedules, manage infusions for treatment of hemophilia, and find cancer clinical trials within 150 miles of their location.”

More in the press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

Sprint inks connectivity deal with BL Healthcare

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 16, 2011        

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BL Healthcare TCx-I SystemMobile operator Sprint has announced a partnership with BL Healthcare, a remote health management services company, that sees the operator providing 3G connectivity to BL’s telemedicine devices. BL announced a similar deal with Verizon Wireless last year and also announced an expanded partnership with Verizon Wireless for its high definition touchscreen devices at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

“The new embedded devices join a current ecosystem of wireline and wireless touch screen, kiosk and television-based solutions that enable patients to take a more proactive role in the management of his or her care plan,” according to the Sprint-BL press release. “The expanded range of capabilities now includes HD multipoint video conferencing, multimedia support for educational programs, instant messaging, real-time alerts and notifications, and the ability to communicate with a wide range of vital sign measurement and peripheral medical devices. BL Healthcare solutions are FDA cleared and HIPAA compliant for patient confidentiality.”

At the HIMSS event in Orlando next week, Lancaster General Health, a regional health care system serving Lancaster County in Pennsylvania will demo BL Healthcare’s Sprint-enabled kiosk, which is running on Sprint’s 4G network.

“Wireless technologies, 3G and 4G in particular, have really established telemedicine systems as the future of health care,” William Dunstan, vice president of home health services with Lancaster General Health stated in the release. “With functionality such as embedded multipoint videoconferencing, multimedia support, instant messaging, real-time alerts, and the ability to communicate with multiple wired and wireless vital sign measurement and peripheral medical devices hospitals and home health agencies are able to reduce costs while greatly improving the quality of care.”

For more on the partnership, read the press release after the jump. Keep reading>>