iHeal device aims to prevent substance abuse relapses

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 9, 2012        

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Similar device: Affectiva's Q Sensor

The promise of some wireless-enabled remote patient monitoring devices is that they can help prevent heart failure episodes. They aim to reduce hospital readmissions. A new device currently being developed by a team of academics here in Massachusetts aims to do the same thing for drug addiction relapses. After 30 days in a substance abuse clinic, can a remote monitoring device help patients once they re-enter the real world? The iHeal device aims to do just that.

A team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has developed a prototype of a mobile health device that can detect changes in the affective state in an effort to predict when the wearer is about to “transition to risky behaviors,” according to an abstract published in Springer’s Journal of Medical Toxicology this week. Edward Boyer and his colleagues have designed the device for individuals who have a post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) or a history of substance abuse.

The iHeal device is a wrist-worn sensor device that measures electrical activity of the skin, body motion, skin temperature, and heart rate. These are all indicators of arousal or stress that can be wireless streamed to a smartphone where an app can monitor and process the indicators. When stress levels reach a certain threshold, the app asks users to make a note about the events that led up to the increased stress levels, including information about perceived level of stress, drug cravings, and any other current activities. The opportunity is to deliver personalized, multimedia drug prevention interventions right at the critical moment.

iHeal sounds similar to the $2,000 Q Sensor device from Affectiva. Affectiva was founded in 2009 by two MIT scientists and started as a research project on autism at MIT’s Media Lab. The Q Sensor is a wearable wireless biosensor that measures emotional arousal (excitement, anxiety, and calm) via skin conductance, as well as temperature and movement.

The iHeal researchers believe their technology could also be used for managing chronic pain, overeating, medication adherence, too. Interventions for drug abuse and these other conditions are often ineffective outside of the clinic.

Future versions of iHeal device may be worn around the ankle or it could look more like a wristwatch.

The researchers conclude: “Our findings demonstrate that conducting clinical trials using enabling technologies in natural environments will require a deeper understanding of user preferences. Study designers should rely on recipients rather than ‘experts’ to create intervention content. A focus on preventing identification of research participants to avoid subsequent stigmatization is also key.”

More over at Springer’s website here.


UPMC center showcases ‘virtualization’ of healthcare

By: Neil Versel | Feb 9, 2012        

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Dr Watson

UPMC's Dr. Andrew Watson

The long-awaited boom in home-based, wireless health monitoring devices might happen sooner rather than later. In fact, Dr. Andrew Watson, medical director of the UPMC Center for Connected Medicine in Pittsburgh, believes that it will start in the next six to 12 months.

“Right now, the devices are so close,” Watson says. And the biggest driver will be cost avoidance, either by payers, integrated health systems or even consumers.

“We need to stress the fact that healthcare is going to be virtualized very soon. In this world, the data that we need is going to be living in a virtual world,” says Watson, a fourth-generation surgeon who is a regular user of telemedicine. In fact, he says that about one third of his practice is cloud-based.

“My communication is almost immediate,” Watson says. “I threw my pager away and I don’t miss it.”

Watson actually performs rounds in rural and outlying hospitals from his downtown Pittsburgh office thanks to a telemedicine cart, a process he calls tele-rounding. An ultrasound badge on the cart verifies his virtual presence.

He also says it is safer, cheaper and requires less time off work for patients to get their healthcare needs met online rather than in a traditional healthcare setting. Watson reports that he has performed consultations while in India and Mexico.

“The delivery method of healthcare is not talking clearly to the patient right now,” Watson says. “That is changing in Pittsburgh.”

In fact, he says that he asks his patients not to call his office, but rather to communicate online, where they can see their electronic health records, view test results, and report back with updates on their health status through UPMC’s patient portal. Soon, Watson believes patients will use their phones to communicate with health providers, but mostly to dictate notes like physicians do now. Patient voice messages will be captured for transcription and incorporation into the medical record, Watson says.

But healthcare infrastructure has to support this, not just provide traditional means of care. “A connected environment is absolutely critical,” Watson says, touting UPMC’s tight integration of hospitals, clinics, physician practices and a health plan, enabled by technology. “The heart of the connected environment is the data center.”

UPMC has committed more than $400 million just to a partnership with IBM and has relationships with dozens of other IT vendors, including EHR vendors Epic Systems, Cerner and Allscripts. Mobile technology providers Verizon, BlackBerry and Nuance Communications are among the organization’s partners in the Center for Connected Medicine. The center serves as a showcase for how UPMC is working to improve healthcare processes.

“We have to rethink the way we practice healthcare,” Watson says.

iPad app aims to streamline Medicare enrollment

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 8, 2012        

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DRX iPad app Medicare enrollmentA new iPad app intended for use by in-field Medicare sales agents aims to make the Medicare enrollment process more efficient by cutting down on paperwork, costs, and processing time. The app, called the iPad Mobile Field Enrollment app, was developed by DRX. The company already has plans to license the app to seven health plan carriers.

“Large Medicare plan sponsors process hundreds of thousands of paper-based enrollments annually, at a cost that can exceed $100 per application,” stated Randy Herman, CEO of DRX, in a company release.

During a pilot test field agents for Coventry Health Care’s Senior Market Sales team said the app decreased their organization’s processing time by one full day, which led to cost savings. The app reduced the time it took agents to complete applications and also reduced time to collect commissions. The firm also found that the app led to more complete and correct applications which led to faster approval for clients.

“Our agents estimated that the time savings with DRX’s iPad tool would allow them to see 20 percent more clients each week,” Milton Kleinberg, CEO of Senior Market Sales stated in a company press release. “Agents also reported that the faster application processing resulted in more timely payment of commissions, and that customers loved feeling engaged in the enrollment process. Customers were also impressed by the technology and functionality.”

Here’s what the app offers, according to DRX: “Electronic capture and submission of enrollment information directly from the iPad, eliminating the redundancies of paper submissions. Offline availability to facilitate plan comparison and enrollment when an Internet connection is unavailable at the point of sale. Immediate detection of input errors or missing information, eliminating carrier processing delays. Automatic updating of plan data. Reporting of enrollment activity, including completed enrollments and utilization metrics. Full compliance with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations.”

More in the DRX press release below: Keep reading>>

EMR for urologists goes mobile with iPhone app

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 8, 2012        

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meridianEMR iPhone app for UrologistsAmong the many physician specialties, urologists seem to be one group that is very likely to be using a smartphone. That was one of the conclusions that could be drawn from a survey published last year by Bulletin Healthcare, which found that only physician assistants, emergency room physicians, and cardiologists were more likely to use their mobile devices to keep up with industry news. Bulletin estimated that about 31 percent of urologists were likely to use their mobiles for this purpose. The same percentage as nephrologists.

While reading medical news on a mobile may not be a perfect proxy for an interest in accessing EMRs from the same device, but it likely has some correlation. That’s why it makes sense that an electronic medical records (EMR) vendor that specializes in EMRs for urologists, meridianEMR, recently announced the launch of a native iPhone app to complement its EMR offering. The meridianMobile app, which is only available for iPhone currently, promises secure access to real-time EHR data. MeridianEMR is a part of HealthTronics, which is a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings.

According to meridianEMR: “The app enables [urologists] to move seamlessly between the hospital or clinic, office, home, and beyond while maintaining comprehensive, convenient, and HIPAA-compliant access to their most current EHR data. Urologists can retrieve and modify up-to-the-minute patient information, office visits, and appointments. They can also access patient pharmacy information, medication refill alerts, patient photos, billing information, and more.”

The meridianEMR counts more than 1,100 urology providers as customers, about 12,500 urology staff as users, some 15 million mXchange transactions per day, for about 5 million active Urology patients. It also facilitates about 50,000 e-scripts per month.

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

PerfectServe pockets $10.9 million in funding

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 8, 2012        

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PerfectServeLast week clinical communications services provider PerfectServe announce that it had raised $10.9 million in its third round of funding. PJC Capital, the PE arm of Piper Jaffray led the round, which also included participation from new investors National Healthcare Services and CHV Capital. Return backers River Cities Capital Funds, Village Ventures, and Spring Mill Venture Partners also participated. CHV Capital is the strategic investment arm of the Indiana University Health System and National Healthcare Services is the strategic investment arm of the MemorialCare Health System.

PerfectServe’s offering is a communications system that routes calls and messages to the right doctor from anywhere inside the hospital but also between physicians who happen to be outside the hospital. The offering enables physicians to determine how they should be contacted at any given moment during the day: mobile, text message, office phone, home phone, pager, or email. Perfect also offers native apps for iPhone and Android. The iPhone app enables physicians to contact colleagues directly, call patients while protecting their caller ID, change their call schedules and control how they are reached for various clinical situations. PerfectServe for Android devices also enables physicians to contact colleagues directly, call patients while protecting their caller ID, and view a history of all calls, pages, voice and text messages, according to the company.

Knoxville, Tennessee-based PerfectServe already claims to process more than 30 million transactions each year by connecting more than 20,000 physicians in health systems and medical practices across the United States. Two of its most recent customer additions include Advocate Christ Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Medical Center in San Joaquin County.

Advocate Christ Medical Center, a 695-bed Magnet hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois that is part of Advocate Health Care, recently tapped PerfectServe to standardize communications between physicians and nursing, pharmacy and ancillary teams to improve patient care coordination. The 359-bed St. Joseph’s Medical Center in San Joaquin County equipped some of its 2,400 employees with PerfectServe after a three month period of installation, testing, and training. A local news report implied that the deployment at St. Joseph’s cost about $250,000.

“Our old hospital communication systems were inadequate, relying heavily on overhead pages, hand offs to third-party answering services and manual processes that required nursing staff to maintain and refer to numerous lists and faxed call schedules,” Dr. Susan McDonald, St. Joseph’s vice president of medical affairs, told RecordNet.com.

More details on the third round funding in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Healthrageous adds Telcare’s cellular-enabled glucose meter

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 8, 2012        

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Telcare Blood Glucose MeterBoston-based Healthrageous has inked a co-marketing deal with Telcare, developer of the FDA-cleared cellular-enabled Telcare Blood Glucose Meter (BGM), to integrate blood glucose readings collected from the device into Healthrageous’ “personal health improvement” platform. The companies plan to market the combined offering to health plans and self-insured employers.

Here’s how the company describes the platform: “The Healthrageous Personal Health Improvement Platform helps individuals modify their health habits and behaviors utilizing an evidence-based protocol (or ‘journey map’) for diabetes management. Individuals create an online assessment of health habits associated with managing diabetes and a personalized action plan to control their blood glucose. When an individual uses the Telcare BGM to take a blood glucose reading, that data will be seamlessly integrated into the Healthrageous ‘biometric scorecard’ to validate that their health habits and behavior changes are having a positive impact on their condition.”

Healthrageous’ “digital coach” will then identify and push personalized messages, alerts and other relevant content to individual users. The platform offers incentive tracking, team and individual competitions, informational videos, medication reminders, and an online HIPAA-compliant community.

Last November Philadelphia-based health insurer Independence Blue Cross let it slip that it was testing out Healthrageous’ wellness platform in-house among its own employee population. It planned to use the pilot to determine whether it would offer it to its 3.2 million health plan members. At CES last month Ford announced that it was working with Healthrageous to integrate the health platform with some of its cars. Last May some 1,000 people were using the Healthrageous platform, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Healthrageous signed up EMC for its original pilots.

Telcare secured FDA clearance of its BGM device last August. A few weeks ago Telcare announced its first deal: MagnaCare, health plan that services self-funded employers in New York and New Jersey, signed on to make the device and its companion apps available to its members.

More on the Healthrageous deal with Telcare in the press release below: Keep reading>>