LG taps Independa to bring health app to TVs

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 11, 2012        

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angelaAt CES this week Independa announced plans to bring its health and social engagement platform, Angela, to senior communities through a pilot with LG Electronics’ US-based R&D subsidiary, Zenith.

The company also demonstrated a version of Angela that runs on iPhones and iPads — up until now the software has been available from Independa on 10-inch and 22-inch tablets running Microsoft Windows 7. While the move to iOS devices is not surprising, Independa has long been an example of a company that has bucked the iPad trend.

The strategic partnership with Zenith will bring Angela to LG’s Pro:Centric-enabled line of commercial TV sets. Independa launched Angela last summer as an integrated tablet and software offering for the independent elderly. The software, which sports large fonts and higher contrast, offers video chat, email, Facebook, puzzles, appointment reminders, and more.

As part of the deal, the companies will work together to conduct customer trials of Angela running on LG TVs. While there is no set date for a commercial rollout, the companies expect to bring the services to longterm care facilities once the trials are complete.

This isn’t the first collaboration between a TV manufacturer and a health or wellness company.

BodyMedia integrated its BodyMedia Fit armband into Panasonic televisions last summer. In that instance, a picture-in-picture setup onscreen presents fitness data while BodyMedia users work out in front of the TV. Skimble, which Rock Health incubated in its first class of startups, also brings workout apps to the TV through Apple TV.

In 2009, Continua Health Alliance’s Executive Director Chuck Parker revealed that Continua was considering the television set-top box as one potential hub for wireless health devices, and Bluetooth SIG executive director Mike Foley told MobiHealthNews that he had noticed an uptick in interest from television makers looking at ways to embed Bluetooth Smart into new TV models, which would allow for medical devices using that protocol to connect to TV sets. In 2010, the launch of Google TV led to more speculation about the TV as a home health hub.

Read the press release below.

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Happtique steps up to certify mobile health apps

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 11, 2012        

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HapptiqueHapptique, a healthcare-focused appstore, announced plans to create a certification program that will help the medical community determine which of the tens of thousands of health-related mobile apps are clinically appropriate and technically sound. The company has tapped a multi-disciplinary team to develop the “bona fide mHealth app certification program” within the next six months. The program is open to all developers and will be funded by developer application fees.

It will certify apps intended to be used by both medical professionals and patients.

Happtique is a subsidiary of GNYHA Ventures, the business arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association, and it has used its considerable network to assemble an impressive panel of advisers to put this certification program together. The four-person panel includes experts in patient engagement, social media, mHealth, healthcare accreditation and certification programs, and medicine. Dr. Howard Luks, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at New York Medical College will chair the panel, which also includes Dave deBronkart (ePatient Dave); Dr. Franklin Shaffer, CEO of of CGFNS International — a certification organization for graduates of foreign nursing schools; and Shuvo Roy, Ph.D. a biomedical scientist and technologist who specializes in MEMS technologies.

While this level of curation seems to be a necessary and obvious measure for a healthcare-specific appstore, in late 2010 Happtique’s President Corey Ackerman told MobiHealthNews that his organization had no plans to go in that direction. It was frustrating to hear at the time.

“We are not in the business of opining whether an app is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ though. That’s not our role,” Ackerman told MobiHealthNews in an interview in October 2010. “Apple doesn’t do that and others don’t either. If the FDA indicates that an app is a medical device and needs to be regulated, well, that’s a different situation and we can take it out of the store. If it’s related to or used by healthcare professionals, then we want it. We want [Happtique] to be as full as possible. We don’t have plans to delve into whether an app is ‘good or bad’ at this point, since there are thousands of apps out there.”

As we noted at the time, if Happtique doesn’t step up to decide whether an app is worthwhile, it will miss the point of what is sorely lacking in the medical categories of appstores today — curation.

Despite the need, this certification program will be a Herculean undertaking. Once the program is developed the number of health-related apps for both consumers and medical professionals in Apple’s AppStore alone will top 20,000 based on MobiHealthNews’ own research.

For more details on the planned program and its “blue ribbon panel” of advisors, read the entire press release below: Keep reading>>

iHealth Lab plans to offer iPad glucose meter

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 10, 2012        

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iHealth Lab Glucose MeteriHealth Lab made an unexpected move this week at CES: It unveiled the iHealth Smart Glucometer, which attaches to the iPhone the same way Sanofi’s iBGStar device does. iHealth Lab announced more than just the glucose meter: It also unveiled a Bluetooth-enabled version of its Blood Pressure Dock and a new design for its Wireless Body Fat Scale. The company expects to begin shipping each of the three devices during second half of 2012, pending clearance from the FDA, of course.

The iHealth Smart GlucoMeter, a dongle similar in design to the Agamatrix-built, Sanofi-branded iBGStar, connects to iOS devices via the dock connector. iHealth Lab says the device will work with iPhone touch, iPhone, and iPad devices. (iBGStar only seems to work with iPod touch and iPhone devices.) It is unclear whether iHealth is planning to make its own test strips or partner up for those, but the press release describes them as “industry standard test strips”. The device works with a free companion app, also developed by iHealth Lab, that charts blood glucose readings in 7-day, 14-day, or 30-day averages. Users can also use the app to remind them to take readings, manage their measurement records, schedule medication reminders, and share test results with care providers (which means the results can be emailed probably).

The second generation Blood Pressure Cuff now transmits data via a Bluetooth connection, but otherwise retains the same features of the wired model. The newly redesigned weight scale brings a more stylish look to the device in line with scales from competitors Withings and (new competitor) Fitbit, but it appears to be a solely aesthetic update.

In addition, all three devices will upload their collected data to a newly launched cloud service, which is already available for free to owners of the first generation weight scale and blood pressure dock. (Users must download the latest update for each device’s companion app to access the service.)

“These products further exemplify our desire and passion for truly helping people manage personal health while improving their well-being and we greatly look forward to bringing them to market in 2012,” stated Adam Lin, GM of iHealth Lab, in a press release. “iHealth is excited to expand its robust product offering by assisting users to manage chronic and often life-altering health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.”

Read the press release below.

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Fitbit debuts its Aria WiFi scale at CES

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 10, 2012        

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fitbitariaFitbit unveiled its first product outside of wearable activity monitors this week at CES: the Aria WiFi Smart Scale, a connected weight scale similar to Withings’ WiFi scale offering. The Aria scale measures weight, body fat percentage, as well as BMI and uploads the data via the user’s home WiFi network to Fitbit’s online portal. The device is expected to launch in late April and will retail for $129.95.

Fitbit Aria recognizes up to eight different user profiles and automatically determines which user is on the scale based on previous usage. (Withings’ scale also recognizes up to eight users.) Once uploaded to Fitbit’s website, the weight data over time can be analyzed through graphs and charts. Users can also create weight loss goals and food logs, earn motivational badges, and interact with fellow Aria users.

Fibit also announced that its main offering, the Fitbit Ultra pedometer, is now for sale in the United Kingdom and will be available in Target stores in the US nationwide starting January 15.

The Aria follows the lead of Withings WiFi body scale and the Bluetooth-enabled iHealth Weight Scale. While the Withings scale operates almost identically to the Aria by using a WiFi connection, the iHealth requires a user to have their smartphone or tablet close by during weigh-ins since it transmits data via a Bluetooth connection. Tanita and A&D also offer connected weight scales that can send results to smartphones and tablets. (Tanita explains how to use an ANT+ device to connect its weight scales to its iOS app in this short video. Looks cumbersome.)

A Fitbit representative told Engadget that the scale has a maximum weight of 400 pounds. Gizmodo learned that that the data can also be viewed on Fitbit’s mobile apps, including an Android app that is expected to be released in February. The fitness app maker launched its first iOS app when it introduced the new Fitbit Ultra device last October.

“As consumer demand continues to rise for products that combine health and technology, analysts predict the digital health industry to be worth $4 billion by 2014,” stated James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit, in a press release. “It’s gratifying to see a strong positive response from retailers, consumers and analysts to our products. We’re proud that Fitbit is playing a key role in building this new category.”

Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

Best Buy’s new health experiment: Selling Aetna’s wellness programs

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 10, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsThe biggest health-related news that broke ahead of the massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES) taking place in Las Vegas this week wasn’t the launch of some new connected health device or fitness tracker. Instead, the big story (so far) is about an unlikely experiment that a trio of Best Buy stores in the Chicago area are undertaking with health insurance provider Aetna.

While the pilot doesn’t include any specific connected health or fitness devices, it may help sell a few.

With the frequency of new consumer health and fitness devices that launched over the past year, it’s looking like Best Buy shouldn’t have too much trouble filling the health and fitness sections of its brick-and-mortar stores. Two and a half years ago a Best Buy executive predicted that in 2012 some 50 million cellular-enabled devices would pass through its stores, and he specifically mentioned connected health devices as an important subsegment of those devices. Toward the end of 2009 Best Buy announced plans to begin selling health and fitness devices at about 40 of its more than 1,000 stores nationwide. In mid-2010 New Jersey-based healthcare provider Meridian Health let it slip at a MobiHealthNews event that it had been working with Best Buy to test whether shoppers would be comfortable buying health-related devices at the electronics store. By the end of 2010 Best Buy had formally announced plans to bring health and fitness devices to about half of its stores (or about 500 stores) nationwide. This past year, Best Buy began selling wellness devices like Zeo’s Sleep Manager at all of its stores.

Best Buy wasn’t the only store to begin selling these devices in recent years, but it has led the charge. Of course, selling devices is not a wholly unexpected move from Best Buy. Its most recent foray into health — to try to sell wellness programs in collaboration with Aetna — is much more of a curveball.

Three Best Buy stores in the suburban Chicago area are now selling four wellness programs offered by Aetna focused on fitness, weight management, smoking cessation, and stress management. Shoppers can buy hanging cards that explain each of the online programs that they can then access online. Each program costs $19.99.

“Best Buy seemed a natural choice for trying out some of our well-being products with the general public,” Louise Murphy, the head of Aetna’s behavioral health and employee assistance programs, stated in a press release. “These online programs take the things you ‘should do’ and turn them into things you ‘will do’.” Keep reading>>

First mobile medical app to get CE Mark in UK

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 9, 2012        

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Mersey BurnsWhile AirStrip just announced that it had secured a CE Mark for its suite of mobile medical applications last week, it may have not been the very first medical app to secure a CE Mark and be publicly available in the UK market. Another app, created in cooperation with a team of UK-based plastic surgeons, apparently carries that distinction.

According to D4, a non-profit organization in the UK that equips physicians and nurses with communications devices, the very first mobile medical app to be classified as a medical device in the UK recently registered as a Class I medical device with that country’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA recognizes the EU’s Medical Device Directive’s classification system, which makes use of the CE Mark to designates a device is registered and in compliance with the regulatory system.

“It is understood that to date only one app that is publically available for download has been registered as a medical device with the MHRA in the UK,” D4 writes in a new report focused on the regulation of mobile medical apps in the UK.

The app is called Mersey Burns and it’s currently available for all iOS devices. The Mersey Plastic Surgery Unit helped to develop the app, which aims to help doctors more easily calculate the percentage of a patient’s body surface area that is burned and, in turn, to better calculate the amount of fluid to be administered in the 24-hour period that follows the burn injury. A small study found that those using the app had less variance among estimates for total body surface area that was affected by the burn, while those using paper based assessment tools had greater variance.

D4 included a short quote from the MHRA that provides some insight into the agency’s thinking around the regulation of medical apps: “Only after a product meets the definition of a medical device does it get classified according to risk, the risk classification then determines the compliance requirements. There is clearly a full range of application from the simple non-clinical to potentially complex ones for medical use,” the agency told D4. “As an example, if the application is intended to carry out further calculations, enhancements or interpretations of entered/captured patient data, we consider that it will be a Medical Device. If it carries out complex calculations, which replaces the clinician’s own calculation and which will therefore be relied upon, then it will certainly be considered a Medical Device.”

While the report is largely positioned as a UK-focused study, its recommendations may have wider appeal. D4 explains: “Within the UK, the MHRA is responsible as the Competent Authority under the Medical Device Directive, and provides guidance to device manufacturers. However at present there is no central European register of registered medical devices. Each Competent Authority manages its own register, and a manufacturer needs only to register in one member state to place its device on the market across the EU.”

When it comes to the US market: MobiHealthNews broke the news last July that the FDA had published a set of draft guidelines for how it suggested it might regulate mobile medical apps moving forward. Following a 90-day comment period that ended last fall, the FDA is now working to publish a final set of guidelines sometime this year. AirStrip’s OB app was the first iPhone medical app to secure FDA clearance in the US.

Be sure to read the full UK-focused D4 report for free here (PDF). More in D4’s press release below: Keep reading>>