American Well launches patient-facing mobile video consults

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 30, 2012        

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American Well Online Care Mobile App for Consumers (iPad)At the American Telemedicine Association event this week online care services provider American Well announced that the newest version of its offering would enable patients to conduct real-time video visits with physicians and other care providers via their mobile devices.

While American Well’s core customer base has always been major health plans, including WellPoint, UnitedHealth, and various Blues, the company’s CEO Dr. Roy Schoenberg says its customer base has diversified greatly in the past few years. It now counts hospital systems, physician practices, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and retail pharmacy chains like Rite Aid, among its customers. Schoenberg says all of its customers will be upgrading to the new, mobile-enabled version of the platform.

“It used to be that telehealth was thought of as a healthcare system-oriented service,” Schoenberg told MobiHealthNews. “It had become a consumer oriented service. Everyone has begun to realize that online care is a service for patients.”

The 6.0 version of American Well’s Online Care system marks the company’s first foray into a consumer or patient-facing mobile app. Last year American Well launched an app for physicians and other care providers that used its system.

“The first iteration of our mobile app was a provider or physician iPhone app, which was more like an assistant since it offered PDA-like functionality. It helps physicians who were practicing via Online Care to see exactly what is going on in their online practice. It lets them see patients cuing up, see messages, see the records of those patients,” Schoenberg said.

Online Care Mobile App for Consumers (iPhone)According to Schoenberg, the new apps will be “full-blown” versions of American Well’s Online Care system, which will enable providers and patients to interact in real-time via mobile devices. While the mobile version of the service does not offer any distinct new features, it does run on the same system leveraged by the online platform — it’s just a different user interface, Schoenberg said. The mobile UI offers the same security and privacy as the web.

“The effort was not to create a new flavor of delivering care but to give you that same care over a mobile app,” Schoenberg said. Accessing the service from computers sometimes presents challenges for patients and some physicians, he said, because they have to rig up external webcams and microphones in some cases.

“All of that goes away because mobile devices by their nature — not just those made by Apple, but others, too — have done an amazing job incorporating all of these technologies into one single interface,” Schoenberg said. “If you are carrying an iPad, then you have a full blown video conferencing system at your fingertips. Consumers and physicians who have had some challenges utilizing these technologies on the web are going to find themselves in a place where this is infinitely more accessible.”

Given the recent explosion in the number of tracking tools, smartphone-enabled health devices, and other disease and chronic condition management apps, is the need for real-time video consultations with physicians still a pressing one? Video has long been the centerpiece of telehealth service offerings, and Schoenberg acknowledges that disease management has evolved somewhat in the past decade, but video still has a prominent place in the continuum of care.

“Disease management is all about changing patient’s health behaviors: Eat the right things, make sure you remember to titrate the right drugs, etc.” Schoenberg said. “Along the lines, business management began to put in computerized health risk assessments and a lot of those products are now web-based or mobile apps, but they are increasingly displacing the need to have a nurse repeatedly contacting the patient by phone to provide feedback. More and more of that surveillance and feedback is taking place through apps that are much closer to the patients.”

“When an intervention is needed, it used to be that the disease manager would tell the patient they had to go see the doctor,” Schoenberg said. “Now, telehealth steps in at that point. Seeing a doctor can now be supplanted by telehealth.”

Of course, American Well isn’t the only company that provides real-time video consults with physicians and other care providers. TelaDoc announced plans last year to offer iOS and Android apps to its providers. Hello Health, a subsidiary of Myca Health, provides online video consults between patients and physicians — especially those at employer clinics. Finally, 3G Doctor in the UK has offered mobile-based video consultations with patients in that country for a number of years.

More on the American Well launch in the press release below: Keep reading>>


AgaMatrix founders’ Misfit Wearables raises $7.6 million

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 28, 2012        

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Sonny VuMisfit Wearables, a wearable devices startup founded by AgaMatrix co-founders Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar and former Apple CEO John Sculley, recently raised a $7.6 million round of funding co-led by Brian Singerman of the Founders Fund. According to a report in TechCrunch, the other as-yet-unnamed lead venture capital firm was Khosla Ventures. Singerman also led the Founders Fund investment in mobile health app company Azumio’s $2.5 million round last summer.

Misift Wearables has kept its plans very close to the chest — the most revealing summary of the startup’s plans: “inventors and makers of cloud-connected wearable sensing products for fitness and medical applications.”

The Boston Globe broke the news last year that Sculley had joined Misfit Wearables as an early investor and co-founder of the startup. Sculley is already involved as an advisor at a handful of other medtech startups. He’s on the board of directors of Watermark Medical, developer of an in-home sleep apnea diagnostic device, and on the board of advisors at Audax Health Solutions, a consumer health startup which uses gamification and social networking for health management.

MobiHealthNews broke the news on Vu’s departure from AgaMatrix to start Misfit last July, back then the venture went by Aetherware Corporation. A few months after Vu left, the FDA (finally) cleared AgaMatrix’s iPhone peripheral, called the AgaMatrix Nugget, the first iPhone medical device cleared by the FDA. Sanofi exclusively sells the device in Europe and the US as the iBGStar. While FDA cleared, it is not yet available in the US.

Study raises questions about home health monitoring

By: Neil Versel | Apr 26, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeMaybe home-based patient monitoring is not quite ready to take off after all.

Some of you may be aware that I was looking for the right piece of monitoring technology not too long ago to help my family keep tabs on my 93-year-old grandmother, who had been living alone far from the rest of us. That’s not an issue for the moment because she’s been staying with my parents for the last month or so, and she may not be able to go back into her home anyway because a wireless monitor can’t cook dinner or do laundry.

Meantime, I had heard anecdotally that another elderly relative had opted for – and then stopped using – a wireless accelerometer because the device had returned several false positives. Maybe it’s better to be safe than sorry, but the system automatically called for help, thinking the wearer had fallen, when this relative had sat down a little too quickly.

I really have no idea if false alarms are a chronic problem with personal accelerometers, but a recently published study provides some scientific evidence that home monitors need work and are not appropriate in many cases.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and the Purdue University School of Industrial Engineering observed greater mortality in elderly patients with multiple health issues who were provided Intel Health Guide base stations and several pieces of monitoring equipment, compared to those receiving typical, “patient-driven” care. In fact, the mortality rate was three times higher.

According to the paper, published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 14.7 percent of those remotely monitored died within 12 months of being enrolled in the study, while just 3.9 percent in the control group died during the same timeframe.

There wasn’t much difference in the number of hospitalizations or visits to the emergency room, whether the patients had home monitoring or not, and the researchers did not have an explanation for the higher mortality. Also, they noted that patients without the monitoring systems had regular telephone contact with nurse case managers, so these patients may have been more aware of serious symptoms than others who did not talk to nurses often.

The researchers further suggested that there might not be enough infrastructure in place yet to “fully optimize” case management in this vulnerable population. (The mean age of study participants was 80.3 years.)

Still, the findings raise a lot of questions, and not just from reporters. In fact, two physicians from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine provided commentary in the same Annals of Internal Medicine issue. Keep reading>>

Philips, Vidyo team on telehealth initiative

By: Neil Versel | Apr 26, 2012        

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Vidyo Healthcare PhilipsVideoconferencing service provider Vidyo, a growing presence in healthcare because it provides high-quality video with low latency and as encryption to HIPAA standards, is about to get bigger, particularly when it comes to mobile and wireless health.

Hackensack, N.J.-based Vidyo is teaming up with Royal Philips Electronics to offer a communications and collaboration platform that includes remote patient monitoring, clinical decision support and numerous mobile options. Philips is contributing its existing eICU technology, while Vidyo will allow secure, high-quality communications to take place over the public Internet rather than on expensive, dedicated telemedicine connections. Vidyo also can support many simultaneous participants from multiple locations, and is compatible with legacy telemedicine equipment.

“This is about accessibility on any device and any network,” Dr. Amnon Gavish, Vidyo’s senior vice president of vertical solutions, tells MobiHealthNews. Philips already has some cutting-edge mobile technology, in the form of the Vital Signs Camera app for the iPad, but that is intended for “entertainment” purposes, not medical diagnoses or treatment.

The Philips-Vidyo collaboration takes mobility into the clinical realm, in part because Vidyo offers an application programming interface so partners and organizations can develop custom apps.

A telemedicine session can incorporate patient sensors so remote clinicians can be up to date on each patient’s condition. Or, for example, a hospital can send patients home with monitoring technology. “You can give them an iPad for couple of weeks to manage post-op or post-discharge care,” Gavish says, or patients can download an app on their own Apple iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

Such an arrangement can help hospitals avoid preventable readmissions, an important consideration given that Medicare is no longer reimbursing for certain readmissions within 30 days of initial hospital discharge.

Vidyo already provides remote videoconferencing technology to telehealth service provider American Well and to several large telemedicine networks abroad. Gavish notes that the Royal Flying Doctors Service of Australia, which serves remote areas of that vast, sparsely populated country, has started using Vidyo to care for far-flung patients. The service saves about $10,000 each time it can provide a virtual consultation rather than having to dispatch a medical crew by air, Gavish says.

DuoFertility commercially launches in US for $795

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 26, 2012        

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DuoFertilityThis past December the FDA cleared DuoFertility, a basal body temperature thermometer sensor developed by Cambridge Temperature Concepts. The device, which is intended for use in measuring and recording basal body temperature as an aid in ovulation prediction to aid in conception, has been available in the UK for some time but only became commercially available in the United States this week. Notably, in its FDA clearance documents, the company wrote that the device is explicitly not intended for use as a contraception device.

DuoFertility is now available for sale on the company’s website for $795, which includes 12 months of support from fertility experts. The company says the device users can contact the fertility experts as many times as needed.

DuoFertility is a peel-n-stick sensor that adheres under the woman’s arm to monitor temperature and other indicators to provide 24-hour monitoring for more than six months. The device takes temperature readings up to 20,000 times per day and pits itself up against the much more expensive and invasive IVF. DuoFertility also transfers its data wirelessly. The device only transmits when the user holds the sensor up to a companion “reader” device that has cellular connectivity embedded. The Duofertility Monitor makes use of two thermistor sensors and an accelerometer sensor to track movement.

Cambridge Temperature Concepts is marketing the device to those “financially infertile” couples who cannot afford the $15,000 per cycle cost of in-vitro fertilization (IVF). According to the company, insurance only covers IVF in five states in the US.

The company also claims that: “Although totally non-invasive and drug-free, for appropriately screened patients DuoFertility has shown a pregnancy rate after six months of use that is similar to that from a cycle of IVF.”

For more details, read the full commercial launch announcement in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Aging in place startup Independa tops up $2.35M round

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 25, 2012        

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angelaThis week aging in place technology vendor Independa announced that it had topped up its most recent round of funding to $2.35 million. Independa announced $1.6 million in funding last September and since then it has added about $750,000 in additional funds from new and existing investors, including Miramar Venture Partners and City Hill Ventures.

Independa said it is already in discussions with venture capital firms and strategic investors for its next round of funding.

Independa’s flagship offering is Angela, a tablet-based application that helps manage the lives and care of elderly patients who choose to stay in their homes rather than move to assisted living or nursing homes. According to Independa, Angela is a “social interaction solution tailor-made for the non-technical elderly.” The software features one-touch shortcuts to video chats, email, the Internet, Facebook, games and puzzles, and other interactive content. The interface offers large screen fonts, higher contrast and bright colors for those with poor eyesight. Angela can also remind users to take medications; keep medical and personal appointments; and remember birthdays and anniversaries.

At the beginning of this year at CES, Independa inked a deal with LG to bring its services to some Zenith televisions at certain senior housing facilities. The company also showed off an iPad-based version of Angela at CES. Previously, the company favored larger screened tablets that run Windows 7.

More recently Independa announced a deal with LivHOME, a national service provider of at-home care services for seniors, to create a combined serviced called LivIndependa.

“Independa has worked closely with us to apply its technology to meet our specific needs for a system that will enable us to quickly, easily expand the scope and depth of care we provide,” LivHOME CEO Mike Nicholson said in a statement. “The seniors we serve, as well as their caregivers, will enjoy a multitude of benefits from the unobtrusive monitoring and other interconnected health, safety and social engagement services we will be adding under the LivIndependa umbrella.”

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