Fitnet eyes clinical space with Kansas medical center childhood obesity pilot

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 23, 2014        

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FitnetFitnet, the instructional video fitness app maker that launched in January of this year, has begun its first clinical pilot, a collaboration with the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) sponsored by a $15,000 grant from Mozilla. Fitnet will work with eight families in KUMC’s Health Hawks childhood obesity program and provide an iPad and a data plan to each family in the program.

“Most of these programs, in terms of obesity programs or even physical interventions, are 90-day or 12-week programs where they meet once a week,” Fitnet founder and “chief geek” Bob Summers told MobiHealthNews. “And the clinician’s desire is to meet with the clients on a more frequent basis. It’s very difficult to do this, the logistics of getting to the clinic and people have every day things going on. So the thought was, ‘How can we expand the efficacy of that in-person session into the mobile environment?’ And that’s where Fitnet comes in to essentially extend the personal approach of an in-person session into the home.” Keep reading>>


Allscripts launches native EHR app Wand for Windows 8 devices

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 23, 2014        

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Wand for Windows AllscriptsElectronic health record company Allscripts has developed a native app for Windows 8.1 devices, called Allscripts Wand, two years after the company first launched the app for iOS devices.

While there are many health-related apps available for the Windows platform, there are few native EHR apps available in the Windows app store.

Wand aims to help providers check their daily schedule, review a patient’s chart, and record medical notes. Caregivers can also place orders, respond to clinical messages, and take photos to document medical conditions. The app also has some Windows-specific features. Physicians can electronically prescribe medications directly to the patient’s preferred pharmacy using Microsoft Bing Maps and also use Microsoft’s Bing Speech feature to dictate information.

The app for Windows was a collaboration with Georgia-based orthopaedic medical group Resurgens Orthopaedics. The medical group helped Allscripts with its proof of concept and provided feedback after testing the product on HP tablets.

“Our practice and our patients both benefit from the Windows 8.1 solution as it overcomes previous issues we’ve encountered before with other products,” Bradley Dick, Chief Information Officer, Resurgens Orthopaedics, said in a statement. “We are now in the process of making the Windows 8.1 EHR app an option for physicians and medical staff.”

Intel and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton also collaborated with Allscripts to develop the app. In 2012, Allscripts partnered with Microsoft to expand its Allscripts Application Developer Program (ADP).

House bill seeks to phase in Medicare coverage of telemedicine, remote patient monitoring

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 23, 2014        

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Mike Thompson

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.)

Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) are set to announce a new telehealth bill soon. Like some of Mike Thompson’s previous telehealth efforts, the bill seeks to amend the Title XVIII of the Social Security Act, the law that has long limited government-reimbursed telemedicine to rural areas and specific use cases.

As Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), has told MobiHealthNews in the past, when the Social Security Act was passed telehealth was in its infancy and legislators, worried about abuse or that telemedicine wouldn’t be cost-effective, limited Medicare and Medicaid coverage to very particular cases. Only patients in rural areas could be reimbursed for any telehealth service that required patient-physician interaction, for instance. Those types of arbitrary restrictions have become increasingly obstructive for telemedicine practitioners over the years.

Previous legislation has attempted a sweeping abolition of those restrictions — Rep. Mike Thompson’s last effort, the The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012, tried to amend the Social Security Act to assert that telehealth must be covered in any case in which the corresponding in-person treatment would be covered. That bill died in committee.  Keep reading>>

Researchers develop smart seatbelt that senses heart rate to combat driver fatigue

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 23, 2014        

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Harken smart seatbeltA group of researchers from Spain have published a paper on a seatbelt and seat cover embedded with sensors that can detect the driver’s respiration and heart rate to combat the driver fatalities and car accidents caused by fatigue.

The project, which is run by a consortium called Harken has been working on the system for a few years now and is funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme.

The consortium consists of small businesses from Europe, including Spain-based intelligent textile company Sensing Tex, Germany-based elastic manufacturer ALATEX Narrow Webbings, Portugal-based sensor maker PLUX Wireless Biosignals, Spain-based research organization Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia, Estonia-based research organization Eesti Innovatsiooni Instituut, and England-based University of Manchester.  Keep reading>>

UnitedHealthcare offers its just-for-members Health4Me app to all consumers

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 23, 2014        

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UnitedHealthcareHealth insurance company UnitedHealthcare has opened up its mobile health app, Health4Me to the general public, two years after the company first launched the app for its members. The app is available on both iOS and Android platforms.

The Health4Me app allows users to access their health information and their families’ health information in one place. Users can also find healthcare facilities in their area and compare prices for 520 medical services across 290 episodes of care so they can better estimate their healthcare expenses. This is important, the company explains, because, for example, the cost of an uncomplicated childbirth, including prenatal and postnatal care, at hospitals in the New York City area can range from $9,699 to $29,076.

“Giving consumers access to important medical cost information is improving transparency and making it easier for people to navigate the health care system,” Yasmine Winkler, UnitedHealthcare’s chief product, marketing and innovation officer said in a statement. “With reliable and actionable information about the prices of services, consumers now have an important resource at their fingertips that can help them make decisions to improve their health and save money.”

While price updates for UnitedHealthcare members are personalized based on the user’s specific benefits, estimates for the general public are based on national averages. Estimates are based on available fee schedules and actual contracted rates with care providers; in the small number of cases when that information is not available, estimates are based on historical claims with the care provider.

When the app first launched in February 2012, the healthcare price estimate feature was not yet available. Another app, UnitedHealthcare’s myHealthcare Cost Estimator app, which was also offered to members in 2012, has generated more than $2.3 billion in estimates for users. Its success convinced the payer to add similar functionality to Health4Me. Currently, 900,000 UnitedHealthcare members have downloaded the Health4Me app.

In January, UnitedHealthcare announced that the company would launch an online appointment booking system for UnitedHealth Group members. The system, called myEasyBook, allows members with high-deductible healthcare plans (such as those linked to Health Savings Accounts or Health Reimbursement Accounts) to go online and compare the costs of different available providers in their network.

UnitedHealthcare is one of several companies working on providing consumers with comparison tools for healthcare prices, but a recent survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Americans have difficulty accessing information about the cost of care. When asked how easy it was to find sources that compared cost as well as quality of care, 44 percent found it difficult, 22 percent said it wasn’t easy/difficult, and only 26 percent said it was easy.

Apple’s “iTime” patent hints at gestural interface, but no health features

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 22, 2014        

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iwatch patentApple has been granted a patent, filed originally in July 2011, for a wrist-worn iWatch device, giving a new peek into some possible features of the much-hyped device rumored to be launching in October. However, on the subject of healthcare or wellness tracking as a focus for the device, the document is silent. AppleInsider originally spotted the document.

The patent refers to the device as “iTime” in at least one graphic, and describes it as “an electronic wristwatch.” The patent lists a number of possible iterations for the device, including standalone versions that work without a smartphone and versions that sync or connect to another device in various ways. It details how the watch could push data to the mobile device and vice versa, acting as a remote controller for a music player or vibrating to notify the user about an incoming call, text, or even social media post. It does mention the inclusion of an accelerometer and/or gyroscope, but it doesn’t mention health tracking as a use case for the sensor.

“Another aspect of embodiment of the invention pertains to use of gestures with one’s arm or wrist to provide a user input to an electronic wristband,” the document reads. “[...] The gesture can correspond to specific movements of a user’s wrist or arm can vary with implementation. For example, the gesture might be a horizontal movement for one user input option (e.g., decline incoming call), and might be a vertical movement for another user input option (e.g., accept incoming call). For example, the gesture might be a single shake (or bounce, tap, etc.) of the user’s wrist for one user input option (e.g., accept incoming call), and might be a pair of shakes (or bounces, taps, etc.) for another user input option (e.g., decline incoming call).”

Of course, the patent is open-ended for many use cases above and beyond what’s represented therein, and the lack of mention of health or fitness tracking is not too surprising, given that in 2011 fitness tracking wearables, while still extant, were not enjoying the popularity they are today. More recent moves from Apple very much point to a fitness tracking use case for the iWatch: a hiring spree of mobile health notables; Nike’s apparent exit from the wearable space followed by Apple hiring two FuelBand engineers; and, of course, Apple’s Health app and Healthkit SDK in its new iOS 8 operating system.

The device, which has yet to be officially announced or acknowledged by Apple, is rumored to be due out in October, according to a Japanese publication with a history of pegging Apple release dates. That happens to line up with the rumored release date of Microsoft’s smartwatch as well. That device will reportedly have a number of health sensors including continuous heart rate monitoring.

Assuming the various reports are correct and the companies stay on schedule, it looks like October is when the mainstream smartwatch trend will finally move out of the realm of rumors, gossip, and vague patents and into the very real wearables market.