Massive Health to build apps that appreciate patients

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 2, 2011        

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Massive Health CEO Sutha Kamal

Massive Health CEO Sutha Kamal

Massive Health, a new mobile health startup we first mentioned back in December, announced today that it has raised $2.25 million from unnamed angel investors, Felicis VC, Greylock Discovery Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Mohr Davidow Ventures and Charles River Ventures. Massive’s co-founders are Sutha Kamal and Aza Raskin, the former creative lead at Firefox.

In December Raskin explained Massive’s interest in healthcare: “Health care needs to have its design Renaissance, where products and services are redesigned to be responsive to human needs and considerate of human frailties.”

In a blog post today Kamal built on the startup’s positioning. Massive is going to begin by focusing on smartphone apps for chronic disease management.

“There are some great wellness and fitness apps out there. Whether it’s Nike+, or Cyclemeter (my personal favorite), if you want an app to help you get and stay active, you’re spoiled for choice. But what if you’re actually ill? Then there’s nothing sleek or sexy to help you manage your disease. You’re back to the world of clinical health applications that aren’t especially friendly, easy to understand or use, and certainly aren’t social. Today’s apps don’t appreciate that you’re a person. That’s simply not good enough,” Kamal writes.

Kamal’s declaration that “today’s apps don’t appreciate that you’re a person” is stirring.

Massive Health Co-Founder Aza Raskin

Massive Health Co-Founder Aza Raskin

In MobiHealthNews’ own recent report on smartphone apps, we noticed that the number of apps intended for use by users with chronic conditions had not grown as quickly as other types of apps. Chronic conditions apps were in fact the slowest growing type of app in Apple’s App Store. As of last September there were only 250 iOS apps that purported to help users better manage diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, asthma and other chronic conditions. That’s less than 4 percent of all health related apps for iPhone users.

The adoption of smartphones in the US is climbing — currently about 31 percent of Americans have a smartphone, according to a recent Nielsen report. Health care providers, however, argue that — in their experience — smartphone apps are not a viable option right now.

Last March Dr. Joseph Kvedar, director of Partners Health Care’s Center for Connected Health, explained: “In one of our primary care practices, only 60% of diabetics we enrolled in our home glucose monitoring program were Internet users. In our CHF population, it’s even less. I always note this when talking about technology choices and program design. There are so many really exciting iPhone apps out there for example, but we haven’t tried to deploy one in our setting because the population of patients who would find it useful, let alone familiar, is tiny.”

Given the design talent that Massive Health brings to mobile health, I have no doubt their offerings will drive usability of health apps. The bigger question, however, isn’t usability: It’s usage.

Can better design drive adoption of smartphone apps among the patients who need them most?

Today a group of investors placed 2.25 million bets that it will.


Dr Soon-Shiong acquires GlowCaps-maker Vitality

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 2, 2011        

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Vitality's GlowCapsPharma entrepreneur and billionaire Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong has acquired Vitality, the company that developed GlowCaps. Vitality CEO David Rose stated in the company press release that while the financial terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed, Vitality’s investors achieved a ten-fold return on their investments. In 2009 InformationWeek reported that the company had raised about $4 million, including investments from Dr. Soon-Shiong.

The Boston Globe reports that Dr. Soon-Shiong negotiated the deal with Vitality’s co-founders courtside at an LA Lakers game. Dr. Soon-Shiong is partial owner of the team.

Vitality’s flagship product, GlowCaps “illuminate, play a melody, and even ring a home phone so patients don’t forget to take their medication,” according to the company’s description. “GlowCaps send weekly emails to remote caregivers, create accountability with physicians through adherence reports, and automatically refill prescriptions.”

Dr. Soon-Shiong expects to help Vitality expand it product line up to other wireless health products for consumers. (Dr. Soon-Shiong is also the executive director of UCLA’s Wireless Health Institute — MobiHealthNews interviewed him in May 2009 about his views on wireless health.)

GlowCaps improved adherence rates in a study conducted by Partners Health Care by 27 percent — leading to adherence rates of 98 percent. AT&T has also been a big supporter of Vitality — its network provides the connectivity for GlowCaps. Earlier this month AT&T and Vitality announced they would begin selling cellular-enabled GlowCaps through

“Our country needs a health care system designed to keep people healthy rather than waiting for them to get sick,” Soon-Shiong stated in the release. “As part of this goal, medication adherence is key. However, many people do not take their medications as prescribed which leads to unnecessary sickness and costly hospitalizations. GlowCaps addresses this problem brilliantly making the medication packaging smart.”

Vitality Co-founder and President Joshua Wachman was quoted in an interview with the Boston Globe: “Our roadmap is to create more things that help people make better decisions every day. We think about things like tracking vitamins and pills, the food you eat, your stress level, or your sleep quality. We’re really in the behavior-change business.”

Both Rose and Wachman will stay on as CEO and President, respectively, according to the company. Vitality will also keeps its management headquarters in Cambridge, MA, but it plans to hire additional local resources. It also already has teams in Los Angeles, San Diego and Toronto.

Read on for the full press release:

Keep reading>>

Davos: A song to Apple is a drug to Proteus

By: Neil Versel | Feb 2, 2011        

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Neil VerselLast June, when I was affiliated with, ahem, a competing publication, I publicly chided the World Economic Forum for shutting the press out of its first-ever mobile healthcare event. “It seems as if the industry is in danger of being co-opted by the business community’s elites, possibly to the detriment of small entrepreneurs, consumers and the spirit of transparency,” I wrote.

It took a lot of nerve, I thought, for an international organization to come to this country—the meeting was held in La Jolla, Calif.—invite several U.S. government officials, then not allow media through the doors.

The World Economic Forum, of course, is the organization behind the exclusive meetings on global business and policy that take place each winter in Davos, Switzerland. This billionaire boys’ club convened last week in the Alpine resort to discuss the world’s problems.

I’m just going to assume that my invitation to Davos got lost in the mail. But at least this conference had some degree of transparency and I can say that I learned a bit about mobile health. We can thank, in part, Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs.

Jacobs chairs the WEF Global Agenda Council on the Future of Mobile Communications, and was the impetus for the La Jolla meeting. Last week in Davos, Jacobs was part of a high-level panel on preventing and treating chronic disease, and Qualcomm webcast the session live.

How high-level? Other panelists included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Merck Chairman Richard Clark, General Mills Chairman and CEO Kendall Powell and Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. (How elitist was the summit? The session’s moderator, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta opened by addressing, “Your excellencies.” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, had to introduce himself when asking a question from the audience.)

Jacobs talked about regulation of cell phones as medical devices and the embedding of wireless technology in existing devices. He also addressed how wireless technologies can aid in healthcare data collection in developing countries. “Because the regulatory burden isn’t there [in developing countries], we think that we can demonstrate efficacy and we can demonstrate that these are actually self-sustaining economically, and then bring those cases back [to the developed world],” Jacobs said

He added that the World Economic Forum could be “very helpful” in communicating to Western leaders news of successful projects in low-income nations.

OK, so that wasn’t exactly great depth. Jacobs did mention a Qualcomm-sponsored program to provide remote speech therapy over a 3G wireless network for rural Peruvian children who have had surgery for cleft palate.

But if you want real detail on some of the innovation on display in Davos, it might help to talk to some of the entrepreneurs lucky enough to score an invite, such as Proteus Biomedical CEO Andrew Thompson. Silicon Valley technology blogger, Robert Scoble, who got a coveted press pass, did speak to Thompson, and posted audio of his fascinating interview.

“We make medicines that talk to your cell phone,” Thompson said.

That’s right, Proteus makes pills with additives that activate when swallowed, then send signals through the body like a heartbeat that can only be detected by a sensor worn on the body. The sensor, embedded in a bandage, can tell what medications the patient takes, and also detects heart rate, respiration, temperature, sleep patterns and even body angle, then transmits data to a phone via Bluetooth.

The product hasn’t been approved for use in the U.S. or Europe yet, but Thompson said tests are underway to prove the effectiveness. He thinks Proteus already has the business model down.

A song to Apple is a drug to Proteus,” Thompson explained. With the iPod and iTunes, Apple made music more personal and customizable, and monetized the hardware, the system and the data. The cost to the consumer has gone down even though Apple’s profits have skyrocketed. That’s exactly what Thompson expects the smart pill to do to the pharmaceutical business.

Now that’s the kind of technology I hoped to learn about when I started enquiring about the La Jolla meeting. Doesn’t the world at large deserve to discover what international business and policy leaders are learning?

iPhone, iPad app links RTLS tracking, clinical systems

By: Neil Versel | Feb 2, 2011        

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Versus iPad appConsidering that real-time location system is itself a form of mobile technology, it comes as a surprise to learn that there have not been any mobile apps to track and control RTLS installations in healthcare. Until now.

Whether that actually matters to customers is subject to debate.

RLTS vendor Versus Technology, a vendor of RLTS specifically for healthcare on Tuesday announced the general availability of Enterprise View Mobile, a mobile version of its dashboard software for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The Traverse City, Mich., says it is the first mobile app for healthcare RTLS to appear in the iTunes App Store.

That is a bit of a technicality, according to one competitor. Awarepoint, another RTLS vendor specializing in healthcare, offers web-based monitoring for its systems that works on standard computers, iPads and smartphones. “If you’ve got a web browser, then you can access the information,” company spokeswoman Xenia Moore tells MobiHealthNews in an e-mail.

The Versus mobile app, a free download, displays the locations of patients, staff and equipment in list form or on floorplan maps. Company officials say the app is aimed primarily at physicians and nurses.

“Clinicians are driving this,” Stephanie Bertschy, the company’s marketing director, tells MobiHealthNews.

“We’re really targeting the clinical staff,” explains Chief Technology Officer Kevin Jackson. “This puts quick and accurate information in the palm of their hands.”

The RTLS dashboard can link to and display data from other hospital systems, including electronic health records and clinical decision support, and the mobile app supports these capabilities, according to Jackson. It also can authenticate clinician-patient relationships according to location.

“Clinical information can come up on the [mobile] device based on doctor and patient badges,” Jackson says.

“We’re bringing more of how we use location information into a clinical context,” he adds.

Bertschy says Versus Technologies will be at HIMSS11 later this month to demonstrate how the app can automate processes.

Investors pumped $233M into mobile health in 2010

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 31, 2011        

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Money TreeEarlier this month PricewaterhouseCoopers published its Innovation Scorecard for the medical device industries in nine countries. The bottomline conclusion was that the US will continue to dominate but emerging markets like China, India and Brazil. In other words: Nothing new here, folks.

The scorecard evaluated each country based on five criteria, which PwC says has helped the US stay on top for decades: “Powerful financial incentives, such as reimbursements for adoption of new technologies; resources for innovation, such as academic medical centers; a supportive regulatory system; demanding and price-insensitive patients; and a supportive investment community of venture capitalists and other investors.”

The investment community has been rather supportive of mobile health during the past year. Mobile health startups don’t always announced their new rounds of investments, but make no mistake — money is flowing into mobile health. In fact, MobiHealthNews spent the past few days tallying up the venture capital deals it reported on during 2010 — as well as a handful that only saw ink in the SEC’s archives — to determine an estimate for the amount of venture capital and strategic investments in mobile health startups last year.

By our count: About $233 million was invested in mobile health startups during 2010.

Here’s our list of venture capital and strategic equity investment deals last year, but be sure to let us know if we missed any and we’ll add it to the list. Here’s the list by size of the investment and the slide show that follows includes images of some of the devices plus a brief description of the company’s services and other details surrounding the deals (who invested?) if those details were available. (Click on a deal to jump to it):

1. CardioMEMS raked in $97.88 million.
2. AirStrip Technologies secured $30 million.
3. Phreesia scooped up $19.78 million.
4. MicroCHIPS snagged $16.5 million.
5. AeroScout took in $16 million.
6. Zeo received $12.33 million.
7. Sotera Wireless pocketed $10.75 million
8. FitBit collected $7.98 million.
9. Healthrageous launched with $6 million.
10. Telcare’s total came to $4.46 million.
11. Bodymedia: $4 million.
12. ISIS Biopolymer scored $3 million.
12. Catch (formerly Snaptic) brought in $2.3 million.
13. Wellcore rounds it out with $2 million.
14. FitnessKeeper took in $1.11 million.

Keep reading>>

Tucson shuts down ambulance-based telemedicine network

By: Neil Versel | Jan 27, 2011        

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[Ed. Note: If you were redirected here from a more recent article about General Devices, that post has been removed because of a mischaracterization. General Devices has not been "touting" its involvement in the Tucson telemedicine network. I regret the confusion caused by this story. -- Brian Dolan, Editor-in-Chief, MobiHealthNews]

Dave Ridings in an ER-Link ambulance circa February 2009. Photo credit: Neil Versel

One of the first attempts at a citywide ambulance-based telemedicine network is offline, a casualty of funding shortfalls.

The city of Tucson, Ariz., has taken ER-Link offline after about $3.8 million in federal grant money ran out. “[There is] no operational funding available to maintain the system,” Tucson Fire Department Assistant Chief Dave Ridings, who heads emergency medical services for the city, explains in an e-mail to MobiHealthNews. “All department budget funding [has been] concentrated in core service functions only.”

Tucson had been the first municipality the nation to set up a WiFi network specifically for mobile teletrauma care. The mesh network, run by the city’s transportation department, covered 227 square miles, reaching 95 percent of the city’s residential population. Tropos Networks set up the mesh in partnership with the city.

Videoconferencing equipment on all 18 city-owned ambulances transmitted over the system to University Medical Center, providing live telemedicine services between the vehicles and the emergency department at the only Level 1 trauma center in southern Arizona.

ER-Link, launched in 2007, allowed emergency and trauma physicians to triage cases remotely, before patients arrived at the hospital. The system did have limitations, notably the range and reliability of WiFi, so consultations generally happened in 20- to 30-second transmissions when the ambulances were not in motion.

Ridings says there are about four or five operational ambulances that are able to connect to ER-Link, but the system is not used much anymore. “Essentially it’s non-operational,” says Mary Ann Matter, director of emergency medical services at UMC.

It costs UMC at least $5,000 to activate a Level 1 trauma team. ER-Link not only helped prevent unnecessary activations, it saved lives by giving trauma specialists the opportunity to make remote preliminary diagnoses and triage decisions.

UMC is where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and some of the other victims of the January 8 shooting rampage were taken. But the Safeway where the shooting took place, at Oracle and Ina roads, is outside the city limits in an unincorporated part of Pima County, so any Tucson Fire Department ambulances that transported victims would not have been able to conduct telemedicine from the scene.

Matter, a registered nurse, says ER-Link was not activated during that mass emergency.

For now, Tucson Fire Department EMTs still transmit electronic patient care reports over the network, but otherwise the infrastructure sits mostly unused. “There are no current plans to rejuvenate ER-Link unless grant funds are located, either in the transportation or EMS arena,” Ridings says.

He also says that Tucson won’t dismantle the network, even though newer technologies like WiMAX and cellular broadband Internet are more reliable and have longer range than WiFi. “The mesh network is being supported and enhanced by the city and [Department of] Transportation grant funding,” Ridings adds.