EveryMove raises $2.6 million from health plans

By: Brian Dolan | May 9, 2012        

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Money TreeSeattle-based EveryMove, which is developing a rewards platform for health and fitness activities, announced $2.6 million in funding this week from Premara Blue Cross, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners (a fund that is managed by Sandbox Industries), and a number of angel investors. According to a report over at GeekWire, the company’s $375,000 seed round was included in the $2.6 million figure. The seed round included funding from angel investors Founders Co-op, Summit Capital, Jonathan Sposato, Geoff Entress, Matt Shobe, William Lohse, Andy Liu, Ken Kuntz and Josh Hug.

EveryMove plans to launch its service this summer locally in Washington state, but it has already signed on two customer: Premera and Blue Shield of Nebraska. The company aims to distinguish itself from the seemingly crowded field of employer-based wellness incentive platform offerings by working with multiple health plans to create an offering that works for individual regardless of who they work for or which insurance company they have.

Last summer when Humana launched its wellness incentive program, HumanaVitality, we rounded up 11 other wellness platforms that looked to compete with it. Many of those are working to provide somewhat similar services to the ones EveryMove is developing, even if they are pursuing employers instead of health plans as part of their business model. At the time, we pointed to Keas, Healthrageous, Team Wellness Challenge, EarndIt, Virgin HealthMiles, Cerner, MeYou Health, Limeade, ShapeUp, Redbrick Health, Fitocracy, and Health Month.

More on EveryMove over at GeekWire.

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Rogers to bring remote monitoring baby pajamas to Canada

By: Neil Versel | May 9, 2012        

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Exmovere Exmobaby Rogers CanadaTraditional telecom companies are stepping up their activity in mobile and wireless health, especially for remote monitoring devices and services.

As MobiHealthNews briefly noted, Last week at the annual American Telemedicine Association meeting, AT&T announced a deal with Valued Relationships Inc. (VRI) to offer remote patient monitoring services. Franklin, Ohio-based VRI will provide a telemonitoring center with 24/7 nurse coverage for patients with chronic diseases and those recently discharged from the hospital.

“AT&T and VRI have teamed up to make in-home remote patient monitoring simpler and more effective for healthcare organizations to deploy and scale. Providers and payers no longer have to finance, deploy, or monitor the alerts gathered by telehealth devices. Instead, within 48 hours of their patients being discharged from the hospital, these organizations receive actionable data that enables them to provide the care needed so that patients do not have to return to the hospital,” Andy Schoonover, CEO of VRI, explained in a joint statement.

This week, at the CTIA Wireless 2012 event, Canada’s Rogers Communications revealed a partnership with biomedical engineering company Exmovere Holdings to bring infant pajamas with built-in biosensors to the Great White North — adding to the evidence that the market for wearable health devices is taking off. Earlier this year AT&T announced a similar partnership with Exmovere to bring the monitoring baby clothes to the US market.

Rogers will be the exclusive wireless connectivity provider in Canada for McLean, Va.-based Exmovere’s Exmobaby pajamas, which measure ECG, skin temperature and movement of newborns. The sensor-laden pajamas will be able to transmit data to PCs, tablets and smartphones, according to the two companies.

Curiously, Rogers and Exmovere will be selling the product not to neonatal intensive care units, but directly to the public through retail outlets starting later this year. According to The Telecom Blog, a four-outfit starter pack will go for $149, plus $9.99 a month for service. New parents might shell out that kind of money to see ECG waveforms of their newborns if there’s the possibility of a heart defect, but will there be a mass consumer market for such a product?

Trend: Wearable health devices on the rise

By: Brian Dolan | May 8, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsRecent months have brought a flurry of industry metrics, market predictions, investment rounds, research announcements and more that have fueled the rising trend of wearable health devices. This past February MobiHealthNews reported on market predictions made by ABI Research: In five years the number of wearable wireless health and fitness devices will hit 169.5 million. That’s up from almost 21 million such devices last year. The firm expects about 90 million wearable fitness devices to be in the market five years from now, which leaves about 80 million health-focused ones.

This week researchers at the University of Arkansas grabbed headlines after announcing that they had developed a remote monitoring system — dubbed an “e-bra” — that could integrate with women’s sports bras or a vest for men. The system consists of a “series of nanostructured, textile sensors” integrated into the garments via a lightweight, wireless module that snaps onto the clothing. The device communicates to a nearby smartphone via short range wireless, which can then relay the data to care providers. The cuff-less sensors can monitor blood pressure, body temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen consumption, neural activity, ECG, and more, according to the research team.

“Our e-bra enables continuous, real-time monitoring to identify any pathophysiological changes,” Vijay Varadan, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering said in a statement. “It is a platform on which various sensors for cardiac-health monitoring are integrated into the fabric. The garment collects and transmits vital health signals to any desired location in the world.”

At the end of last month Misfit Wearables, the wearable devices startup founded by AgaMatrix co-founders Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar as well as former Apple CEO John Sculley, raised $7.6 million led by Brian Singerman of the Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures. While Misfit has been very quiet about its specific plans, it seems likely the company will launch a product that includes sensors embedded in some type of clothing instead of a wrist-worn device or peel-and-stick sensor.

While this one is more of an art project, it did get the attention of The Wall Street Journal this week: “‘IM Blanky,’ a ‘smart’ blanket, brings together high technology and homely arts and crafts. For an art exhibition, designers affiliated with the University of Toronto’s architecture school arrayed 104 sensors in floral patterns on a green taffeta blanket, linking them with soft conductive material. The sensors relay moment-by-moment data about their orientation; the information goes to a processor and then wirelessly to a computer, which creates a 3-D rendering of the fabric’s surface. One potential application is monitoring fitful sleepers, and the designers are brainstorming with medical engineers about ways to deploy ‘the blanket with an IP address’ in hospitals.” Not quite a wearable, but close.

USA Today also ran a piece on wearable devices. While it mostly focused on location-aware devices that help people track family members who may wander, the roundup also included a mention of Zephry Technology’s BioHarness, which is mostly used by military types or professional athletes, as well as Exmobaby, the heart rate, temperature and emotional state monitoring baby clothing that AT&T announced it was wirelessly-enabling recently.

In mid-April research firm Forrester called attention to the wearable device trend — mostly as a piggyback on the recently unveiled and widely hyped Google’s Project Glass. Forrester predicted that for the wearable device market to move into the mainstream, it must “get serious investment from the ‘big five’ platforms — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook — and their developer communities.” This is the “next platform war”, according to the firm. Forrester specifically points to the rising number of wearable fitness devices, including Nike+FuelBand, as an indication of the trend.

Health IT is national, but mobile health is global

By: Neil Versel | May 8, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeHealth IT built for foreign markets generally doesn’t translate well to the U.S.

A widely heard criticism of many American electronic health records (EHR) systems in the U.S. is that they’re designed not primarily to enable clinicians to provide the best patient care, but to help providers produce the documentation they need to get paid. That’s just the nature of our inefficient, fee-for-service system.

Similarly, most of the Western world switched to ICD-10 coding years ago, but the U.S. won’t be there until at least October 2013—and CMS has indicated that it might push back that deadline. One reason: the American version of ICD-10 is more complex because it includes billing as well as diagnostic codes.

Plus, we have things such as HIPAA privacy and security standards and EHR certification for the “meaningful use” incentive program. Other countries don’t.

But mobile health IT is different. Like pharmaceutical, medical equipment and devices technology industries, m-health and telemedicine appear to be pretty much the same worldwide (even if regulations do differ from country to country).

I’m in Denmark this week for Europe’s eHealth Week and, at least in part, the World of Health IT conference put on by the U.S.-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in Copenhagen. But Monday I was part of a side trip to the southern city of Odense, where a regional development center is promoting innovation in “welfare tech,” technology for health and social services. (In this sense, “welfare” doesn’t have the same negative connotation it can carry in the states.)

The organizers set up a “living lab” in a healthcare innovation center, where, among other things, visitors could view a mock-up of a senior apartment filled with personal monitoring and safety technologies to allow for independent living, including touch-screen communication stations. The screen prompts may have been in Danish, but the concept looked awfully familiar.

Similarly, I got a demo of new smartphone and tablet apps (Android first, believe it or not) from U.K.-based consulting and software firm Logica that collect data from wireless home health devices such as pulse oximeters and spirometers to help manage chronic diseases. You know, stuff MobiHealthNews writes about all the time, technology that I could bring home and use right now, regardless of whether it has FDA 510(k) clearance or not.

Another featured company, this one a home-grown company from Odense called e-Mergency, has an interesting idea: give smartphone-based prompts for people with dementia to remind them when it’s time to take their meds, get dressed, eat or perform any one of a number of tasks that such patients can’t remember. The app, set to be released in the Danish market within a couple of weeks, includes pictures and instructions to help people hold onto to some of their independence even as they lose cognitive function.

The company admitted to me that the technology hasn’t really been tested, so I don’t know at what point people with dementia will lose the ability to operate a smartphone, but if the concept works, there’s a global market for this product. When was the last time someone said that about an EHR or hospital management system?

The free medical app that currently makes more money than any paid one

By: Brian Dolan | May 8, 2012        

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Skyscape Medical Resources iPhone appLast November Physicians Interactive, which offer the popular Skyscape series of medical apps, began consolidating its many wares into one “destination” app, called Skyscape Medical Resources. The app is free to download but this week it topped Apple’s list of “Top Grossing” apps in the medical category. It’s the only top 10 grossing app on the list that’s free to download.

While the Skyscape Medical Resources app freely offers medical resources focused on drug information, medical calculators, and clinical information for more than 850 medical topics, the app also leverages Apple’s in-app purchasing functionality to offer users more than 600 premium resources that span 35 specialties. All in-app purchases are done through Apple’s AppStore but the new features are populated within the consolidated Skyscape Resources app. The company went from having hundreds of smartphone apps to just a few. Eventually, the strategy is to progress to just one app with in-app purchases, except for a few one-off apps PI develops with medical events partners and pharmaceutical companies.

“It seems to be working,” Sanjay Pingle, president of Physicians Interactive’s pharmaceutical business unit told MobihealthNews in a recent interview. “The user ratings have gone up over the past few months since we [implemented] this one app strategy and made Skyscape a destination for purchasing other apps. The sales have also responded, as you can see from our positioning in Apple’s AppStore. We are happy with it so far.”

Pingle said that the free Skyscape Medical Resources app has averaged about 100,000 downloads per month over the past three months, and that includes total downloads across iOS, Android, and BlackBerry. Apple and Android make up about 90 percent of those downloads, he said, and Apple still commands a larger share than Android, but Android users are growing more quickly, he said.

Apple lists the top 10 in-app purchases for Skyscape Medical Resources and nearly all of the most popular upgrades are priced at $49.99 or above. Pingle said that most in-app purchases are north of $50, but most people who choose to upgrade buy just a few additional resources. Pingle said it is rare for a user to buy five or more, for example, but he declined to disclose more metrics.

Given Skyscape’s in-app library of more than 600 resources, you could argue Skyscape Resources is a dedicated AppStore within the AppStore for medical professionals. Pingle said he hasn’t paid too much attention to other industry efforts, like the one underway by Happtique, to collate a list of apps for medical professionals, but he does believe Physicians Interactive has a role to play in helping healthcare professionals sift through the increasing volume of health apps in the marketplace.

While selling content has proven successful for the company, Pingle said, Physicians Interactive’s next move is to open up their interface and create APIs so that others can leverage the systems that the company has built around Skyscape. Pingle sees an opportunity “down the line” to use the Skyscape platform for interchange of data between medical apps.

Check out the top in-app purchases on the left-hand column of the page for Skyscape Medical Resources over at iTunes here.

7 tips for motivating health behavior change via mobile

By: Brian Dolan | May 7, 2012        

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Intel Senior Researcher Margaret Morris PhDClinical psychologist and senior researcher at Intel, Margaret Morris published a helpful paper this week that includes seven guidelines for motivating healthy behavior change with help from mobile devices and apps. Below is a quick redux of the seven tips, be sure to read the full report to better understand the suggestions:

1. Remind people of who they want to be. “To drive lifestyle change, health messaging should remind people of previously expressed self-ideals,” Morris writes. An examples: Forge health contracts that can be renewed daily.

2. Foster an alliance. “The very close relationships that people have with their devices set the stage for meaningful health coaching,” Morris writes. It’s more effective to approach problem solving as a collaborative effort in health messages than to tell people what their problems are.

3. Apply social influence. “Social comparison has been used to influence behavior in many contexts, from clinical inter- ventions for substance abuse to social psychology experiments on environmentalism,” Morris writes. She suggests that by pointing out how a person is acting in comparison to others like them, change can be inspired. For example: “You drink a six-pack every Friday and Saturday; most men your age have only two drinks a week.”

4. Show people what they could lose. “Discounting of long-term goals is particularly strong for health and economic choices,” Morris writes. She suggests one way to counter this is to offer up concrete losses that would result from certain health decisions and not rely on future promises for potential rewards.

5. Put the message where the action is. This is the classic argument that information therapy often doesn’t work because billboards or PSAs on TV are not delivering information at the right place or time. With mobiles in our pockets, that opportunity may be born anew.

6. Raise emotional awareness. “By ‘checking in’ with their current mood and emotional patterns, individuals can understand their vulnerabilities to such lapses and develop alternative coping strategies,” Morris writes.

7. Reframe challenges. “Examining one’s immediate interpretations of daily events and considering alternatives helps people respond to challenging situations in more constructive ways,” Morris writes.

Read the full paper on Motivating Change with Mobile over at Scribd here.
Morris also appeared in our first video report from the mHealth Summit in 2010.