Beware virtual keyboards in mobile clinical apps

By: Neil Versel | Mar 14, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeDon’t look now, but there’s another report raising safety issues about electronic medical records – and this one is focused squarely on mobile devices.

Remember the problems Seattle Children’s Hospital had with trying to run its Cerner EMR, built for full-size PC monitors, on iPads? The hospital tried to use the iPad as a Citrix terminal emulator, so the handful of physicians and nurses involved in the small trial had to do far too much scrolling to make the tablet practical for regular use in this manner.

Well, there may be a greater risk than just inconvenience when tablets and smartphones stand in for desktop computers. According to a report from the Advisory Board Co., “[A] significant threat to patient safety is introduced when desktop virtualization is implemented to support interaction with an EMR using a device with materially less display space and significantly different support for user input than the EMR’s user interface was designed to accommodate.”

The report actually is a couple months old, but it hasn’t gotten the publicity it probably deserves. We are talking about more than user inconvenience here. There are serious ramifications for patient safety, and that should command people’s attention.

How many CIOs or even end users have considered another one of the unintended consequences of running non-native software on a touch-screen device, that the virtual, on-screen keyboard can easily take up half the display? “Pop-up virtual keyboards obscure a large portion of the device’s display, blocking information the application’s designer intended to be visible during data entry,” wrote author Jim Klein, a senior research director at the Washington-based research and consulting firm.

Klein said that users have two choices to deal with a display that’s much smaller than the software was designed for. The first is to zoom out to view the whole window or desktop at once, but then, obviously, users have to squint to see everything, and it becomes easy to make the wrong selection from drop-down menus and radio buttons.

Or, users can zoom in on a small part of the screen. “This option largely, if not completely, eliminates the context of interaction from the user’s view, including possible computer decision-support guidance and warnings, a dangerous trade-off to be sure,” Klein wrote.

In either case, the virtual keyboard makes it even more difficult to read important data that clinicians need to make informed decisions about people’s health and to execute EMR functions as designed. Keep reading>>

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Mobile health startup Jiff raises $7.5 million

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 14, 2012        

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JiffPad iPad appPalo Alto, California-based Jiff announced this week that it had raised $7.5 million in its first round of funding. The investment round was led by Aeris Capital and included participation from Jiff’s founding seed investor Aberdare Ventures. The startup also announced that it had appointed former president and CEO of Robert Bosch Healthcare, Derek Newell, as its first CEO.

Too often patients forget what a doctor told them during an office visit by the time they have made it to their car, according to Jiff. The startup has taken that problem on with its first offering. Doctors give the same eight minute speech all day long to patients with similar issues, so Jiff wanted to help doctors create an app that captures that conversation and enables patients to revisit it as many times as they’d like. That saves time for doctors because it will hopefully lead to less follow-up calls and questions. With the JiffPad app for iPads, physicians can create JiffTalks that include images, voice, frequently asked questions, replies, finger gestures, and more all compiled into a video that can be sent to the patient via email to review at home.

These could help doctors better communicate to patients who don’t speak English as their primary language. The talks could also come preloaded from medical industry associations and other medical thought leaders.

Jiff’s current business model is to charge physicians an annual subscription of a few hundred dollars.

The startup’s new CEO Derek Newell was previously president and CEO of Robert Bosch Healthcare, a remote patient monitoring company. Newell joined Bosch when it acquired Health Hero Networks, where he was CEO. Newell has graduate degrees in business and public health from UC Berkeley. Other Health Hero Networks alumns include Steve Brown, who now runs Catch.com, formerly Snaptic. Another Health Hero alum, Geoff Clapp, is now a mentor at the mobile and digital health incubator Rock Health.

More on Jiff in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Aetna’s iTriage app adds appointment booking, reminders

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 13, 2012        

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Aetna iTriage appAetna, which acquired popular mobile health app iTriage last year, has since added a number of new features and beefed up existing ones, as planned. Aetna showed off the relaunched iTriage app at an event in New York City last week as well as at the South By South West Interactive event in Austin, Texas this week. The new features and content were made possible by partnerships with Vitals and Harvard Medical School’s InteliHealth.

The original iTriage app was designed and developed by two Denver-based ER doctors. It aimed to help consumers make better healthcare decisions by providing relevant medical info, transparency around quality, and info and access to local healthcare facilities. As of August 2011 the app included more than 1,000 medication listings and what was described as at the time “an updated provider search function”.

The latest version of the iTriage app includes another update for the provider search function. Users can now search for providers based on ratings — thanks to the Vitals partnership. Providers can also be sorted by gender, languages spoken, years of experience, and distance from the consumer’s house or office.

The relaunched iTriage also sends news and alerts to its users as well as updated content for a number of additional diseases and average cost data, thanks to Aetna’s partnership with HMS’ InteliHealth.

iTriage has also been due to add appointment booking for some time: It acquired AppointmentCity.com last year months before MobiHealthNews broke the news that Aetna had acquired it. The addition of appointment booking could pit iTriage up against cash-flush appointment booking company ZocDoc. With iTriage users can book appointment for physicians who can best address their symptoms, according to Aetna.

While many of these updates were fairly obvious, expected, or minor, the addition of prescription refill reminders is an interesting departure. If built out, this function could be used for much, much more.

Vignet’s iPhone app: First to gain Continua certification

By: Neil Versel | Mar 13, 2012        

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Vignet iPhone Continua Health appAn iPhone app from McLean, Va.-based vendor Vignet that controls wireless home health monitoring devices is the first Apple iOS product to meet Continua Health Alliance interoperability standards. It also is the first software product of any kind to incorporate Continua guidelines for interoperability of mobile applications over wide-area networks.

Continua on Monday announced that the Vignet iPhone Mobile Manager has earned organizational certification that the app connects with Continua-certified personal health devices such as weight scales, pedometers and blood-pressure monitors. Information on the Continua website shows that Vignet actually earned the certification on Jan. 31, and the alliance notes that the vendor showed its certified app last week at Continua’s Spring Summit in Austin, Texas.

“We are delighted to recognize Vignet as the first company to have a Continua-certified product for Apple iOS mobile devices based on our WAN guidelines,” Continua Health Alliance Executive Director Chuck Parker says in a statement. “It is another important step in creating an ecosystem of compatible devices and technology to help individuals and their healthcare providers better manage their health and wellness, anytime, anywhere.”

For the purpose of healthcare delivery, Continua defines a WAN as a telecommunications network that handles secure data transmission securely between local-area networks so devices can communicate with medical records repositories such as electronic health records and personal health records.

Now that it has certification, Vignet can use the Continua logo in iPhone Mobile Manager and in marketing communications for the app. “With Continua certification, device manufacturers and solutions providers know that our Mobile Manager is going to link up,” Vignet CEO Praduman Jain says.

“Now Continua connected health solutions can be rapidly adapted to work on a variety of servers and devices, saving developers significant development time. We are pleased to support the use of mobile phones in providing readily available and convenient personal connected health solutions to improve patient self-management and wellness,” Jain adds.

See this graphic for an illustration of how Vignet views interoperability on its platform.

Nike beta launches FuelBand API for app developers

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 12, 2012        

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Nike+ Fuel BandFor the first time ever, Nike has made available an API that lets developers build apps that work with its fitness offerings. While the API is only available in a limited beta for developers participating in a hackathon at the SXSWi event in Austin, Texas, this week, the move is likely to lead to wider availability in the near future.

According to a report over at TechCrunch, Nike made the API available to hackers participating in a music-related hackathon hosted by Backplane. Nike is helping developers create music apps that work with its new, wrist-worn fitness device, Nike FuelBand. The device is a competitor to Jawbone’s UP, Fitbit, Basis Band, and many more (here’s a roundup of 10 similar offerings).

The device’s name, Nike+ Fuel Band, comes from the virtual health currency, or the composite score, that the device tracks: Nike Fuel. The Nike+ Fuel Band leverages just two sensors: the standard 3 axis accelerometer, which monitors activity, and an ambient light sensor that detects light levels in the user’s environment and automatically adjusts the brightness of the device’s display accordingly. The device’s display is made up of 100 white LED lights that show the time, Nike Fuel earned, calories burned, and steps taken. The wrist-worn device only has one button. When pushed it scrolls through the various metrics the device tracks. Holding the button down brings up advance features, like Airplane Mode. The side of the device has 20 colored LED lights (green, yellow, red) that give users a quick reference point for current performance levels. Users can transmit the data from the device to an iPhone running iOS 4 or 5 via Bluetooth or through a USB cable that plugs into the user’s PC.

More on the beta launch of the Nike Fuel Band API over at TechCrunch

PA health plan offers up mobile site, wellness text messages

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 12, 2012        

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Highmark BCBS Health At HandPittsburgh-based Highmark recently launched two mobile initiatives: Free motivational messages and wellness-related health tips via text messages and a mobile-optimized version of its website that gives iPhone and Android users access to claims history and GPS-enabled access to the insurer’s provider directory.

“We understand that members want to interact with their health insurer on their own terms,” Steven Nelson, senior vice president of health services strategy, product and marketing at Highmark stated in a company release. “For some, that might be viewing plan details on our website. For others, it could be a chat with a customer service rep. Now, with a mobile website and text messaging, we’re giving them even more options to interact with us how and when they want.”

The health plan’s wellness SMS program, called Encouraging Words of Wisdom, recently launched for those Highmark members enrolled in its personal nutrition coaching program. The free program has individuals meet with a registered dietician up to seven times per year and the SMS component aims to help users stay motivated. The messages are not personalized for the individual members. Instead they are canned messages, including: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve” and “The best food comes in its own package” as well as “If you focus on results, you won’t change. But if you focus on change, you’ll get results.”

Last year Highmark announced plans to sunset and relaunch its Health@Hand iPhone app which it built in 2010 with A.D.A.M. on that company’s Medzio platform. The Health@Hand app is still available via the Apple AppStore and was updated as recently as last month. Here’s what it offers besides health and wellness information: “It’s a fast and easy way to help you find local healthcare services such as urgent care centers, retail clinics, hospitals, and doctors, all from the palm of your hand. You will also have access to health coaching tips, information about health and wellness programs, and member discounts.” Screenshots from the app appear to be the same as those in the AppStore last year.

For more on the mobile site and motivational messages, read the release below: Keep reading>>