Perverse incentives still holding back home telehealth

By: Neil Versel | Dec 15, 2011        

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Neil_Versel_LargeMobile adoption just keeps marching forward, but someone had best solve the payment issue sooner rather than later.

The move toward accountable care organizations and Medicare’s denial of reimbursements for certain preventable readmissions certainly will put some of the onus on hospitals and integrated delivery networks to keep post-discharge patients and those with chronic diseases healthy. It is starting to make economic sense for health systems to invest in remote monitoring for managing complex cases in patients’ homes rather than in costly hospital settings.

Grants and government subsidies can help, too, up to a point. This week, Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., announced that it was collaborating with Qualcomm, Verizon Wireless, Zephyr Technology and the National Institutes of Health to monitor patients with congestive heart failure via 3G broadband connections across much of Northern Arizona.

The program, dubbed Care Beyond Walls and Wires, will employ Zephyr home medical devices such as weight scales and blood-pressure monitors to capture patient data, then send readings to the hospital daily via Motorola Droid X2 smartphones on Verizon’s network. Flagstaff Medical Center will choose 50 participants who had been hospitalized with CHF or a related heart condition and are at high risk of readmission.

A hospital spokeswoman indicated that many of the potential patients are on far-flung parts of Indian reservations that never had landlines and heretofore have not have much in the way of cellular coverage, either. Nor have they had regular access to ongoing care for their chronic diseases.

This is all great, but let’s look across the pond for some longer-term perspective. Keep reading>>

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Sotera Wireless nets $12.2M and Cerner deal

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 14, 2011        

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Sotera CEO Tom Watlington

Sotera CEO Tom Watlington

Sotera Wireless announced that it had raised $12.2 million in its fourth round of funding. Singapore-based global fund EDBI led the round, which included participation from new investor Cerner Capital and existing investors Sanderling Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Intel Capital and the West Health Investment Fund. The latest round of funding brings total investment in Sotera to nearly $50 million by our count.

Sotera also inked a commercial deal with Cerner.

“I met the Sotera Wireless leadership team about a year ago and I was amazed by the truly revolutionary capabilities that they have built into their product, ViSi Mobile,” said Paul Gorup, chief innovation officer and co-founder of Cerner. “We at Cerner believe in the power of innovation and decided to collaborate with Sotera Wireless to jointly make an impact on how vital signs for general care patients in hospitals are captured and documented.”

The ViSi Mobile offering is not FDA-cleared, but the company submitted it for 510(k) clearance in August. Sotera’s ViSi Mobile System aims to help care providers detect early signs of deterioration through constant monitoring of a patient’s vital signs. It’s a wireless vital signs monitor intended for use inside a healthcare facility, but the company could find use cases for the technology outside of traditional care settings, too.

The new money will help the company bring the product to a commercial launch if and when the FDA clears it.

EDBI plans to help Sotera bring its offering to the Asia-Pacific market. EDBI CEO Chu Swee-Yeok stated in the press release: “Health systems worldwide are facing the challenge of an increasingly high-risk and frail patient population. We believe Sotera offers a disruptive platform that will provide clinicians with the visibility they need for pre-emptive and preventative care.”

Earlier this year it came out that Sotera was working with San Diego-based Palomar Pomerado Health to integrate its vital signs monitoring devices with Palomar’s Medical Information Anytime Anywhere (MIAA) platform, which aims to provide clinicians with access to patient medical records and vital sign information in real time or near-real time.

Sotera scooped up more than $10 million in funding in April 2010, and another $7 million in July 2010. In November 2009 the company changed its name from Triage Wireless as part of an agreement with Inverness Medical, which marketed products under a similar brand name as Triage Wireless.

More on the latest Sotera round of funding and Cerner deal in the press release below: Keep reading>>

El Camino Hospital offers family medical officer app

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 14, 2011        

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FMOThe El Camino Hospital in California launched its first mobile application, called Family Medical Officer (FMO), this week. The FMO app, which is free for Android and iOS devices, is a consumer-facing app intended for a household’s family medical officer, or primary healthcare decision maker.

The FMO app’s features include wait times for El Camino Hospital’s emergency rooms at its Mountain View, CA and Los Gatos, CA locations, a “find a doctor” feature where users can look up an El Camino physician by name, specialty or location, a personal health record called “My Family & Me,” drug database and other hospital resources.

According to a press release, most FMOs care for and make healthcare decisions for two or more people in their family, and about half of them care for an older adult in addition to their own children. Approximately 80 percent of women are the healthcare decision makers for their families, according to the hospital. Women are also more likely to be the caregivers when a family member becomes ill.

“In keeping with El Camino Hospital’s mission of delivering exceptional care, we are excited to roll out the FMO mobile app, an important tool that will provide FMOs with accurate medical information anywhere, anytime, to help them best manage the care of their loved ones,” stated Tomi Ryba, president and CEO of El Camino Hospital in a press release.

Read the press release below.

Keep reading>>

Researchers developing portable HIV tracker

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 14, 2011        

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ChipCare CEO Rakesh Nayyar

A team of Canadian researchers have invented a portable device for analyzing the blood of HIV patients that could greatly increase the speed and ease of HIV tracking in remote or developing areas, according to a report by the The Vancouver Sun. The device, a cell analyzer, includes a chip that provides blood test results within minutes and could allow healthcare workers to easily administer tests outside of hospitals, forgoing the need for specialists.

The blood of HIV patients must be routinely tested to accurately track the progression of the virus. The research team began developing the device in 2007 with an eye on improving cancer diagnostics. According to the report in the Sun, the device uses a process similar to glucose meters, which make use of diagnostic strips.

The team expects the device to cost about $5,000 to $10,000, while each test strip would cost a few dollars. In comparison, machines in hospitals which perform flow cytometry for disease markers can vary from $35,00 to $100,000 dollars in price. They are also restrictive in size and far from portable.

While the current version of the blood analyzer measures about the size of a loaf of bread and stores test information on the device only, the team is developing a new prototype that is slightly bigger than a smartphone, includes a GPS and camera, fits in one hand and can send test results wirelessly to a medical database. The team plans to have its prototype finished by March for deployment of 100 units to Malawi and Thailand for field use by mid-2012, pending an additional $3 million in funding. Successful trials in Thailand and Malawi could lead to its submission for clearance in North America, where it could be used in remote areas.

The researchers have created a company called ChipCare Corp to commercialize the device.

Read the Toronto Sun article here.

Flagstaff rolls out CHF monitoring program

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 14, 2011        

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zephyr bioharnessNorthern Arizona’s Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) announced this week a collaboration with Qualcomm, Verizon, the NIH, and Zephyr Technology on a remote monitoring program for some of its patients with congestive heart failure (CHF). The collaboration, called Care Beyond Walls and Wires, will use technology from each of the companies. The NIH is acting as an adviser.

Flagstaff’s program will equip 50 CHF patients with home monitoring kits. The patients chosen will be those who are recently discharged from FMC after treatment for a cardiac condition and who have a high risk for readmission. The hospital expects many of the project’s participants will be selected from Arizona’s underserved and rural communities or on nearby Native American Reservations.

The program participants cite statistics from the US federal government to cite the problem they are attempting to address: Between 25 and 50 percent of CHF patients are re-hospitalized within three to six months of a hospital discharge. Reasons for rehospitalization include failure to take medications as prescribed, failure to follow a dietary plan, not knowing the early signs of CHF and a lack of planned follow-up with a healthcare provider post-discharge.

Each home monitoring kit includes a Motorola Droid X2 smartphone from Verizon, which will feature an app used to upload their health data to FMC via a secure Internet portal; a blood pressure cuff, oxygen and pulse monitor, and weight scale.

The specifics of some of the companies’ offerings are up for speculation. Qualcomm is donating “wireless devices,” according to a press release (perhaps the recently announced 2net?), and some kits will include an “advanced Zephyr health-monitoring system” (possibly the BioHarness) to measure other vital signs including breathing rate, skin temperature, activity and posture. The NIH is assisting FMC with planning and evaluation for the project. Information will be sent to care providers daily for three to six months during the study.

“This project launches a model of care that transcends traditional medicine, using state-of-the-art technology to care for patients beyond the walls of the hospital,” stated William Bradel, Flagstaff Medical Center president and CEO, in a press release. “Working with these technology companies and national health agencies will extend FMC’s reach into outlying areas where healthcare is most needed.”

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

Family safety apps startup snags $3.5 million

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 14, 2011        

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Life360appsSan Francisco-based Life360, which develops mobile applications focused on family, raised $3.5 million in its first round of funding. Investors included Fontinalis Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, 500 Startups, Kapor Capital, Venture51, Bullpen Capital, Social Leverage and EchoVC Partners.

Life360 formed following Hurricane Katrina, which its founding members said turned “many families… upside down because of a lack of preparation and resources. People stayed uninformed, didn’t have the proper supplies, and lacked an easy and efficient way to connect to their families to confirm that they were safe.” The Life360 team began work on the project while at UC Berkeley and launched its first apps for the Android and iPhone platforms in 2009.

The free apps offer family GPS tracking that enables users to locate family members on a map; safety status alerts that send a safety notification or call for help with the tap of a button; neighborhood safety monitoring that displays safety points and threats in the user’s area. The apps also offer a host of premium features like emergency identification (alert EMS personnel of pre-existing medical conditions), family identity protection (credit reports, alerts, and more), and lost item recovery.

The Life360 website also lists Facebook (fbFund), Founders Fund (FF Angel), LaunchCapital, and Seraph Group as early investors in the startup.

Fortune’s Dan Primack mentioned the investment in a VC roundup this morning.