Consumer Reports, Ringful Health launch app to help patients compare drugs

By: Jonah Comstock | Aug 28, 2013        

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screen568x568Software developer Ringful Health, developers of the first mobile health app to integrate with the now-defunct Google Health, has teamed up with Consumer Reports to create an app to help patients choose the most effective, and often cheapest, prescription drug for their conditions.

The app, called Best Drugs for Less, lists the best drugs based on “comparative medical research into effectiveness, safety, convenience, and side effects,” according to an article about the app on However, in most cases, the drug that Consumer Reports has identified as the best is a generic drug, significantly cheaper than the most-often prescribed alternatives. Patients can save as much as $275 a month, for instance, by switching from a $296 per month dose of Celebrex to a $21 a month dose of Ibuprofen for osteoarthritis.

Effectiveness data for the guide was sourced from the Drug Effectiveness Review Project at the Oregon Health and Science University, while prices came from Source Healthcare Analytics.

Consumer Reports doesn’t shy away from the question of why patients would take drug advice from an app, rather than from their doctor.

“Every good doctor keeps up with the medical literature on drugs, but that’s hard since the volume of research is enormous,” Consumer Reports writes. “Moreover, physicians often know relatively little about drug prices or about their patients’ insurance coverage.

“Doctors also face constant pressure from drug companies trying to influence what they prescribe. The companies spend some $15 to $20 billion annually on trade journal advertising and other outreach—including in-person sales calls, professional symposia and gifts—to spread their message to doctors, pharmacists, benefit managers, and others. Why? Because it works. Studies show that the brands with high marketing budgets also tend to get prescribed more.”

The free app, available on iOS only, includes written guides as well as explanatory videos that go more in-depth about the differences between different drugs. In addition to offering price comparisons for particular conditions, it also includes feature articles on topics like “Where high drug costs hide”.

Ringful Health is also recently received a $150,000 NIH grant to research app-based strategies to increase medication adherence.

“In this project, Ringful Health leads a team of scientists from University of Texas, University of Kentucky, Consumer Reports, and Mount Sinai Hospital to tackle this problem,” CEO Michael Yuan said in a press release. “We will explore how to use consumer-grade technology to engage patients, facilitate real-time decision support, and improve patients’ medication management and adherence at home.”


First Health Wildcatters class to tackle adherence, physical therapy, senior care

By: Aditi Pai | Aug 28, 2013        

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PT Pal

PT Pal is part of Dallas’ Health Wildcatters

Dallas-based health accelerator Health Wildcatters announced its first class four months after the launch of the program.

Founder Dr. Hubert Zajicek told MobiHealthNews in April that the focus of the accelerator would be to acquaint health entrepreneurs with the realities of the healthcare space. Teaming up Dallas-based general tech accelerator Tech Wildcatters was his way of doing that.

“You can have a really cool tech idea, but unless you know how you can sell this, you know you’re safe on HIPAA, you have a clear regulatory pathway and you have a way of selling your gadget to hospitals and providers, you can have a rude awakening,” he told MobiHealthNews at the time.

Although in April, Zajicek said he would take 15 companies, the class was announced with 12. Not all of the startups are mobile health related, but many are.

The first, 20over8, is developing a vision testing system that goes beyond the standard eye chart to reflect realistic, real-world testing conditions, according to the press release. The company was founded by David Meadows, CEO at Constellation Research, David Kirschen, optometrist and vice president at EYEcheck Systems, and Daniel Laby, president at EYEcheck Systems and pediatric ophthalmologist at Eye Care for Kids, LLC.

One of three standalone apps on the list, Care Starter helps patients access the information to manage a chronic condition.

The next, Cariloop, launched in April, offers a venue in which service and senior care providers can connect with their customers. CEO Michael Walsh left his company, a business risk consulting firm Protiviti, to work on research and development of Cariloop. Walsh also founded HealthSparx and Health 2.0 Dallas.

Fraud ID Standard Technology is listed as a patent pending system for preventing healthcare fraud through a real-time database system.

Health Wildcatter’s first class has two physical therapy startups. The first, KinesioKinect uses mobile technologies and motion sensors for a type of therapy system. This is already something of a crowded burgeoning field.

The other, PT PAL, is an iOS app that stores physical therapy exercises, helps keep the user on schedule and sends reminds about how how the exercises are done. It also features calendar alerts so the user doesn’t forget when to do each of the exercises.

MakeMyPlate, the only diet app on the list, lets users create a plate of food using images of food and counts calories based on the plate created. Users can share plates on the app’s social network and browse other plates if they are looking for healthier ideas for meals.

MyCounsel will offer providers and patients a database for mental healthcare needs.

NeuroTek is developing a non-invasive, electronic neuromodulation devices for the treatment of migraines and other diseases.

Remind Technologies is developing a an iPhone case pill dispenser with an incentive-driven software app, according to the company’s Twitter bio. While various smartphone-connected pill boxes exist, this app still takes a turn away from the current mobile health adherence technologies available.

Socrates Health Solutions has invented a non-invasive blood glucose monitoring system, a technology that MobiHealthNews has written about before, although it has not gained mainstream appeal.

Finally, SPAtaneity is a professional nail salon experience for those living with diabetes, cancer, and other immune-suppressed conditions. The salon has a certified medical nail technician and focus on maintaining a salon experience with enhanced sterility.

Set the FDA mobile medical app guidance free!

By: admin | Aug 27, 2013        

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By Bradley Merrill Thompson

I feel like a dissident trying to convince the government to free a political prisoner. That’s a pretty apt description, considering that the FDA’s Mobile Medical App (MMA) guidance document is being held hostage purely on political grounds.

Earlier this year, a DC advocacy group decided they wanted Congress to adopt an entirely different approach to health IT. The group seems to be concerned that regulatory systems adopted years ago may not make sense for the technology of today. I happen to agree with them in many respects. In fact, this week my law firm will submit to the federal government our white paper entitled: “Enhancing Innovation in e-Health through a Systems Approach to Regulation: A Blueprint for FDA Modernization.” The paper is designed to encourage innovation in e-health, and especially mHealth, and outlines specific changes needed to modernize the FDA regulatory system to effectively address unique aspects of e-health.

But somehow, from the fact that the FDA regulatory system is antiquated and in need of modernization, this DC advocacy group concluded that FDA publishing this summer its final guidance on mobile medical apps is a threat to what they want to accomplish on Capitol Hill. I do not understand that. Their concerns do not seem to be based in the substance of the guidance or the regulatory realities facing mHealth entrepreneurs today.

Nevertheless, in a letter that was obliquely written, the advocacy group, together with other groups they invited to join in, requested that HHS slow down its policymaking. Specifically they asked HHS not to release any new agency guidance on HIT until after January 2014 when HHS is scheduled to make strategic recommendations to Congress called for under section 618 of FDASIA. The apparent target for that requested delay is the publication of this FDA MMA guidance.

It’s that action– working to stall the FDA guidance– that I believe is hurting mobile medical app entrepreneurs. And the crazy thing is I believe it’s mostly based on a misunderstanding.

Before I explain all of that, I want to invite you to do something. In the comments section after this post, I want you to challenge me on any fact contained in this post. If I can’t prove any fact I state in this post, frankly you should never listen to me again. We have simply got to get away from rhetorical flourishes and baseless assertions that are so prevalent in Washington, and get down to the facts that can be demonstrated. So please, hold me to that standard.

Okay, let’s look at the facts.

Fact No. 1–FDA already regulates mobile medical apps.

FDA has regulated mobile medical apps for as long as mobile medical apps have been around. Delaying the release of the final guidance won’t change that. Ironically, as I discuss in Fact No. 4 below, it is actually the release of the final guidance that will change that.

FDA has regulated software used for medical purposes since at least 1976. Paraphrasing slightly, section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act subjects to FDA regulation any software (the statute uses the word “contrivance,” which FDA long ago concluded included software) intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of disease. It’s really that simple. FDA has reviewed scores of medical software premarket submissions and published numerous guidance documents on a wide variety of software issues over the last 30 years. Keep reading>>

Slideshow: 10 apps from public health departments

By: Aditi Pai | Aug 27, 2013        

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Teens in NYC Protection+ app

Teens in NYC Protection+

Last week, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene added a new app to its list — CalCutter. This diet app, the fourth on the city’s list of official apps, allows cooks to enter in a recipe and the app will generate a healthier option by switching out some ingredients for others. The app was made to help battle obesity rates in the city, which are 60 percent for adults and 40 percent for children.

While some cities don’t have any health apps available for residents yet, we’ve compiled a list of apps that do come from their respective city health departments.

Here are ten apps that were created by a city or state’s department of health listed in the Apple App store or Google Play store. Many of the apps are food inspection apps, which allow you to access the public health grades for restaurants in the city but other kinds of apps are also listed such as sexual health information apps for teens and recipe generators to help residents cook a healthier meal.

CalCutter (iOS and Android)


The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has developed an app that allows cooks to enter a recipe and intended number of servings. The app will then calculate the estimated calories per serving. You can ask CalCutter to convert your recipe into a healthier dish by suggesting changes that could lower the calories. Recipes can be saved and emailed.

ABCEats (iOS and Android)


This app finds restaurant grades and detailed inspection reports for each of the New York City’s 24,000 restaurants using the NYC Health Department’s free mobile restaurant inspection app. Users can check inspection letter grades at restaurants near their current location or search by restaurant name or neighborhood. Information is updated daily, according to the app description.

Keep reading>>

iPads help USF take the ‘hate’ out of electronic physician documentation

By: Neil Versel | Aug 27, 2013        

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Dr HoyteiPads might not be ideal for all medical practice settings, but Dr. Lennox Hoyte, CMIO and director of urogynecolgy of the University of South Florida (USF) Morsani College of Medicine in Tampa, believes they are a lot better than desktop computers in exam rooms or at the patient’s bedside.

“We’re moving toward 95 percent of physician activity going away from the desktop,” Hoyte said.

According to Hoyte, desktop PCs force physicians to look away from patients as they enter data, making patients feel like their doctors are not paying attention. Traditional PCs placed just outside the hospital room also slow practitioners down, forcing them to write down vitals and other necessary documentation on paper, then go elsewhere to enter the same information into an electronic medical health record.

Hoyte, who also serves as medical director for female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Tampa General Hospital, said physicians take just as long to see a patient as they do to enter data. “That’s 50 percent inefficiency right there.”

This hassle is exactly why physicians resist switching from paper to electronic records, according to Hoyte. “The only way to get people to do something new is to give them something they didn’t have before,” Hoyte said.

Many legacy EMRs found in major hospitals were designed for data storage and data access, with data entry a secondary consideration, and often are merely electronic representations of paper charts, with no real benefits beyond simplifying access.

“Getting data out is why people like EMRs,” Hoyte said. “The pin in the tail feathers is getting data in.”

Hoyte said he uses four different EMRs at his various practice locations, including his office and at multiple hospitals where he has privileges. “The love/hate is the same at all,” he said. “I love getting data out. I hate putting data in.”

Hoyte, who spoke to MobiHealthNews at last week’s Allscripts Client Experience users’ meeting in Chicago, has served as a user consultant to the vendor, helping refine the newly released Allscripts Wand 2.0 iPad app. Allscripts representatives said Hoyte insisted the company add direct photo capture from the iPad’s camera into to the Wand app.

Prior to the update, it was a “convoluted process” for clinicians in dermatology and reconstructive plastic surgery at USF to get photos from a phone or a digital camera into the patient’s medical record in, according to Hoyte. Now, they can not only capture images right from the app, but also history and physical with a customized questionnaire and templates for documentation.

“The goal is when you walk out of the patient’s room, you’re done with your documentation,” Hoyte said, and he believes the updated app allows this. He said medical assistants in the two departments save 6 minutes per patient by being able to capture patient vitals on an iPad rather than writing down values and later keying the data into a computer.

USF also is testing the app for documenting surgical procedures, and soon will try it in general pediatrics and general internal medicine, he added. “The goal is to build the small number of templates they need so they can get their work done,” Hoyte said.

“Eighty percent of what I do is predictable,” Hoyte added. For those routine cases, he can build documentation through templates. Only “exceptional things” should require the physician to type or dictate notes.

7 fitness apps with 16 million or more downloads

By: Jonah Comstock | Aug 26, 2013        

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RunKeeper GPS Track Running

RunKeeper’s app.

A casual mention tucked into the press release on Nike’s latest ad campaign sparked some interest from The Next Web last week, as Nike revealed that its Nike+ ecosystem now has more than 18 million users. While that statistic certainly sounds impressive, it might be helpful to put it in some context.

Many fitness companies — particularly device makers like Fitbit and Jawbone — have never released user numbers, or haven’t shared them for some time. Others, especially app communities like MapMyFitness and Endomondo, share user base numbers in every press release. Like all self-reported numbers, these should be taken with a grain of salt. What does “18 million users” mean? Is it how many people have downloaded the app? For startups with multiple apps, does it count them all separately (potentially counting some people twice)? Or is it the number of active, signed up members using the app or device on a regular basis?

Nonetheless, some numbers are out there. Here’s seven fitness app companies that have recently shared or let slip the size of their user base. Read on to see how they stack up.

MyFitnessPal: 40 million users


MyFitnessPal, a free nutrition and fitness tracking website and app suite, shared a figure of 40 million members when it announced its $18 million funding raise earlier this month. At the time, the company said it was adding 1.5 million users a month. Back in October 2012, MyFitnessPal put out a press release proclaiming 30 million users. If the company’s numbers are accurate, it dwarfs the other entries on this list and is still growing.

MyFitnessPal has an open API through which it’s partnered with almost every major company in the space: Fitbit, Withings, Jawbone, Runkeeper, Runtastic, and Endomondo, just to name a few. The company began in September 2005 and has been turning a profit since its launch, only seeking outside funding for the first time this month. Keep reading>>