FDA clears Telcare’s 3G blood glucose meter

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 1, 2011        

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Telcare Blood Glucose MeterAccording to an FDA filing, wireless-enabled blood glucose meter developer Telcare just received 510(k) clearance for its device, Telcare BGM. The company submitted its device for FDA review at the beginning of March.

Telcare has largely eschewed the glucometer-smartphone pairing model currently pursued by a number of other device makers in favor of a wireless meter “that requires no additional investment.”

Telcare’s device is cellular-connected and according to the company it is “merely a replacement of older technology for which insurers already pay.”

The Telcare BGM includes 3G cellular connectivity that send glucose tracking data to the company’s clinical server. Telcare is also developing a suite of smartphone apps, which might be used by caregivers, including “parents of children with diabetes and those caring for elderly people with diabetes,” to better manage their loved ones.

“Moreover, the Telcare blood glucose meter significantly increases the work productivity of disease management personnel who no longer need to spend time calling patients to ask for glucose data and can now relay simple coaching directly on the Telcare blood glucose meter platform instead of using less efficient means of outbound communication,” Telcare states on its website. The company says the device can send data directly to electronic health records (EHRs).

Telcare has previously stated that it plans to offer its blood glucose meter offering to customers at the same pricepoint of “disconnected” devices that are already on the market.

The company has raised about $4.5 million in funding to date from investors including Qualcomm Ventures. It also works with Sierra Wireless for its device’s connectivity. (Update: Sierra is not an investor in the company.)

Learn more about the Telcare executive team (led by Jonathan Javitt MD MPH) at Telcare’s site.

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WellDoc publishes mobile diabetes study

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 1, 2011        

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WellDoc_iPhone_splashWellDoc released this week the pre-print version of the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) study using a mHealth solution (WellDoc’s DiabetesManager) to track reduction in blood glucose levels over one year compared against usual methods. According to the study results, “the mean decline in A1C (the gold-standard measure for diabetes control) was 1.9% in the intervention group and 0.7% in the usual care group, a difference of 1.2%.”

The Mobile Diabetes Intervention Study (MDIS), conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is scheduled to be published in the September issue of the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) publication Diabetes Care.

“We studied the impact of combining web and mobile based patient coaching with clinical decision support for community primary care providers, and compared this approach with standard diabetes management or usual care alone.” stated Charlene C. Quinn, RN, PhD, University of Maryland School of Medicine and lead investigator of the study, in a press release. “The trial results indicate that doctors and patients can engage more effectively using mobile health tools like the WellDoc system to enhance patients’ diabetes care and their blood glucose.” According to the study, a clinically significant change in A1C occurred whether patients began the trial with a high or low A1C.

WellDoc is set to release the WellDoc DiabetesManager commercially this fall, which received FDA clearance one year ago. They announced integration with Allscripts EHR last December and a partnership with AT&T last fall. Back in 2009, WellDoc published the results of a three month study using their Virtual Coach monitoring software that had a 2% reduction in A1C compared to a control group.

Read the full press release after the jump. Keep reading>>

Highmark to sunset Health@Hand, relaunch app

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 28, 2011        

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Highmark BCBS Health At HandHealth insurer Highmark plans to launch a new mobile app for its members early next year, Lisa Fitting, Director of Digital Client Engagement at Highmark told attendees this morning at the World Congress Leadership Summit on mHealth in Boston. Highmark partnered up with A.D.A.M. last year to build a pilot app called Health@Hand based on A.D.A.M.’s Medzio app.

Health@Hand was similar to Medzio but also included customized information for Highmark members that enabled them to find healthcare services and physicians available within their plan. Users could search for providers within a certain radius of their current location using their phone’s GPS and subsequently get a map and directions to the provider via the app. Like Medzio, the app also included a symptom navigator and other health information resources.

Fitting said the new app will have additional core functionalities, including an “authenticated” section which will include personalized information about the user. Part of the offering will include a “digital ID card” and a more advanced provider search built into the app.

Fitting said Highmark is planning to sunset its pilot app, Health@Hand in anticipation of the launch of its new app.

Fitting said that Health@Hand had a number of shortcomings, including user interaction design, no feedback mechanism, and an unclear branding strategy.

The new app from Highmark will include a way for users to shop for insurance, Fitting said. The health plan aims to generate revenue from the app.

Following the launch of the new app during the first quarter of 2012, Fitting said that Highmark plans to develop other complementary apps over the course of the year.

Humana: Bike tracking and talking teddy bears

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 28, 2011        

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Raja Rajamannar, HumanaDuring the opening keynote at the The World Congress 3rd Annual Leadership Summit on mHealth, Raja Rajamannar, SVP and Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer at Humana, spoke about Humana’s consumer-focused approach to well-being, which aims to use gamification to “make healthy things fun and fun things healthy.” Humana wants to enable consumers in six dimensions: activity, nutrition, connection, timely access, convenience, and compliance.

“I came into this industry with no baggage,” Rajamannar said during the beginning of his keynote. “I have a consumer background. Lots of things that are good for you are boring and painful; lots of things [that are] bad for you give immediate gratification. What tools do we have to change this?”

Rajamannar then discussed a number of mobile-focused programs that the company is now involved in.

One of the highlights included a concept for a bicycle that measures the rider’s weight, pulse, oximeter, and other biometrics, calculating the effort the rider is making on the bike based on their biometric data. Humana is working with bike maker Trek on the project. Keep reading>>

Mobile to help create high-definition health system

By: Neil Versel | Jul 28, 2011        

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Brigitte PiniewskiDr. Brigitte Piniewski is convinced that mobile and wireless technologies can bring the kinds of improvements in population health that policymakers can only dream of. “I really think that’s where the vision is at,” she says.

Two weeks ago at the eighth annual Healthcare Unbound conference in San Diego, Piniewski said that the biggest trend she’s seeing in mobile and wireless health is connectivity. Now, in an interview with MobiHealthNews, the Portland, Ore.-based chief medical officer of PeaceHealth Laboratories discusses why m-health and crowdsourcing of data can be the gateway to what Europeans often call “high-definition living,” where people keep tabs on their own health, not just rely on healthcare professionals to detect illness.

“Normal doesn’t really mean optimal,” says Piniewski, who has wide latitude to experiment with technologies, so she makes it clear she is not speaking for the PeaceHealth provider network in the Pacific Northwest when she muses about mobile and wireless healthcare.

“We don’t really have a good measure of health. We can measure illness,” Piniewski says. She believes that 60 percent to 80 percent of common health outcomes are more related to lifestyle than genetic predisposition. That’s where mobility comes in.

Today, we have a “low-definition health system,” according to Piniewski. Take breast cancer. “We used to think it fell out of the sky and hit us,” she says. “But now we know [much of it] is lifestyle-driven.”

Lots of people wear pink ribbons and raise money in the fight against breast cancer, but those efforts only advance science marginally. In the future, people might be cognizant of “health experiences” such as how much activity they need to generate by their 10th, 15th or 20th birthday to marginalize the lifestyle contribution to the disease. “We all have accelerometers and put information into community data commons,” Piniewski envisions. “It allows communities to not go blindly into the future.”

Lest the notion of community data commons conjure up images of Big Brother monitoring every move, Piniewski says that repositories of de-identified can be part of existing social and work groups, such as schools, churches and employees. And the data should be simple and benign. Think physical activity, not HIV status. Keep reading>>

Why healthcare needs Silicon Valley

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 28, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsLast week my colleague Neil Versel, MobiHealthNews’ Contributing Editor, penned a provocative article called, “Silicon Valley often misses the point of healthcare.” Neil hit a nerve. While the discussion that followed from Neil’s article was constructive, I think Neil drew the wrong conclusions from his core argument. Yes, Silicon Valley often misses the point or ignores the core issues facing the healthcare system, but that’s a good thing.

While I planned to write an immediate rebuttal to Neil’s column, MobiHealthNews readers weighed in with supportive commentaries and excellent counterpoints. I included some snippets below along with my commentary in parentheses.

ANDY: Silicon Valley has been way to focused on “cool”. Cool doesn’t fly with 80-year-olds with five co-morbidities, where most of our healthcare dollars are being spent. (First off, I know some 80-year-olds who like cool gadgets, but that’s beside the point. As another commenter, KEVIN wrote, “healthcare is so fractured that solving ‘the problem’ is too simplistic.” There’s room for a lot of problem solving. Making personal health and wellness tracking “cool” could be a huge.)

MARK: Unless we can bend the trend, today’s cool are 15 to 20 years away from swamping the system. somebody needs to focus on changing the culture of personal responsibility and ownership of health. Silicon Valley can do that. (Mark sees the big picture.)

DONNA: A good point, but you have to deal with today’s reality and today’s users as well–or else you won’t be in the position to fix the “cool folk.” (There’s no one entity fixing all of healthcare’s problems. Most health-focused Silicon Valley types might be working on changing cultural norms around fitness, while others with more healthcare experience can focus on fixing the immediate issues facing the system. There’s absolutely no reason to wait to make fitness “cool” for the masses, if that’s possible.)

CHRIS: Much of the cost of healthcare comes from unhealthy lifestyles developed at a young age. If young innovators can create solutions to the problem of people making unhealthy lifestyle choices, we’ll save a lot more money — and people will be a lot healthier — than if we only innovate at the treatment end. (Right on, Chris.)

GEOFF: The healthcare market will do well to accept all comers who want to tackle this massive challenge. Yes, we’ll get some carpetbaggers, yes, we will get some horrible failures, but we’re talking about the most important market in the world. We’re competing for talent with every startup, every incubator, and every wild-eyed idea out there — not just in Silicon Valley, but in every city and state in the US — from Boulder to Boston. (You would have to be pretty arrogant to believe you can change the healthcare industry. Given the many issues facing the system, should healthcare insiders really be turning those people away? We can’t expect change to happen accidentally.)

The most helpful comment came from Jim:

JIM: Neil, thanks for a historically correct and sober perspective about how hype cycles and technology can seduce the well intentioned developer. Go easy on them, they are where innovation comes from and healthcare needs it. Conversely, go hard on them for not seeking experienced council from history and people who have actually been involved in patient care and have seen a market cycle or two. Keep pushing the mantra “easy-to-use technologies that simplify the lives of the old and sick,” adding, “…and the lives of those who care for them.” Keep hoping for products that help both the sick and well to get more connected with their health — we can’t depend on someone else doing it for us, which is what most of “old healthcare” is predicated on. Fight the good fight.