Three new trends for consumer health apps

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 24, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsOf the more than 13,600 consumer heath apps we analyzed in April, the vast majority fit snugly into one of our 12 main subcategories, which include cardio fitness, dieting, stress relief, chronic condition management, and medication adherence. Since we began tracking consumer health apps in early 2010 we have noticed a handful of emerging categories of apps that are only now becoming large enough that one might consider them a trend.

Here’s a list of three mini-trends that didn’t make it into our consumer health apps report this year:

The first emerging group of consumer health apps focuses on seasonal allergy management. Many allergy-related app launched during the past 10 months, and in our most recent report we grouped them with the chronic condition management category. At least two allergy apps are rated among the most successful apps in that category, based on our analysis and categorization of Apple’s list of Top 1000 apps for its medical category and health & fitness category of app in its AppStore. The top ranked allergy app, according to Apple, is pharmaceutical company Meda Pharmaceuticals’ app Allergy Advisor. The free app launched in late January 2012 and ranked as the 95th top app in Apple’s Medical category when we completed our analysis of the AppStore’s health offerings. The other allergy-focused app to make an appearance on the list was STARx Technical’s iPollenCount, a $1.99 app that launched in March.

Another new and emerging group of apps are those branded by individual care providers – the doctor’s office app. While this group has had a few members since the very beginning, we noticed a huge uptick in apps that were branded for particular medical and dentist practices. These app had a variety of features and services, but all of them included contact information and general reference about services provided by the practice. Many also included appointment booking through the app. Even fewer included a messaging component that enabled users to exchange messages with the practice that the app represented. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these apps had nearly identical descriptions save for the name of the practice. These “custom” apps represent a small but growing threat to appointment booking apps like iTriage and ZocDoc. However, as those companies are likely offering, why shouldn’t practices do both?

A third and final mini-trend that we noticed during our apps analysis was a rise in the number of physical therapy apps. We counted almost three dozen PT app launches over the past year, which made for a noticeable new contingent. The PT apps often focused on one specific issue, like how to help your shoulder rebuild and heal after surgery. PT apps could be a very effective way to help patients remember to practice their PT exercises at home. These will likely be among the first crop of apps that are “prescribed” by healthcare practitioners.

Given the rise of these new categories of apps, our next consumer report will include additional and new categories to capture the changing dynamics of the AppStore.

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Azumio acquires SkyHealth; aims to launch new fitness platform

By: Neil Versel | Jul 23, 2012        

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Glucose BuddyAzumio, maker of the Instant Heart Rate smartphone app and other mobile biofeedback technologies, said Friday that it has acquired mobile health and fitness app developer SkyHealth.

With the purchase, a transfer of an unspecified amount of cash and equity, privately held Azumio, based in Palo Alto, Calif., now owns Glucose Buddy, which the company says is the world’s most downloaded app for diabetes care, and Fitness Buddy, the top-selling paid health/fitness app on iTunes. Azumio also picks up SkyHealth CEO Tom Xu, who will serve as a partner and head of product development for the acquiring company.

“The future of bringing mobile health applications to a wider audience is here, and starts by creating a single source for the best mobile health and fitness solutions,” Xu says in a press release. “Now, with Azumio, we have the resources and experience to create a mobile health and fitness platform that will impact hundreds of millions of consumers.”

Azumio now claims more than 25 million downloads of its products, which also include the Instant Heart Rate, Stress Check, Stress Doctor and Sleep Time apps. “Both Azumio’s and SkyHealth’s mobile apps have seen massive adoption because we have been among the first to provide a simple solution to live a more healthy lifestyle, directly from your smartphone,” Azumio CEO Bojan Bostjancic says in the same company statement.

“Smartphones are playing an increasingly important role in helping people improve their health and wellness, but success pivots around ease of access to new solutions — mass adoption will only result from building apps that catalyze motivation and increase user commitment to their health and fitness goals,” Bostjancic adds.

Azumio’s own apps are available for Apple iOS and Android. The former SkyHealth primarily focused on Apple, but Glucose Buddy became available for Android a little more than a month ago. In May, the Glucose Buddy user base surpassed 10 million logs.

WellFX secures investment from CMT Ventures

By: Neil Versel | Jul 23, 2012        

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Female Doctor with Tablet

WellFX, creator of an online and mobile social platform for healthcare providers and patients to manage chronic diseases, says it has received a reported $5 million investment from private investment company CMT Ventures. The Series A financing will allow Petaluma, Calif.-based WellFX to, among other things, complete two pilot tests of its technology, put the platform in general release and develop mobile apps.

The company would not comment on the size of the investment other than to say it was a seven-figure deal, but Xconomy pegged the funding at $5 million.

Indeed, mobile is at the heart of the company’s strategy. CEO Jock Putney notes that physicians see patients with chronic conditions perhaps every three months at best. But by offering services wherever people may be, doctors can better engage patients in their care. “You can spend 30 minutes in the morning doing ’rounds’,” Putney says.

“The mobile part is absolutely critical,” he adds. It lends immediacy, so people don’t have to wait until they get to computer to take action. It also facilitates what Putney calls “electronic onboarding” to allow providers to deploy patient self-management programs faster.

The private, secure, cloud-based WellFX platform goes beyond physician social media communities by drawing in patients, according to Putney. “Providers kept saying all of this technology is great, but there’s nothing really for the patients,” Putney says. “Patients who communicate with each other have better health outcomes,” and they’re more likely to be active in their own healthcare. Keep reading>>

Future LUMOback posture devices to seek FDA clearance

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 19, 2012        

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gh98g98fewIn recent weeks LUMOback, the startup developing a wearable sensor and companion app that help users become more aware of their posture, raised more than $100,000 on crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. As we noted in a previous post, LUMOback managed to raise funds on the site even though it has rejected many other health and wellness-related projects in recent months. More recently Shiv Gaglani at Medgadget interviewed LUMOback co-founder Monisha Perkash who revealed some of the company’s future plans and strategy.

Perkash told Medgadget that LUMOback decided to “kickstart” its device to raise funds to pay for the production of its first run of devices. As we reported in April, LUMOback has already received more than $1 million in funding this year so the crowdfunding move is perhaps somewhat surprising. Still, the company now has more than 1,000 backers who have already paid up for their sensor, so the move was a smart one.

Most interesting of all was Perkash’s take on the device’s regulatory situation: Since the FDA specifically wrote that posture devices fall outside of the its regulatory purview in its mobile medical apps draft guidance last year, she said the initial device will not be submitted for FDA clearance. However, LUMOback does plan to develop and market devices that would require FDA clearance and a CE Mark in the future.

The investors that backed LUMOback’s initial round of funding included Innovation Endeavors, Morado Venture Partners and Russell Siegelman –a former partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers

Be sure to read the Medgadget interview here.

Aprima debuts iPhone, Android versions of its ambulatory EHR

By: Neil Versel | Jul 18, 2012        

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Aprima allows users to access patient data

Aprima Medical Software is the latest electronic health records (EHR) vendor to go mobile. The Carrolton, Texas-based company once known as iMedica this week unveiled Aprima Mobile, an iOS and Android app that provides smartphone access to Aprima’s core ambulatory system.

“It’s suitable for use on an iPad, though it’s not optimized,” Mark Richards, Aprima senior vice president of sales and marketing, tells MobiHealthNews. The same thing is true for Android tablets. He said than an iPad-optimized version is in the works.

The app, actually released July 10 in the Apple App Store and July 13 on Google Play, offers both EHR and practice management functionality, as Aprima sells an integrated system built on a single database. It pulls live data from existing users’ databases, regardless of whether the practice has an in-house client-server setup or the cloud-based, software-as-a-service version of the desktop system.

“It’s primarily for the EHR,” Richards says. An optional revenue-cycle management module for the desktop system is “at at its purest, an outsourcing service,” according to Richards, something physicians likely would not need at the point of care. “It’s not intended for them to run all of their financial reports from the smartphone,” Richards explains about the app.

“From checking schedules to viewing patient records, and responding to messages, we’re helping physicians become more productive and responsive outside the walls of their practice, using their smartphones and the power of their Aprima software,” President and CEO Michael Nissenbaum says in a company statement. The app also supports secure clinical messaging.

Aprima Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Hyman, a primary care physician at University Physician Group in New York City, has been heavily involved in testing the app. “It seems I am always on the go, always dealing with some issue revolving around a patient, a lab or an office problem. The mobility of the Aprima app on my smartphone allows me to handle important issues quickly and efficiently and practice a higher quality of medicine,” he says in the statement.

While the app is a free download from the App Store and Google Play, access requires a subscription.

Aprima does not have a user count for the new app, but the company is holding its annual user conference in two weeks. “I expect we’ll see a lot of uptake there,” Richards says.

Mobile health pervades recent top healthcare rankings

By: Neil Versel | Jul 18, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeMobile health is showing up at the top of a lot of lists lately.

Ahead of next week’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil — better known as Rio+20 — Mashable columnist Zoe Fox has outlined five reasons why “mobile is the future of sustainable development.” No. 1 is disease response.

Fox highlighted one of many mHealth projects underway in sub-Saharan Africa, a Hewlett-Packard effort with Positive Innovation for the Next Generation and the Clinton Health Access Initiatives to track disease outbreaks in Kenya and Botswana. Thanks to text messaging, health workers now can report outbreaks of malaria to public-health authorities in about 3 minutes. The old, analog method could take weeks to get such information from isolated areas.

“Mobile phones in the health space feels like the Internet and ecommerce in 1994 and 1995,” HP global health director Paul Ellingstad tells Mashable. “Right now, we know it’s a connection point, since 5.7 billion people have access to a mobile phone. With that sort of pervasiveness, you can provide health information, education and prevention to millions at risk of death.”

No. 5 on the Mashable list is disaster response. The example cited is a new first-aid smartphone app from the American Red Cross, the first in a series of emergency preparedness apps the organization is developing. That means that two of the five reasons why mobile is the future of sustainable development can be classified as mHealth. Not bad.

Closer to home, wireless and connected health are identified as only two of the 10 “most promising areas to enhance patient care and reduce cost through the strategic use of health IT” on a Verizon Connected Healthcare list. But, they do capture the top two spots, and upon deeper inspection, hold an important presence throughout the list.

No. 1 is telemedicine, which Verizon says “removes the geographic barriers to quality care,” while mHealth takes the second spot because, according to the telecommunications company, it “takes flexibility to the next level in caring for patients.”

For that matter, third on the list is chronic disease management. Pretty much every reader of MobiHealthNews can think of several ways in which mHealth technologies are helping patients control their care and healthcare providers closer tabs on vulnerable populations. Or, as Verizon puts it, “chronic disease is e-manageable.”

It also could be argued that No. 4, wellness and preventive care, will increasingly rely on mobility, just as No. 8, electronic health records — the “building blocks,” according to Verizon — already are. In the seventh spot is cloud computing, which is the backbone of a lot of mHealth applications. That makes six out of 10 with some relation to mobile and wireless technologies. Not bad.

Still, this is an immature industry. As MobiHealthNews editor Brian Dolan recently told the Washington Post, “Currently, consumers are really on their own when it comes to finding high-quality, worthwhile apps, and it’s mostly trial and error,” says Dolan. The same could be said for a lot of healthcare professional apps, including some mobile versions of EHRs.

Be proud of the recognition, but don’t be satisfied.