On the road to a leadless, wireless pacemaker

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 14, 2011        

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This week Cambridge Consultants unveiled a semi-leadless pacemaker it designed for start-up EBR Systems. The device, called Wireless Cardiac Stimulation system (WiCS), includes a leadless electrode that paces the heart by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy wirelessly via an ultrasonic pulse generator. In its current iteration, however, the WiCS system requires the use of a standard pacemaker/defibrillator.

“The WiCS system represents a huge breakthrough in pacemaker technology, not only in how we treat chronic heart failure patients today, but in eliminating leads and enabling site selected pacing locations in the heart for a wide variety of cardiac pacing applications,” stated Allan Will, CEO of EBR Systems, in a press release. “Many of the complications and reliability failures of pacemaker systems are attributed to leads. By eliminating leads, we can address the problems which come with them, and advance cardiac pacing therapy for all patients.”

Cambridge Consultants WiCS

Standard CRT (Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy) pacemakers/defibrillators require the implantation of three leads into the heart in both the left and right ventricles. The WiCS system uses a small leadless electrode implanted within the left ventricle of the heart that works in conjuction with a standard pacemaker/defibrillator located in the right ventricle. The electrode senses the electrical pacing pulse of the pacemaker from the right ventricle, then “transmits an ultrasonic pulse to the implanted receiver, which converts the sonic energy into electrical energy to pace the left ventricle in synchronicity with the right.”

The company intends to develop the WiCS system to be completely leadless in the future. Cambridge Consultant claimed that early human clinical trials were successful. They conducted them in Europe.

In 2009, Cambridge Consultants showed off a wireless asthma inhaler prototype that could be programmed to remind users when to take their treatment and can then automatically record its use so caregivers could remotely monitor the patient’s compliance through an online portal. The device has yet to further developed commercially.

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Read the press release below.

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New iPhone health apps: AHA, Kickit, SmartClaim

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 10, 2011        

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This past week, Apple published more than 240 apps to the health and medical categories of its AppStore. By our count, 132 of those published to the consumer health & fitness category, and we found 112 apps in the medical category. While these numbers are high, it should come as no surprise that a significant amount of them are either not in English or not at all health related.

Still, MobiHealthNews found a handful of apps worth noting.

This week’s selection includes a couple of smoking cessation apps, an app from a major medical association, an electronic billing app, a toothbrush monitoring app for kids, and more.

We predict that iOS apps intended for use by medical professionals and medical students will exceed 5,000 by next summer, as discussed in our Professional Apps Report. The number of health-related consumer apps will cross 13,000 by next summer, according to MobiHealthNews’ Consumer Health Apps Report.

Check out our round-up of this week’s new health related apps below.

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The case for a mobile health insurance exchange

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 10, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsIt’s no secret that a lot of lobbying continues to shape how the details of the healthcare reform laws are executed. A recent column by Sarah Kliff in the Washington Post called my attention to one lobbyist group’s suggestions for health insurance exchanges. First, here’s the summary background for those out of the loop:

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has received thousands of comments on preliminary exchange regulations issued this year, which laid some ground rules for what the new marketplace would look like,” Klein writes. “Under the health overhaul, every state will have a new health insurance marketplace called an “exchange,” to launch in 2014. Often described as state-based “Expedias” for health insurance, the exchanges will serve as online hubs for individuals and small businesses to compare and purchase health insurance plans. Low- and middle-income Americans will also be able to use new tax subsidies on the exchange, meant to make health coverage more affordable.”

While I’m sure the expected stakeholders are fighting for enough elbow room to put their mark on it, a small lobbyist group called Young Invincibles, which advocates for the interests of young adults, is pushing the Obama Administration to ensure that these online health insurance exchange hubs are easily accessible via mobile devices.

“Young people are obviously much more uninsured than older people,” Jen Mishory, deputy director for Young Invincibles, told the Post. “They have less access to employer-sponsored insurance. It’s important that the exchanges meet them where they are, and that’s often with a smartphone.”

Young Invincibles lays out the entire case for a mobile-enabled health insurance exchange in a statement they published at the end of last week. Here are some excerpts I found interesting:

“Although the traditional online option will work for many Exchange participants, creative alternatives can help enroll low-income consumers, communities of color, and young people. They include:

• Designing A Smartphone Enrollment Application – States and the federal government should consider developing a smartphone application that allows for easy comparison of and enrollment in health plans sold through the Exchange. Some have suggested that having an application that allows for the full enrollment process is unworkable on a smart phone, but we strongly recommend that Exchanges explore the possibility further.

• Mobile Integration – Even if a smart phone application is not developed, functionality should be created for exchanges to interact with mobile devices through actionable alerts, enrollment status updates, customer support services, and uploading documentation. The UX2014 project has explored some of these ideas and suggests innovative uses.

• Mobile Outreach – Policymakers should integrate mobile devices into their outreach campaigns. For example, bus stop signs asking potential Exchange applicants to send basic contact information over text message. The Exchange could then follow up by phone and email. The text4baby campaign is one possible model that has provided health information to over 175,000 pre-natal moms.

• Social Networking – Young people and people of color are disproportionately active on social networking sites. Although people of color use government websites less frequently than whites, they are much more likely to value government outreach and distribution of information through social media. Sixty percent of blacks and 52 percent of Latinos think this is important compared to only 41 percent of whites. The data suggests that outreach over social media could be a key way to enroll young people of color in the Exchange.”

The Young Invincibles’ argument for a mobile health insurance exchange could easily be applied to most any health-related service.

Independa bucks iPad trend in search of patient engagement

By: Neil Versel | Nov 10, 2011        

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Kian Saneii BW HeadshotTablets, particularly Apple’s iconic iPad, are hot topics in healthcare right now. But that doesn’t mean that the iPad, or even the general idea of a touch-screen tablet, is right for everyone.

“All of it is on a tablet, but the key is, the tablet is optional,” Kian Saneii, CEO of San Diego-based Independa, says of his company’s signature product, called “Angela,” that helps manage the lives and care of elderly patients who choose to stay in their homes rather than move to assisted living or nursing homes. “You can use the telephone to do some pretty nifty, amazing things for that individual, very cost-effectively.”

That includes robo-calls for reminders of life and health events, such as “This is your 10 a.m. reminder for your 11 a.m. pick-up to go to the doctor.” Saneii says people love this, since they are getting reminder calls anyway, but it’s not nagging the way they might feel if the call came from their kids, or elderly see themselves as a burden. The idea is to combat the social isolation that comes from living alone, which can lead to depression and other health issues and to help caregivers keep tabs on senior patients from a distance.

But technology more advanced than the telephone can enhance the experience for everyone involved. “The tablet really gives us a rich environment to do that,” Saneii says.

Reminders come over the tablet, but the user can play games, stay in touch with friends and family via Facebook and take part in other Internet-enabled activities, even if they have limited computer skills. Tablets and similar touch-screen devices happen to be pretty simple to use, and are engaging. Keep reading>>

Scanadu scoops up $2M to build medical Tricorder

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 9, 2011        

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Scanadu AnalyzingScanadu, a San Francisco-based startup founded in January that aims to develop a handheld diagnostic device similar to the Star Trek Tricorder, has raised $2 million from a number of angel investors, including Playfish co-founder Sebastien De Halleux, according to TechCrunch. The company is in the process of hiring biomedical engineers, developers, and artificial intelligence specialists in addition to technology partners who can contribute telemedicine and diagnostic functions to the envisioned device.

Scanadu aims to create a “Tricorder” that “integrates health diagnostics into your smartphone with the goal of creating a non-contact and non-invasive diagnostic tool for consumers,” according the company’s website. In the longterm, “a fully-functioning Tricorder will help change user behavior which can in turn significantly impact the state of healthcare,” Scanadu states. “In the short term we plan to help parents move from anxiety to action about the health of their kids.”

The company points out that according to the Wellness Council for America some 70 percent of doctor’s visits are unnecessary.

Scanadu believes the time is ripe for this invention because of the ubiquity of smartphones, the advent of sophisticated AI systems like IBM’s Watson, low cost sensors, and new data streams (including those from Quantified Self services, data.gov, and EHRs).

In addition to the seed round of funding, Scanadu has assembled an impressive cadre of advisors and partners including Singularity University’s Dr. Daniel Kraft, Current Health’s Dr. Jordan Shlain, HealthLoop’s Dr. Benjamin Rosner, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Brett Mensh, and more. The startup recently moved into NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

Over the past year we have mentioned the X Prize Foundation’s plans to launch a new X Prize to incentive the invention of a medical Tricorder. Scanadu has been working with the foundation and plans to be the first entrant in the prize competition should it launch as planned sometime early next year. Scanadu’s website says that could be as soon as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 in Vegas. (I was a member of the X Prize Foundation’s “visioneering” team for the Tricorder X Prize).

Scanadu aims to develop the Tricorder in the next three to five years and according to a comment the company’s founder left on TechCrunch yesterday, he expects the device to be ubiquitous within 10 years. That said, the device has a number of barriers to over come first. Scanadu lists four of them, which include non-invasive (no needles, blood, or biopsies), non-sampling (no urine, stool, or saliva), non-contact (cannot touch the patient), non-cooperative (patient must not be presumed to cooperate).

For more check out the TechCrunch article here

A smart condo for independent senior living

By: Neil Versel | Nov 9, 2011        

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IBM Smart Condo Independent Senior LivingA Canadian university is building a “smart condo” outfitted with sensors and sophisticated monitoring software to research how wireless devices can promote independent living for the elderly.

Following a successful test at a rehab facility, the Edmonton-based University of Alberta is building a permanent smart condo at the school’s new Edmonton Clinic Health Academy. The system relies on three types of sensors and IBM WebSphere Sensor Events software to produce a virtual re-creation of activities within the apartment, visualizing each patient as an avatar. This eliminates the need for intrusive video monitoring.

“The avatar is simulating the activities about the person,” Eleni Stroulia, the University of Alberta’s research chair for service systems management, tells MobiHealthNews.

The smart condo, which already underwent a three-month test at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton through the end of October, contains three different types of sensors. There are sensors embedded in the fixtures and furniture, to measure such things as when someone sat on the couch, got out of bed or opened kitchen cabinets. Other devices monitor environmental conditions such as lighting and temperature, while the third group measures patient health, including blood pressure, heart rate, weight and even whether individuals took their medications as prescribed.

For medication adherence, each patient is assigned an electronic pill dispenser that produces reminders when it’s time to take meds. The user pushes a button to open slots with the preloaded proper dosage, and the system records this event. Keep reading>>