ACA presents golden opportunity for wireless, mobile health

By: Neil Versel | Jul 5, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeThe Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act certainly was stunning. Who really expected Chief Justice John Roberts to side with the liberal wing of the court? How many people thought that the reasoning would be that the individual mandate was a legal exercise of Congress’ power to levy taxes?

Similarly, the decision was polarizing. Plenty of President Obama’s supporters narrow-mindedly thought that the ruling assures that millions of currently uninsured Americans would now be guaranteed access to good healthcare. A lot of wacko detractors claimed that the Supreme Court killed freedom and set the United States upon a path to fulfill Comrade Obama’s supposed desire to turn this nation into the Soviet Union.

Neither, of course, is true. The best insurance coverage in the world doesn’t assure quality care, and the insurance expansion really is just throwing more money at a broken system. By the same token, the ACA leaves the long-established private insurance system in place for Americans of working age. This isn’t a government takeover, nor is it a silver bullet.

But it is a starting point for reform and a plea for disruptive innovation. You wouldn’t know that if you only paid attention to the national media, which have been fixated on insurance coverage, not care improvement and efficiency gains. But since you’re reading MobiHealthNews, you do know that healthcare is a lot more than just insurance. You know that the Affordable Care Act, certainly a flawed piece of legislation, contains real elements of care reform, not just insurance reform.

The ACA created the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within CMS and appropriated $10 billion to this innovation center. More importantly, this provision gives CMS the authority to ramp up pilot programs that prove successful at saving money or producing better patient outcomes. In the past, CMS would have to go back to Congress to expand successful “demonstrations,” a process that could take years. This should be great news for the many m-health innovators who have come up with low-cost, easy-to-implement ways to improve healthcare.

Likewise, mobile health will have an important role to play in Accountable Care Organizations, another key aspect of the ACA that is hard to explain to the masses in a catchy soundbite. The shift to bundled payments that ACOs herald, coupled with Medicare’s new policy of not reimbursing for certain preventable hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge, puts the onus on providers to coordinate care and manage patients outside traditional settings.

That sounds like a golden opportunity for wireless monitoring and patient-provider communications. So get to work. Real health reform is just starting, and mobile technologies are well-positioned to shake the establishment that has stood in the way of improvements for far too long.


Verizon Wireless, Samsung tout mobile health apps, devices

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 3, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsIn recent weeks three of the biggest technology companies have unveiled tablets to take on Apple’s iPad. Microsoft showed off Surface, which my colleague Neil Versel noted has some potential for healthcare. Google revealed the Nexus 7 at an event that included what might have been the first technology keynote to feature skydivers giving a live demo of a new device.

This week Samsung unveiled its Android-powered Galaxy S III and as part of the launch the South Korean company showed off an app it created, called S Health, that aggregates data from connected certain weight scales, blood pressure monitors and blood glucose meters. The Android app syncs with devices from Lifescan, Omron, and A&D.

The app is now available for Galaxy S III users in the UK. According to Engadget, the app will launch in the US soon along with a handful of other as yet unnamed European countries.

The S Health app will receive data from Lifescan’s OneTouch UltraMini/UltraEasy Blood Glucose Meter via a USB connection. It will also receive data from one of Omron’s blood pressure monitors and one of its body composition scales via Bluetooth. Similar devices from A&D: a Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitor and body composition scale from that company are also supported.

The app collects the health data and creates graphs and tables based on the results to “provide a full picture of health information in a digestible, easy-to-understand format,” according to the company. The app also enables users to manually enter data for diet, exercise, medication intake and other health-related information. S Health also makes it easy for users to share their health data with friends on Twitter.

As Glooko has learned, such an app can launch in the US as a Class 1 FDA registered devices under MDDS if it does not interpret the data that is streamed in from an FDA-regulated medical device. The charts and graphs that Samsung refers to in its press release may only refer to the app that will launch in Europe and other countries. For this reason Glooko’s newest app will have slightly more functionality in Europe than it will in US, as we reported last week, for the time being, anyway.

Currently, Apple iPhone and iPad users can connect Lifescan blood glucose meters to their phones via Glooko’s meter synch cable. A&D has an iOS app that can sync data from its blood pressure monitors via Bluetooth. The company also has an app powered by Wahoo Fitness that enables users to sync data from A&D activity monitors, weight scales, and BP monitors.

While Samsung’s S Health app doesn’t appear to be all that innovative, it is remarkable that the company decided to tout a health app as part of its new tablet’s launch announcement. Apple has done this at almost every one of its device launch events, but few other big hardware companies commit much marketing muscle to mobile health apps or peripherals.

In recent days, Verizon Wireless actually began airing a TV advertisement that shows off at least three key connected fitness apps and devices, including apps from DailyBurn, FitSync, and Withings’ WiFi weight scale.

The smartphone that the (somewhat) athletic father in the advertisement is using to show off his connected fitness regimen? A Samsung Galaxy S3. Watch the adspot here.

Survey: Consumer interest in app-enabled fitness sensors

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 3, 2012        

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Nike+ Fuel BandBased on a survey conducted by IMS Research, if you are a smartphone owner who exercises at least once a week and is interested in sports and fitness apps, chances are you are also willing to buy some kind of fitness sensor that connects to an app on your phone. IMS interviewed some 400 consumers in the United Kingdom and the US for its survey. About 62.3 percent of the group that fits the description above said they were prepared to buy such a sports sensor.

About 36 percent of those surveyed who had a sports or fitness app already said that the battery life of their device was an issue.

“Almost 80 percent of respondents indicated they would only be prepared to pay less than [$3.20] for their sports and fitness application, highlighting these monetization difficulties,” Lisa Arrowsmith, senior analyst with IMS Research, said in a written statement. “Fortunately for the sports and fitness industry there is the opportunity to provide accessories (such as pedometers or heart rate sensors) to enhance the functionality of the sports and fitness app, and provide further revenue generation to counter any potential reduction through declining interest in standalone monitors.”

According to IMS Research’s survey, approximately 82 percent of that active, smartphone-toting group of respondents indicated that they would pay up to $140 for a complementary sensor for a fitness app.

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

PatientKeeper raises $6.5 million to equip doctors with mobile-enabled CPOE

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 3, 2012        

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PatientKeeper CEO Paul BrientWaltham, Massachusetts-based PatientKeeper raised $6.25 million in funding last month to expand its portfolio of physician-centered healthcare information systems (HIS) and build out its operations. The funds came from existing investors Flybridge Capital Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Whitney & Co. and others.

PatientKeeper was one of the first HIS software providers to embrace a mobile-centric user experience for its wares.

The company’s offerings include computerized physician order entry (CPOE), medication reconciliation, and electronic physician documentation. The company also helps practices transition to the ICD-10 diagnosis coding system. PatientKeeper counts more than 75 hospitals across the US as users of its CPOE product, which launched two years ago. According to the company, some 50,000 physicians in North America and the UK use at least one PatientKeeper app. The company’s user base has grown by 79 percent in the past 18 months.

“This funding provides capital to support our growth as we continue to expand our product offerings and our customer base,” Paul Brient, President and CEO of PatientKeeper said in a written statement. “We have built an entirely new approach for physicians to enter orders and take care of patients, which is being embraced by physicians across the country.”

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Nike unleashes its marketing machine for fitness challenges

By: Neil Versel | Jul 2, 2012        

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Nike+ Lunar HyperworkoutThe Nike+ fitness tracking system, likely the largest connected fitness network in the world, is going built-in and social. And, according to the sneaker giant, it’s “Game On, World.”

For the first time, Nike is embedding its fitness-tracking sensor into the insoles of its athletic shoes, starting with the Hyperdunk+ basketball shoe, the Lunar Hyperworkout+ trainer for women and LunarTR1+ trainer for men. This news comes to us via Engadget, which reports that the sensor-enhanced Hyperdunk+ can even measure the wearer’s elevation on a dunk.

Like the established standalone Nike+ sensor, these new kicks wirelessly transmit workout data to certain Apple iOS devices or to PCs. The iPhone 4S and most recent iPod nano models have the receiver built in; older iPhones, iPod Touches and iPod nanos need a $20 adaptor.

With the introduction of the sneakers, Nike also is jumping on the fitness challenge bandwagon by launching a program called “Game On, World.” A series of commercials from the Beaverton, Ore.-based powerhouse ladles on the hyperbole by declaring: “It’s time to forget everything you thought you knew about training because Nike+ Fitness is changing the game by making it a game.”

Being able to challenge friends to meet fitness goals obviously not a new concept, but nobody else in this emerging but still-small niche – at least compared to the $2.7 trillion the U.S. spent on healthcare in 2011 – has the marketing muscle of a fitness brand that does $24 billion in annual sales worldwide. Brand cachet doesn’t always work in health; Google Health is Exhibit A. But Nike+ has been around since 2006, so the shoe company apparently has found a market.

At least one influential name in mobile health sees potential for Nike+ beyond just fitness for those of us not able to dunk a basketball. “I am confident we can use the Nike+ technology for monitoring people with chronic diseases,” iPhone ECG creator Dr. Dave Albert tweeted Monday morning.

Many wireless implantable defibrillators not quite ready for cellular service

By: Neil Versel | Jul 2, 2012        

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merlin_at_homeThe fact that more than 30 percent of American households no longer have landlines might have some unintended consequences in healthcare.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, implanted defibrillators may be wireless devices, but the in-home base stations the heart monitors transmit data to still need landlines to relay information to the device makers. The manufacturers, notably Medtronic and St. Jude Medical, make readings available to doctors via company-run portals.

Perhaps more importantly, some leading-edge cardiologists like the University of Southern California’s Dr. Leslie Saxon are actually monitoring the safety of implanted defibrillators. This can’t happen today without the vital telephone connection.

According to the Journal, only 60 percent of Dr. Westby Fisher’s defibrillator patients plug in the base stations the NorthShore University HealthSystem (Evanston, Ill.) cardiac electrophysiologist sends home with them. “The technology has not evolved to being able to use someone’s cell phone,” Fisher laments.

While there are cellular options for some cardiac monitoring base stations, the Journal says there is no additional cost for landline-based transmitters to access phone lines. Cellular adaptors, on the other hand, need wireless service, an expense that may get passed on to patients.

Cellular-enabled technology for heart monitors isn’t fully developed, either. Boston Scientific reportedly is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval for a fully mobile implantable monitor, and the FDA has rejected a standalone device developed by CardioMEMS. (St. Jude Medical holds a minority stake in CardioMEMS, plus an option to acquire the rest of the company.)

Other issues are holding back the move to fully wireless implantables, too. Device makers must team up with cellular carriers for service, something the medical device industry historically has not had to do to collect lucrative monitoring data. After all, that’s where the money is.

“What we’re doing now is recognizing that we’re putting computers into patients’ bodies, and there is so much value in the data,” Elizabeth Hoff, general manager of cardiac connected care at Medtronic, tells the Journal. “Our strategy is to exploit the data,” she says.