PharmaSecure gets $3.9M from ex-Google CEO

By: Chris Gullo | Oct 24, 2011        

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PharmaSecurePharmaSecure announced this week a $3.9 million investment round led by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Other investors included Gray Ghost Ventures, Healthtech Capital and the TEEC Angel Fund. Healthtech Capital lead a $200,000 investment round for PharmaSecure in September.

In a post for MobiHealthNews in May, Healthtech founder Don Ross singled out Eric Schmidt when writing about health tech as the next big VC opportunity, writing that “at the recent J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco… panelists included Eric Schmidt, Google’s then-CEO, and other technologists not typically associated with health care.”

PharmaSecure uses SMS to verify a prescription drug’s authenticity, using a unique code and phone number printed on a pill bottle’s label. One of the startup’s competitors is Sproxil, which partnered with GlaxoSmithKline in May.

The funds will be used to create new applications in response to a mandate from India’s government that all exported drugs have unique barcodes and serial numbers by July 2012. According to the company, 65 million pharmaceutical packages have been printed in India since the company started operations there in 2009, with 1.5 billion packages expected to be exported over the next year.

Innovation Endeavors’ Dror Berman stated in a press release that “we’ve invested in PharmaSecure because they are executing a game-changing approach to combating counterfeit drugs that holds huge potential for improving the safety and security of pharmaceutical products throughout the world.”

“India is leading the way in the global fight against counterfeit drugs. We are proud to have had a hand in creating applications like SMS authentication that put the power of protection against dangerous medicine literally in people’s hands,” stated PharmaSecure co-founder and CEO Nathan Sigworth in a press release. “We are investing in more applications that can ride on the mandated serialization to increase the reach and distribution of our clients’ products and better health for their consumers. With the tradition of innovation that comes with this investment we expect the regulatory requirements to provide a creative opportunity for us and our clients.”

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GPS shoe for seniors to launch in US this year

By: Chris Gullo | Oct 24, 2011        

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gps_shoe_by_gtx_corpPersonal location services device manufacturer GTX announced that its GPS-enabled shoes, developed for tracking seniors with Alzheimers, will be released later this month in the US. Aetrex Worldwide will sell the shoes, which will retail for $299.

The GPS-enabled shoe received FCC clearance in September. The tracking service will be powered by GTX’s partners Omnilink and the MedicAlert Foundation. Omnilink will offer customer service and the online store that supports sales. MedicAlert will facilitate the 24/7 location-based emergency service that powers the shoes. Caretakers using the system can download an app and be alerted when a senior leaves a designated ‘geo-fenced’ area.Omnilink also powers the Alzheimer Assocation’s Comfort Zone check-in service, which uses Sprint mobile phones to track patients.

Other companies that offer tracking services for people who wander include Lojack and Adiant Solutions. AT&T and its partners have also been developing shoes that aim to prevent falls, the wearables are called “smart slippers.”

“As the GPS Shoe transitions from vision to reality and we approach the launch we are excited and honored to align ourselves with these exceptional companies,” stated Patrick Bertagna, GTX Corp Chairman and CEO in a press release.

“Omnilink has had the privilege of building unique solutions for helping ensure the safety and security of individual’s with Alzheimer’s,” stated Kelly Gay, Omnilink’s President and CEO, in a press release. “We are very excited to now have the GPS shoe available as one of the first human-wearable, location-monitoring device options for this market.”

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Add health to games or games to health?

By: Chris Gullo | Oct 20, 2011        

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Fruit NinjaThis morning at the Connected Health Symposium, a stirring panel discussion, entitled “Game Mechanics & Psychology: Designing Health & Wellness,” was a highlight. The panel featured Catherine Frederico, a registered dietician and adjunct professor at Regis College, and Ben Sawyer, co-founder of the Games for Health Project.

Audience member, Sonny Vu, former chairman of Agamatrix, challenged the panel with what was perhaps the most provocative question of the hour: “Why not just collaborate with a popular non-healthcare game, like Fruit Ninja?” On Twitter, Vu followed up: “My question is why gamify healthcare? Why not healthify blockbuster games [with] tons of players already?”

It’s not a bad argument. Go to where the users are already rather than start at square one.

Sawyer, however, believes health-centered games do have their place, and they should leverage the knowledge of mainstream game creators: “What we’ve learned above all else is to engage experts in the game development field,” Sawyer said. “Building a game is like writing music or making a movie… you need experience.”

Frederico is also bullish about health-focused games: “What motivates people? What surpises them? It’s taking those elements and creating a health game around them,” Frederico told the audience. Frederico encouraged attendees not to be afraid of technology, to understand that gaming is becoming more mobile, and that health and fitness sensors will soon be pervasive in this field.

“I’ve been around [in healthcare] long enough to know things aren’t exactly working,” she said. “We should explore gaming as a possible solution.”
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Siri: iPhone’s new personal health assistant?

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 20, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWhen Apple announced its newest iPhone, the 4S, its most notable new feature was Siri, a voice-enabled virtual assistant. Apple acquired the company that created Siri in April 2010, just a few months after the startup’s app went live in the AppStore. Apple further refined Siri through a partnership with Nuance, a speech recognition company that should be familiar to those in healthcare. Dictation, transcription, and — more recently — speech recognition services, have long been staples of the practice of medicine.

Based on our own in-house testing here at MobiHealthNews, Siri in its current form could be helpful to both patients and healthcare providers alike. After asking Siri a number of questions, we were surprised how she answered some and that she was able to answer others.

We are not alone in thinking that Siri could be helpful to the health-conscious. The promo video that Apple put together for its new personal assistant begins with a runner using Siri to check his messages while mid-stride. The video ends with a visually impaired user who is able to use Siri via voice commands alone to send and receive messages.

Siri’s current functionality is limited to a handful of apps:

“Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more,” Apple writes on its corporate site. “Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.”

The limited menu that Siri accommodates today reminds me of the limited native apps that Apple launched with its first iPhone. At the time there was no AppStore. No third party native apps. The new smartphone offered just a hint of what was to come.

Prediction: Siri will come out of “beta” once Apple is ready to share its API with developers. I think this will happen within a year’s time. Voice-enabled commands for health apps could make them easy enough for almost anyone to use.

In the mean time, be sure to check out how Siri responded to the half dozen questions and commands MobiHealthNews sent its way. We think there may be a few health apps and mobile health services that might be in trouble if Siri catches on. Reminders for medication? Check. Directions to the closest emergency room? Check.

Read on for a number of health-related questions our assistant editor Chris Gullo asked of Siri. Who knew she could look up billing codes for medical procedures?

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California law, Mercy investment bode well for telehealth

By: Neil Versel | Oct 20, 2011        

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Neil VerselTelehealth is on a roll this month.

Last Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that makes it much easier for patients to access telehealth services and for practitioners to deliver care remotely. The Telehealth Advancement Act, which takes effect Jan. 1, broadens the state’s definition of telehealth providers to include all licensed healthcare professionals and removes the rule that physicians be independently credentialed by every hospital they provide telehealth services to, according to KION-TV, Salinas, Calif.

The law also does away with a requirement that physicians provide the state with documentation that there is a barrier to a patient making an in-person doctor visit and that each patient provide an extra consent form for telemedicine services.

“This new act enables healthcare providers to take better advantage of telehealth technology for preventative and specialized care that will save and enhance the lives of many Californians,” Christine Martin, executive director of the California Telemedicine and eHealth Center, says in a press release.

Perhaps the most impressive part is the fact that the legislation was bipartisan, championed by Republican Assembly Member Dan Logue and signed by a Democratic governor after passing without opposition. That speaks to the potential of remote care.

Purely by coincidence, telehealth, wireless and mobile health got another shot in the arm in California and beyond, Gary and Mary West, benefactors of the West Wireless Health Institute near San Diego, announced a long-awaited healthcare investment fund. As MobiHealthNews reports this week, the Wests have committed $100 million to the West Health Investment Fund.

It wasn’t the only huge commitment of cash to remote healthcare technologies in October. Last week, the Mercy healthcare system unveiled plans to build a $90 million “virtual care center” near its Chesterfield, Mo., headquarters. The center will allow the Catholic healthcare organization to ramp up round-the-clock telehealth services to its 30 hospitals and more than 200 ambulatory care facilities across four states.

Plans are to expand what Mercy already calls the largest remote ICU in America and to bring telestroke services to all of its emergency departments. The health system has other telehealth services planned, including teleradiology, telepathology, specialist support for primary care, nurses on call via phone or email and, yes, remote disease management. The latter will incorporate various home-based monitoring devices that will automatically connect to an electronic health record.

By the way, Mercy says it will put an additional $590 million into technology to support the telehealth center.

But there’s still one key barrier to wider deployment of interstate telehealth services. Many states won’t allow remote physicians to deliver services within their boundaries unless the practitioner is licensed in the state where the patient is located. Well, the American Telemedicine Association wants to change that. The organization has launched a petition drive at www.fixlicensure.org to convince Congress and state medical boards to allow license portability for telehealth services. (One tip to the ATA, there hasn’t been a “Veterans Administration” since 1989. It’s a common mistake, but it doesn’t make you look good.)

With the amount of momentum that telehealth has picked up in the last couple of weeks, now is as good a time as any to get to work on changing these archaic restrictions.

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App to help physicians screen for domestic abuse

By: Neil Versel | Oct 20, 2011        

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Abuse Screening AppA Florida domestic violence shelter and treatment facility has created what it calls the first smartphone app to screen patients for symptoms of abuse. The R3 App, which stands for “recognize, respond and refer,” will be available for free for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices in the coming weeks.

Created by Orlando-based Harbor House of Central Florida, the app incorporates the “HITS” process for screening, developed by Dr. Kevin Sherin in 1998, before he went on to become director of the Orange County, Fla., Health Department in Orlando. The process asks suspected victims of abuse how often in the previous 12 months their partners: physically hurt them; insulted them; threatened physical harm; and screamed or cursed at them.

Like the test itself, the app asks patients to assign a score of 1 to 5 regarding the frequency of occurrences. With the app, any score of at least 13 of a possible 20 points alerts a healthcare professional who can help and provides the screening physician with the address of nearby shelters for victims of domestic violence.

“We know that 85 percent of women who have been abused report that they want to tell their doctor, so if we actually have physicians who, because of this app, can now screen not just when they suspect, but every single time that they see a patient, we could potentially save thousands and thousands of lives,” Harbor House CEO Carol Wick says in a video provided by Florida Hospital. The Orlando-based health system, which funded development of the app, is making the electronic tool available to clinicians at multiple locations across Central Florida.

R3 is geared toward healthcare professionals, but will be available to the general public via iTunes and the Android Market. People who think they have been abused can discreetly take the test and find resources to help them.

The HITS test gives physicians a specific set of protocols to follow in pinpointing and treating cases of domestic abuse. Dr. Ademola Adewale, who practices emergency medicine at Florida Hospital, says it’s always tricky when people present with injuries that could signify domestic violence.

“When you see these patients, they’re actually afraid to tell you what really happened, and you actually have to probe more. And if you do probe and you find out something was going on and you’re trying to get the law enforcement involved, and the next thing you know, they’re afraid to tell their story,” Adewale says in the video.

Adewale says the app makes it easier for him to know what he is dealing with, what to evaluate and which questions to ask the patient. “At the same time, I’ll need to know what local resources we have in the community,” he adds.

According to Adewale, only about 30 percent of community physicians actually ask their patients about abuse. “This application makes it easier for them to know the pertinent questions to ask,” he says. “The goal is to identify the patient before they become a victim.”

Given Florida’s large Hispanic population, Harbor House is preparing a Spanish-language version of the R3 App. Wick also envisions providing the app to emergency medical technicians who respond to calls after incidents of domestic violence. She expects the app to gain a foothold worldwide, as Harbor House says that at least one in three of all women around the globe is physically or sexually abused during her lifetime.

Coincidentally, the R3 App’s release comes just as the Department of Health and Human Services is wrapping up a challenge for developers to create apps that will address sexual assault on college campuses. Submissions to that contest were due Monday, and HHS will announce the winners on Oct. 31.

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