Mobility forces rethinking of hospital-centric model

By: Neil Versel | Feb 16, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeA few months back, Eric Dishman, chief healthcare strategist and director of health policy for the Intel-GE Care Innovations joint venture, spoke to me about how mobile and wireless healthcare technologies showed promise for what he called “virtual care coordination.”

As Dishman explained, “In a world in which there’s not going to be enough doctors and nurses and hospital beds to take care of an increasingly older and sicker population, Intel’s really focused on how do we use disruptive technologies to enable care of people in the home and in the community.”

This might not have been all that groundbreaking for his audience at the time, attendees at the Medical Group Management Association annual conference. However, it apparently was eye-opening information for a group of technology and development ministers from about 80 countries, including many from what many have euphemistically called “low-resource” parts of the world.

Dishman spoke in Palo Alto, Calif., earlier this month about how mobile and home-based technologies could help stretch limited funds and create “sustainable healthcare for all.” He was there for a meeting called USRio+2.0, the official U.S. State Department event before Rio+20—officially known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development—this June in Rio de Janeiro, commemorating the 20th anniversary of a conference in the Brazilian city that effectively started the international movement toward sustainability.

Dishman challenged the notion that nations, regions and cities needed to build more hospitals to meet the needs of aging populations and address both the types of chronic ailments that plague Western countries and communicable diseases that poorer areas still struggle with. “The notion of a hospital as a symbol of ‘having arrived’—of economic and technological progress—is not surprising, but also not very healthy in the long run,” he said. “In the midst of Global Aging, a hospital-centric model must somehow begin to give way to a home-centric model for the future.”

In other words, developing countries don’t need to “copy the Western model,” as Dishman later told me. A lot of places that never had landline telephones now are blanketed with cellular coverage. Dishman reported that he’s heard about villages in Mozambique that don’t have constant, reliable electricity but do have broadband Internet service thanks to WiMAX technology. Keep reading>>


Health apps in the news this week

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 16, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsOver the past few weeks I’ve noticed an increasing number of stories in the main stream media focused on various types of health apps. Dieting apps, sexual health apps, sleep apnea apps, fitness apps, emergency care apps, psychiatry apps and more have received ink — in some cases — from big name publications and media outlets recently.

It’s clear that mobile health apps have quickly become a go-to topic of discussion for health reporters around the country.

Here’s a quick redux of health apps in the news for those that missed them:

NYC Health Department launches controversial free condom finding app: This was perhaps the most high-profile of stories since it received coverage virtually everywhere, including a sensational headline over at The Drudge Report. As CBS News reported, it wasn’t just Valentine’s Day this week: “February 14 is also National Condom Day and the Health Department is launching a NYC Condom mobile-enabled website so more New Yorkers can use their phones to find free condoms and access information about sexual health.” The app version of the offering had been downloaded 25,000 times before the most recent report went viral. CBS

Purdue developing calorie counting app from food images: This research reminds me of MealSnap. Researchers at Purdue are developing technology that aims to accurately judge and quantify the calorific information of foods captures by smartphone cameras: “The application counts more than calories. It also provides information on the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates in food through the Technology Assisted Dietary Assessment system, or TADA, being developed by Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. ‘Our goal is to allow people to record their food intake and help individuals with health challenges like diabetes understand what they’re eating and make healthier choices,’ said Carol Boushey, who led the development team while a professor in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences.” Purdue

Boston Globe reports on diet apps that work: The Globe had a short piece on dieting apps and presented a testimonial for one local startup: “Friends had been successful tracking their food consumption and exercise using a website and free mobile application called MyFitnessPal. Noonan, 24, of Cambridge, signed up, too. It helped her understand what that butter meant for her calorie count, and see the benefit of a few extra minutes on the elliptical machine. And, she said, it kept her focused.” Boston Globe

NPR rounds up sleep health apps and devices: NPR had a short piece on health apps and companion devices worth knowing. Here’s there list with prices: Sleep Cycle for iOS: $1. Sleep Bot Tracker for Android: Free. Wakemate app: $60. Lark: $99. Zeo Sleep Manager Mobile: $99. SleepTracker Elite: $149. NPR

Accelerometer-based fitness device technology advances: Expect the next crop of fitness tracking devices to have more accurate accelerometer technologies embedded: “The MotionFit SDK from InvenSense addresses key accuracy and performance issues by providing a complete 10-axis MotionTracking solution to developers encompassing a 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis compass and a pressure sensor to support a wider range of motions to accurately identify and track a broad range of activities including running, swimming, hiking, and tennis.” More

A kidney transplant patient developed a health tracker app: A kidney transplant patient of ten years with nine years of dialysis experience has developed a new app called My Blood Works that is a multi-functional health tracker app. The app helps patients track blood pressure, blood tests and more. More

Fire department teamed up with El Camino Hospital for new emergency app: This new app PulsePoint reminds me of one that we covered last year — Fire Department. PulsePoint is offered as part of a partnership between the San Jose Fire Department and El Camino Hospital. The app’s users are people who have indicated that they are trained in CPR. The app then notifies them if someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency. It also helps users find the location of the nearest publicly available automated external defibrillator (AED). More

New York Times puts psychiatry apps on the couch: The New York Times asked a few psychiatrists what they thought about the potential of mental health apps — with the requisite mixed results, of course: “We are built as human beings to figure out our place in the world, to construct a narrative in the context of a relationship that gives meaning to our lives,” Dr. Andrew J. Gerber, a psychiatrist at Columbia University told the Times. “I would be wary of treatments that don’t allow for that.” The New York Times concludes, however, that “the upside is that well-designed apps could reach millions of people who lack the means or interest to engage in traditional therapy and need more than the pop mysticism, soothing thoughts or confidence boosters now in use.” New York Times

Cuffless blood pressure device startup nets $5.9M

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 16, 2012        

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Sense A/SDenmark-based medical device company Sense A/S just announced a €4.5 million ($5.9 million) round of funding from venture fund SEED Capital and Vaekstfonden to help it refine its cuffless blood pressure measurement device. The company expects to secure FDA 510(K) clearance for the device and have it launch commercially next year. (Last year SEED invested $2.3 million in another Danish startup, fitness app developer Endomondo.)

Sense A/S argues that measuring blood pressure at a physicians’ office via the cuff method is not the most efficient or effective way. “This solution has a number of challenges including discomfort with the measurement itself and nervousness during the consultation which both may contribute to erroneous measurements,” the company explained in a statement. “In addition, the realization is that a variety of cardiovascular diseases can be diagnosed much better by measuring blood pressure over a standard 24-hour circadian rhythm, and for this the cuff method is not very suitable.”

The Sense A/S device continuously measures the wearer’s blood pressure every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day and night. The company says the wearer doesn’t even notice that the device is taking the measurements. The sense A/S device, called ContiPress, includes an intelligent patch that the physician or nurse places on the patient’s upper arm. The device stores the blood pressure data for analysis later. While the current iteration of the device does not include wireless connectivity, it seems to be an obvious next step.

Another company, Sotera Wireless, is developing a wireless-enabled remote vital signs monitor called ViSi Mobile that also includes a cuffless blood pressure device.

Check out the MedGadget report here.
For more on the ContiPress device from Sense A/S, read the press release below:

Keep reading>>

Bluetooth toothbrush, app to track oral hygiene

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2012        

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Beam BrushAccording to a report over at GigaOm, one-year-old startup, Beam Technologies, plans to commercially launch a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush and companion app next month. Beam’s connected toothbrush leverages a sensor and Bluetooth to send brushing data to its companion smartphone app. The company sees an opportunity to build out a number of features and services based on the toothbrush tracking and also plans to add some gaming elements to the offering in the future.

Beam CEO Alex Frommeyer told GigaOm that the $50 Beam Brush will become available in early March. Replacements for the toothbrush head will cost $3. Frommeyer said that the Android companion app is already finished and the iOS version will launch around the time the toothbrush does. Beam is also expecting to land its first round of funding (less than $1 million) in the next few weeks.

MobiHealthNews first reported on a similar device we learned about in 2009 at the BodyNets conference in Los Angeles. Rice University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Lin Zhong told us that his team of Rice University researchers had developed an intelligent toothbrush that was able to determine how long a person brushed for, what type of movements the toothbrush was making and whether the user brushed comprehensively. Zhong noted that teaching kids to brush correctly is a difficult prospect.

Another high profile startup, GreenGoose, has mentioned plans to offer a very similar offering to the Beam Brush. Around this time last year GreenGoose demonstrated how its tiny sensors and accelerometers could be used to track usage of everyday items. The Brush Sensor that GreenGoose thought up appears to attach to pretty much any toothbrush, unlike the Beam Brush, which is a toothbrush itself. Beam Brush has a built-in business model, however, users have to reorder $3 toothbrush heads to keep using it.

More on the Beam Brush over at GigaOm here.

Lumeris and three Blues buy NaviNet

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2012        

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NaviNet iPhone appLast year the Essence Group raised $70 million in funding from investors that included Passport Capital, Camden Partners and Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Partners. Essence is an umbrella organization, founded by venture capitalist John Doerr, that includes three healthcare companies: Essence Healthcareoffers people on Medicare a health plan that focuses on wellness, care coordination and personal service in six states; ClearPractice offers electronic health records; Lumeris is a supplier of analytic software that tracks procedures and patient results for insurers and physicians.

This week it seems Essence found a way to spend some of the millions it raised last year. Through its subsidiary, Lumeris, Essence teamed up with three other health plans, Highmark, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Independence Blue Cross, to acquire provider and insurance real-time transactions network provider NaviNet for an undisclosed price. The deal should be final within 30 days, according to the companies.

In 2010 NaviNet moved away from the desktop extended its offering into the exam room by acquiring mobile-enabled e-prescribing company Prematics. At the time of the acquisition Prematics only had 4,000 physician users and its service was only available for iOS devices and Windows Mobile devices. In 2010 NaviNet claimed that about 70 percent of US physicians plus hundreds of thousands of clinicians and other healthcare professionals in the US used NaviNet to access real-time clinical information from health plans, the company stated at the time.

Here’s how NaviNet described its offering after the Prematics acquisition: “As a result, when physicians are in the exam room prescribing medications via handheld device, they can also use the device to receive information about generic or alternative drugs; submit real-time authorizations; and view benefits information in real time to determine patient financial responsibility,” according to the company’s 2010 press release.

Now that NaviNet is set to become a bundled offering with Lumeris’ accountable care organization platform, the companies expect to power the ACOs offered by health plans across the US: “All over the nation, health plans, including Highmark, Horizon, and IBC, are developing new value-based payment models that reward physicians for highly coordinated, high-quality accountable care. The integration of NaviNet and Lumeris’ capabilities would allow plans to develop next generation accountable care delivery systems to contain costs and improve quality, while continuing to handle administrative transactions easily and cost-effectively,” according to the press release this week.

One of the other Essence Group subsidiaries, ClearPractice, offers an EHR called Nimble that was specifically developed for Apple iPad users. ClearPractice offers Eden, a cloud-based EHR offering that works across Apple iOS devices and Mac computers — iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and Apple PCs.

The New York Times has a great writeup on the Lumeris-NaviNet deal here.
For more from the press release, read the full announcement below: Keep reading>>

Qualcomm Life, iSonea to offer mobile asthma monitor

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 15, 2012        

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iSonea's Wheezometer

iSonea's Wheezometer

Annapolis, Maryland-based asthma monitoring technology company iSonea has inked a deal with Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, to combine iSonea’s proprietary Acoustic Respiratory Monitoring (ARM) devices and forthcoming mobile health asthma management offerings with Qualcomm’s recently launched 2net platform.

The deal will enable users of iSonea’s asthma monitoring devices to “automatically and securely link” asthma symptom data via Qualcomm’s 2net platform to a cloud-based portal that physicians and caregivers can access. iSonea will leverage Qualcomm Life’s 2net Hub, a plug-and-play connectivity gateway.

iSonea’s core offering today is a medical device called the Wheezometer, a point of care, handheld device that “analyzes 30 seconds of breath sounds using advanced signal processing algorithms to detect, quantify and objectively document the presence of wheeze and its extent,” according to iSonea’s website. The company is currently seeking an over-the-counter (OTC) status for the Wheezometer from the FDA.

At the end of last year, iSonea’s CEO Michael Thomas explained his company’s future plans to a radio host in Australia. Thomas said that once iSonea receives an OTC status from the FDA, it will be able to launch its smartphone initiative. While iSonea is currently a medical device company that makes its own hardware, it believes that at its core it is a smart algorithm and software company. It intends to become hardware agnostic.

iSonea believes smartphones will allow them to do that.

Assuming the FDA grants the Wheezometer OTC status based on the bench validation study the company currently has underway, iSonea plans to create smartphone-based versions of the medical device for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices, Thomas said. Thomas said since there were about half a billion smartphones sold the world over in the past year, and there are expected to be about 1 billion smartphones sold in 2015, the smartphone has become the most efficient way for iSonea to get its technology to the 300 million people worldwide who have asthma.

During his radio interview, Thomas hinted at the impending strategic partnership with a global wireless technology communications company, which we now know is Qualcomm. He also mentioned a potential partnership with a pharmaceutical company. Of course, Thomas did not say which one.

Pure speculation, but worth noting that GlaxoSmithKline is one pharmaceutical company that has touted smartphone apps for asthma management in recent months.

Read more about the Qualcomm-iSonea partnership in the press release below: Keep reading>>