HealthTap takes Q&A with your physician mobile

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 26, 2011        

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HealthTapAbout 80 percent of US adults go online to look up health information, according to Pew, but very little, if any, of the information they read online comes from their own personal physicians. HealthTap plans to change that, the startup’s CEO Ron Gutman told MobiHealthNews in an interview last week.

HealthTap announced this week the launch of two new free mobile apps, called HealthTap Express — one for patients and one for physicians. The apps are now available for iPhone and Android users.

HealthTap’s initial offering is a question and answer platform that helps users find health information written by local physicians — both online and through the mobile apps. The company currently has more than 5,000 physicians signed up for “virtual practices.” Gutman said most of them found out about HealthTap from other physicians: “We launched our public beta about 20 weeks ago with 500 physicians, and we have grown it tenfold since then. The one thing we weren’t sure we could do was attract enough physicians to interact with patients online, which was never done before.”

Gutman argues that physicians will use the platform to give patients anytime, anywhere access to those frequently asked questions that come up during most patient visits. By making those answers available to current and prospective patients in the cloud, physicians can spend more time with patients on providing care rather than answering their standard FAQ in-person. Since physicians are so crunched for time — Gutman said the typical patient-physician visit is between 8 minutes and 11 minutes now — saving time by making the FAQ available elsewhere could mean a greater number of visits for physicians or more time to focus on less frequently asked questions.

“These same tips and questions are also visible by search engines and shareable through social media so all of a sudden patients especially local patients can find answers from these physicians rather than go to a website and find information from who knows who,” Gutman said. “Then they can make an appointment with that physician who answered their question because there is no longer this divide between finding information on the Internet and going to the doctor.”

HealthTap 2Gutman says that the virtual practice will help physicians provide better care for existing patients while attracting new patients to their practice. A recently added feature for HealthTap’s physician users is the “I Agree” button, which lets physicians find answers already submitted by other doctors using the platform and adopt that answer as their own, with kudos to the original MD.

“It’s great for physicians because they get content for free and the original writer gets a kudos and more exposure,” Gutman said. “When a patient comes in and can see which answer gets the most agrees by physicians, that makes that physician look good, too. This is the first time on the Internet that physicians are ranking other physicians by quality.”

Gutman says with the mobile apps making appointments through HealthTap just got a lot easier since the physician’s virtual practice page includes their phone number. Smartphones make phone numbers into click-to-call links, so appointment booking is only “one click away,” according to Gutman.

“We don’t charge for it — neither the patient nor physician is charged. We don’t have appointment booking software yet, but our mission is to help patients lead happier, healthier lives — not to improve the bureaucracy of the healthcare system,” Gutman said. “Are there some efficiencies that are more bureaucratic that we couple improve? Sure. That’s just not our focus right now.”

Last year Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD launched his own question and answer platform called ShareCare, which seemed to have a number of similarities to Gutman’s HealthTap. One major difference, according to Gutman, is that while Sharecare has answers from individual physicians and well-known healthcare facilities it also works with partners including sponsors like Colgate-PalmOlive, Unilever, and Walgreen to answer questions. Keep reading>>

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Ex-Apple CEO advises on mobile health

By: Chris Gullo | Sep 26, 2011        

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John SculleyIt should be clear to anyone who has followed the mobile health space these last few years, that Apple has created many of the go-to devices for health and medical applications. This week, news comes that ex-Apple CEO John Sculley seems to be paying even more attention to mobile health than his old colleagues in Cupertino.

“I’ve been in high-tech now almost 30 years and I watched the healthcare industry miss the personal computer revolution and miss the Internet revolution,” Sculley told Fast Company at this year’s Body Computing Conference held in Los Angeles last week. “It’s quite clear that the government and special interests aren’t going to solve our healthcare costs to the economy and that [the sector] is ripe for innovation and disruptive approaches to shift the accountability more towards the patient, and to shift over time from reimbursements to outcomes. It’s not going to happen by any one company, but I think there’s enough opportunity to change the world of healthcare that it’s attracting a lot of talent.”

Sculley is on the board of directors of Watermark Medical, developer of an in-home sleep apnea diagnostic device, and on the board of advisors at Audax Health Solutions, a consumer health startup which uses gamification and social networking for health management.

“It’s all about magic, and the magic can be Facebook, Twitter, the ability to find anything anywhere on Google,” Sculley said. “We’re at an era where technology is an invisible enabler to magic. So the real quest is if we can take the challenge of getting healthy people to focus on lifestyles that will keep them healthy and make it feel like a magical experience, and that’s why gamification is probably a piece of the solution.”

Sculley said that doctors are “notorious” for being the last to adopt “any kind of technology,” but he credits Apple with revolutionizing multiple industries with the iPad, healthcare among them, and that the platform eases “the intimidation of technology” that faced users.

Sculley also believes that entrepreneurs will drive the mHealth industry because large companies “as competent as they are… are not organized to have permission to fail… Apple does magical things, but it does magical things that are a combination of a product, a service, a system, and an experience with no compromised standards.”

Should be interesting to see what effect Sculley has at Watermark and Audax.

Read the Fast Company article here.

ZocDoc gets $25M from Goldman Sachs

By: Chris Gullo | Sep 22, 2011        

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ZocDocZocDoc announced this week that it has raked in $25 million in funding from Goldman Sachs, bringing total investment in the company to $95 million. The news comes hot on the heels of ZocDoc expanding its service to Boston last week. ZocDoc’s last round of funding came in the form of $50 million from DST Global, which made the move just last month.

ZocDoc is a free iPhone, Android, or web app that enables users to schedule dentist and doctor appointments database includes user reviews of providers, which insurance they accept, and other relevant background information to help potential patients determine the best provider for them. Users can also find out ahead of time whether they will be visiting with a physician or physician assistant. While the service is free for patients, doctors pay a $250 monthly fee to fill open appointments.

ZocDoc plans on expanding its service nationwide over the next 12 to 18 months. Is nearly $100 million in funding enough to do so?

Read the press release below for more. Keep reading>>

Report: 13K iPhone consumer health apps in 2012

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 22, 2011        

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Overall_Pie_594pxNext summer there will likely be slightly more than 13,000 health apps intended for use by consumers available for download in Apple’s AppStore, according to MobiHealthNews’ latest report: Consumer Health Apps for Apple’s iPhone. Based on an analysis of 18 months of data from Apple’s AppStore, it’s also clear the the average price of a paid health app is trending upward. Last February the average paid health app cost $2.77. As of July 2011 the average cost of a paid consumer health app was $3.21.

While MobiHealthNews predicts that there will be 13,000 consumer health apps available in the AppStore by next summer, today there are about 9,000 health apps available to consumers. While Apple’s Health & Fitness and Medical categories claim to offer thousands more apps, many of these are actually not health, medical, or fitness-related.

Given the title you’ve probably guessed that our new report, Consumer Health Apps for Apple’s iPhone, does not include a discussion or analysis of healthcare professional apps for the device platform. We are currently working on our healthcare professional apps report, which we plan to publish soon.

The number of health apps for consumers has grown at a steady, linear rate over the past 18 months. We expect it to continue on this track unless the regulatory environment changes drastically and scares off would-be developers from creating useful health apps for consumers:

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No surprise here: The largest group of consumer health apps in the AppStore are cardio fitness apps, particularly running apps, a number of which have claimed many millions of users during the past year.

For more up-to-date stats on today’s consumer health apps market, be sure to get your copy of Consumer Health Apps for Apple’s iPhone today.

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UN embraces mobility to tackle global health issues

By: Neil Versel | Sep 22, 2011        

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UN Foundation iPad appMobile health is on the big world stage now, at the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting.

Last week, the UN introduced its first mobile app, delivering news from various UN agencies and programs to Android, iPhone/iPad and Windows Phone devices. Among other functions, the app allows users to support and get customized updates from UN Foundation efforts in healthcare, including the mHealth Alliance. (The alliance, a collaboration of the UN Foundation, the Vodafone Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, this month named Patricia Mechael as its executive director.)

Then, this week, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, who is presiding over the 66th session of the UN General Assembly now underway in New York, called on world leaders to embrace mobile technologies in disease control and prevention. Al-Nasser, the UN ambassador from Qatar, said that new information and communications technologies like mobile connectivity offer a “fresh and invigorating approach,” according to an official UN account of his remarks.

“Only five years ago, who would have imagined that today a woman in sub-Saharan Africa could use a mobile phone to access health information on bringing her pregnancy safely to term?” Al-Nasser said at an awards ceremony accompanying the General Assembly’s High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs). “Or that today a young person in the Middle East could use a mobile phone to help manage diabetes?”

Al-Nasser added that mobile devices could help achieve the health component of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, including greater access to health services, the reduction of maternal and infant mortality and control of diseases that disproportionately affect poverty-stricken regions of the world, by 2015. “Indeed, there is growing evidence that the use of these technologies can be a critical component of some aspects of health. I fully believe that information and communications technologies can enable countries to meet the 2015 deadline,” the Qatari diplomat said.

At the meeting on NCDs, UN officials including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon introduced a global campaign to tackle conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer, that the UN says is responsible for 63 percent of all deaths worldwide.

Misinformation exacerbates mHealth growing pains

By: Neil Versel | Sep 22, 2011        

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Neil VerselLike any rapidly evolving industry, mobile health is suffering some growing pains.

A study published in the September issue of the journal Diabetes Care found that type 2 diabetes patients who were given behavioral coaching with the mobile phone-based WellDoc DiabetesManager system lowered their hemoglobin A1c readings significantly more than those who only received care during occasional doctor visits and through self-management.

If the WellDoc system was linked to clinical decision support, the results were striking. Researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore found that the group of patients whose physicians had access to CDS saw their A1c levels drop by 1.9 percentage points. Those in a control group, who only received traditional, office-based care had a median A1c reduction of 0.7 points.

“To our knowledge, this is the first cluster-randomized study of a mobile diabetes-coaching intervention conducted in a community setting over a 1-year treatment period. Few previous studies of electronic or mobile communication interventions for diabetes were randomized, included a control group or covered 1 year,” the researchers wrote.

But it was not all good news. The researchers observed no “convincing” changes in other measures of diabetes control, including blurred vision, pain, depression, and abnormal blood pressure and lipid counts. They hope future studies could focus more on these secondary measures of diabetes control, but for now, there remains plenty of fodder for skeptics in many areas of mobile health. Keep reading>>