Medisana readies ThermoDock iPhone infrared thermometer

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 3, 2012        

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Medisana thermodock iPhoneAbout a year ago we noticed a YouTube video demo of a DIY project: An infrared thermometer iPhone peripheral. While it appears to be a separate effort altogether, Germany-based Medisana is making some noise this week about the planned launch of ThermoDock. The device is available for pre-order in the UK for about US $96.

Here’s the pitch over at online shopping site Firebox: “Forget old-fashioned thermometers. Thanks to the ingenious Medisana ThermoDock you can use your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to measure your temperature. And before you ask, no, you won’t have to stick gizmos in your ear, your gob or anywhere else for that matter. This clever little peripheral utilizes non-contact infrared technology to measure body temperature, room temperature, surface temperature and even water temperature. Simply plug it into your gizmo’s charging point and prepare to be blown away as it works in conjunction with the free VitaDock app to deliver accurate, idiot-proof readings that can be stored, collated and exchanged via email.”

While there are other temperature devices available, including the iGrill, a meat thermometer iPhone peripheral that lets users check the temperature of grilled meat, is perhaps the most prominent example. Another: The iCelsius peripheral device for measuring ambient temperature.

A more sophisticated device, which (like ThermoDock) is not yet FDA-approved or commercially available, is the one under development by CellScope. This iPhone peripheral will be used for at-home disease diagnosis using smartphone cameras. The current focus is on pediatric ear and skin infections, which cause over 30 million doctor visits annually in the US. The company expects future products to leverage the technology platform for consumer skin care and interactive microscopy, but adding a temperature component seems like an obvious move, too.

Earlier this year the FDA granted 510(k) clearance to DuoFertility for its temperature sensing wearable sensor, which it is marketing to couples having trouble conceiving. The device is a peel-n-stick sensor that adheres under the woman’s arm to monitor temperature and other indicators to provide 24-hour monitoring for more than six months. The device takes temperature readings up to 20,000 times per day and pits itself up against the much more expensive and invasive IVF. No smartphone required, however: As of yet, the company has made no mention of a smartphone companion app since it has created its own dedicated, handheld device.

For more on ThermoDock, check out this iMedicalApps report.

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Good posture startup Lumoback raises $1.1M

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 2, 2012        

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LumobackLumoback, a startup that has developed a wireless sensor and mobile app to help users improve their posture, has secured $1.1 million in a seed round of financing, the company confirmed for MobiHealthNews by email today. (Health 2.0 first reported the news on its blog here.) The seed round included a handful of investors including Innovation Endeavors, Morado Venture Partners and Russell Siegelman. Siegelman is a former partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers where he led investments in Friendster, Digital Chocolate, Mobilygen, and others.

Lumoback’s wearable, wireless sensor patch is about two inches long and worn on the user’s lower back. The sensor transmits posture data via Bluetooth to a smartphone app on the user’s smartphone. The patch vibrates when the wearer has incorrect posture either sitting or standing, and the app can provide realtime feedback on the user’s posture via a simple avatar. The app can also track progress by showing trend data about how the user’s posture is improving or declining.

Lumoback, previously known as ZERO2ONE took part in its investor, Innovation Endeavors’ Runway incubator program. The startup’s founding team is made up of Stanford graduates and included a physician, serial entrepreneur, and an engineer. The team spent 6 months full-time to come up with the idea for its first product, Lumoback. Innovation Endeavor’s profile for the company notes that the startup’s “technology includes proprietary pattern recognition algorithms that interpret movement and behavior wrapped in an engaging framework to encourage small behavior changes that yield dramatic improvements in health.”

Two weeks ago the Lumoback team put together a five minute demo video. For more, watch the video here.

Rock Health launches incubator program in Boston

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 2, 2012        

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BostonSan Francisco-based digital health incubator Rock Health announced plans to expand with a new program in Boston set to kickoff this June, according to the Boston Globe’s tech columnist Scott Kirsner. Unlike the five-month long spring and fall programs that Rock Health offers in San Francisco, the Boston program’s duration will be three months: June to August. While the programs have different mentors and locations, at first blush they appear to be the same otherwise.

Why did Rock Health choose Boston for its second location?

“It’s an obvious region of innovation and a longstanding leader in healthcare,” Rock Health Managing Director Halle Tecco told MobiHealthNews in an email. “Many of our entrepreneurs are from Boston (including members of Care at Hand, Cardiio, Omada, Agile Diagnosis, and BrainBot). And there are great technologies coming out of the labs and universities that we’d like to support and help commercialize.”

Harvard Medical School’s health media group director Ed Coburn helped Rock Health launch the Boston program, according to the Globe. Kirsner also reports that five local entrepreneurs have already signed up to serve as mentors: Jason Jacobs of RunKeeper, Ben Rubin of Zeo, Erika Pabo of Harvard Medical School, Sonny Vu of Misfit Wearables, and Jacob Sattelmair of WellFrame. Also, former MIT Media Lab director Frank Moss and Keas co-founder and CEO George Kassabgi, who have served as mentors in the San Francisco program in the past, will also participate in the Boston program.

Last December Rock Health announced its second class of startups, the “Spring Class of 2012,” for its San Francisco program. The class included 15 companies that began the incubator’s San Francisco program, which lasts five months, this past January.

Rock Health offers startups a $20,000 grants (in exchange for no equity), mentorship from health policy and business experts, office space, and more. The non-profit was founded by Harvard Business School graduates in March 2011. It announced its first class of startups in June 2011.

During an interview with TechCrunch last year, Tecco said that of the 13 startups in its first class of startups, “a good handful of them have already received funding.” Earlier this year one Rock Health team — Pipette — was “acqhired” by MIT Media Lab spinout Ginger.io. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Rock Health Boston is currently accepting applications for startups, and it appears to be looking for mentors, too.

More details here.

Putting the mobile health ad opportunity in context

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 2, 2012        

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Mobile Health Access November 2011 DataAbout 33 percent of people with smartphones in the US tracked their diet or their exercises with their mobile devices, a comScore representative told The New York Times this week. ComScore said that for tablet users the numbers climb a bit: 35 percent used the devices to track diet and 39 percent used tablets like the iPad to track their exercise. The research firm also stated that about 100 million Americans own a smartphone.

As MobiHealthNews reported in January, comScore found that on average 16.9 million people used their mobile devices to access health information, based on data collected last September, October, and November. That figure marks a 125 percent growth rate over the same three month period from 2010. The research firm found that about 3 in 5 (or about 60 percent) of the mobile health information seekers were under the age of 35.

These are impressive numbers considering that last year Manhattan Research reported that about 26 percent of US adults had used their mobile phones – both smartphones and not-so-smartphones – to access health information in the previous 12 months. The firm reported that only 12 percent of US adults had searched for health information via mobile devices in its 2010 report.

Everyday Health, an online health company with 30 million visitors per month, told the Times that it has noticed mobile users downloading apps for tracking signs of pregnancy, tracking signs of various sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to ones that helped them manage their eating, drinking, and exercise. Everyday Health CEO Benjamin Wolin reported that the number of site visitors coming from mobile devices has spiked fivefold in the past two years.

The New York Times report also noted that three of the top five symptoms search for on Yahoo Mobile in January 2012 were early pregnancy, herpes, and HIV. Healthline, which powers Yahoo’s health search engine, released the top 10 mobile health searches of 2011 at the end of last year. The top five did include “herpes” and the top ten included “pregnancy” but HIV was not on the top 10 for 2011.

While the New York Times’ headline pointed to a growing mobile advertising opportunity for brands given the rise in mobile health searches, downloads, and visits, it provided little context.

ComScore noted that health ads made up a mere 1 percent of all online display ads according to its count at the end of 2011.

Geoff McCleary, group director for mobile innovation at ad agency Digitas Health, said that pharmaceutical companies “are struggling” with challenges of including safety information into mobile ads as required by regulators.

The report did not mention that some pharma companies are already advertising on mobile health apps through mobile advertising networks like the one launched last year: Tomorrow Networks.

Read the NYTimes report here.

The Supreme Court’s hypothetical mobile phone mandate

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 29, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsQuick note: Be sure to tune in to today’s complimentary MobiHealthNews webinar, Meaningful Uses for Mobile, for a discussion on how two of the biggest topics in healthcare today intersect: Meaningful Use and mobile health. We’ll kick things off at 2PM ET. Complimentary Registration right here.

While the Supreme Court has been hearing the case for and against the individual mandate for health insurance this week, we had no plans to cover the arguments since they had little to do with this publication’s mandate. That changed on Tuesday when Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that if the government can require individuals to buy health insurance, it could use similar reasoning to require individuals to buy a mobile phone.

Here’s how the Chief Justice made his case, according to the transcript from Tuesday’s proceedings:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, the same, it seems to me, would be true say for the market in emergency services: police, fire, ambulance, roadside assistance, whatever. You don’t know when you’re going to need it; you’re not sure that you will. But the same is true for health care. You don’t know if you’re going to need a heart transplant or if you ever will. So there is a market there. To — in some extent, we all participate in it. So can the government require you to buy a cell phone because that would facilitate responding when you need emergency services? You can just dial 911 no matter where you are?

GENERAL VERRILLI: No, Mr. Chief Justice. think that’s different. It’s — We — I don’t think we think of that as a market. This is a market. This is market regulation. And in addition, you have a situation in this market not only where people enter involuntarily as to when they enter and won’t be able to control what they need when they enter but when they –

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: It seems to me that’s the same as in my hypothetical. You don’t know when you’re going to need police assistance. You can’t predict the extent to emergency response that you’ll need. But when you do, and the government provides it.

Whether or not this hypothetical sways you or seems irrelevant to the federal health insurance mandate, by making this argument the Supreme Court Justice called attention to the essence of mobile health. Immediate access to emergency services is the tip of the ice berg for mobile health services, which are increasingly expanding to include anytime, anywhere access to a variety of necessary health information and services.

While the suggestion of a mobile phone mandate was certainly intended to be provocative, it’s worth pointing out that the government already provides mobile phones to people in need. Far from a mandate, but recognition of the device’s importance. The Lifeline program now benefits millions of people who must meet federal low-income guidelines or qualify social service programs like food stamps or Medicaid. A 2009 report in the New York Times referred to it as “a form of wireless welfare that puts a societal stamp on the central role played by the mobile device.”

Roberts obviously understands that central role.

Perhaps the outcome of the Supreme Court case will be that the federal government cannot mandate the purchase of health insurance. Perhaps not. But it is telling that — for the Supreme Court Chief Justice, anyway — the short list of necessary health-related services today includes a mobile phone subscription.

Castlight Health takes cost, quality measures mobile

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 29, 2012        

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Castlight Mobile AppsThis week Castlight Health, which offers a personalized health care shopping platform that helps employees better understand the price of medical services and the quality of certain providers, has launched its first mobile app: Castlight Mobile is currently available as a native app for Apple iOS and Google Android devices users, but the company suggests BlackBerry users and others can access the platform through an optimized mobile site, too. The free apps are only available to employees at companies that already use Castlight’s healthcare costs platform.

While Castlight’s list of customers includes various self-insured employers, like financial services firms and biotech companies, the Castlight customers most excited about the app’s launch are those with employees who don’t tend to spend their day behind a computer screen, Ethan Prater, vice president of products at Castlight Health told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview. Retail store chains, grocery store chains, and mining companies are among the Castlight customers that have looked forward to Castlight Mobile, Prater said.

“These types of employees tend to over index as smartphone users than even some of the white collar workers that we serve,” Prater said. “While retail employees and grocery store employees may not sit behind a computer all day, they tend to spend most of their time in the break room on their smartphones.”

Prater noted that the app will make it easier for Castlight users to engage their primary care providers in discussions about costs and quality measures for specialists the PCP refers them to.

“We call this feature ‘check your referral’,” Prater said. “People don’t generally want to change their primary care physician since that is someone they trust. It’s not where the cost is, anyway. The cost is in downstream referrals like specialists. So we created this feature that enables users at the point of care… to very quickly look up and locate the specialist [the PCP recommends] using the app. Then, [the patient] can view that specialist’s cost and quality metrics and ask [their] provider: Is this the specialist we are talking about?”

Prater said the conversation can then turn to other option that the app calls the patient’s attention to and help start a conversation about higher quality and lower cost options for referrals.

“This is a very mobile-specific use case,” Prater said. “You’ll find that we designed this so it is extremely fast for someone to do that at the point of care.”

Castlight sources its quality metrics from a combination of public and private sources, including the HHS Health Data Initiative, Leapfrog, NCQA, and more recently state quality collaboratives like an organization called Minnesota Community Measurement. Castlight also leverages patient satisfaction data from companies like Vitals and Citysearch, which Prater said are important, complementary data sources for decision-making, but different from true quality measures.

The app also includes GPS-enabled provider look-up that flows into turn-by-turn directions to the facility. The app also offers a graphical explanation of the user’s personal plan status that helps user’s understand their deductibles since plans can be complex.

Almost all of the features offered on the desktop, online version of Castlight are present in the app except for one: Castlight found that beta users of the app didn’t see a need to be able to access past care claims to see how much an employer paid or the user paid for past care. Prater said that Castlight may add this feature in the future, but for now it’s one of the few features stripped out for those using the app.

Castlight was founded four years ago by Todd Park, Giovanni Colella, and Bryan Roberts. Park is now the US Federal CTO and former CTO of HHS. Colella previously co-founded Relay Health but is the current CEO of Castlight. Roberts is a partner at venture capital firm Venrock.

More on Castlight’s mobile app in the press release below: Keep reading>>