Diabetes Hands Foundation launches mobile game

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 1, 2011        

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HealthSeekerHealthSeeker, a free mobile app that uses gamification for diabetes management and health improvement, launched this week for the iPhone and Android platforms. HealthSeeker was created by the Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF) in collaboration with the Joslin Diabetes Center. It was developed by Ayogo Games. HealthSeeker began life as a Facebook application, where it currently has more than 8,000 users.

The game allows players to complete specific “missions” that encourage excerise and healthy activities. Successful completion of the missions earns players points and “kudos” from fellow players and Facebook friends.

The mobile app encourages users to play the game on the go.

“It’s important for people to go out and play the game and not be tied to a computer to share their results,” Manny Hernandez, president of the Diabetes Hands Foundation stated in a press release. Last month, DHF’s online communities (English site TuDiabetes.org and Spanish site EsTuDiabetes.org) also went mobile.

Ayogo Games is also working with Dr. Leslie Saxon and the USC Body Computing Center on mobile health games.

Check out the full press release from DHF after the jump. Keep reading>>

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FDA OKs Intelesens wearable vital sign monitor

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 30, 2011        

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AingealIreland-based Intelesens received FDA 510(k) clearance last month for its Aingeal wearable wireless hospital monitor, which passively monitors various vital signs.

According to the company, Aingeal differentiates itself from competitors in that it “measures the patient’s ECG, heart rate, temperature and motion and sends that information wirelessly so that it is immediately and easily accessible by nursing and other medical staff.”

Aingeal touts its device’s ability to measure a patient’s respiration rate. (Zephyr’s BioHarness also measures breathing rate.) Aingeal’s Intelesens offering, however, is more reminiscent of Sotera Wireless’ ViSi Mobile system, which is also intended for use as a wireless vital signs monitoring system within care facilities.

In a press release, Intelesens CEO Michael Caulfield said “This has been a tremendous result following many months of meticulous testing and data gathering by the engineering and quality teams in Intelesens, who had to work very closely with the US regulatory authorities.”

“Aingeal has been designed so that it can be used to monitor those patients who are moving around the hospital as well as those who are confined to beds. Typically only 40 percent of hospital beds are monitored — this technology, for the first time, opens up the opportunity to provide low cost, ubiquitous vital signs monitoring for all patients within a hospital,” Caulfield.

Clinical trials for the device took place at Massachusetts General Hospital last year ahead of the FDA clearance. Aingeal received its European CE class 2 approval last year. FDA clearances in 2011 already include Mobisante’s smartphone ultrasound, iHealth’s blood pressure cuffAbbott’s mobile blood analyzer, Mobile MIM’s radiology app, and most recently, the Withings blood pressure cuff.

More details on WellDoc’s AT&T employee pilot

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 30, 2011        

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WellDoc ATTWhen WellDoc and AT&T announced their partnership last fall, the companies announced that a select group of the mobile operator’s employees would pilot WellDoc’s FDA-cleared, mobile-enabled diabetes management. At the time, however, there were precious few other details. Today, AT&T announced that the group of employees with Type 2 diabetes will be piloting DiabetesManager for “up to six months.” The service will help those employees “capture and analyze diabetes information” including blood glucose levels and carb intake. The program will provide feedback and real-time messages on what users can do to change their levels if they are out of range. The patient data is also sent to nurses, case workers and doctors who can review the data through an enterprise portal and intervene if necessary.

WellDoc’s program integrates with AT&T’s “highly secure hosting environment, support and customer care specifically designed to enable AT&T and its customers to comply with all applicable HIPAA requirements,” according to the release.

As was also previously announced, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), a health insurer that operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, is also piloting DiabetesManager through AT&T.

The mobile operator noted that while these pilots are underway, it plans to negotiate agreements with commercial customers of the service, too. Last year AT&T said it generated about $4.9 billion in revenue from healthcare industry businesses.

While it doesn’t appear to be connected to the AT&T partnership, WellDoc recently announced a research pilot with Ford to integrate its diabetes management program in select Ford cars.

Why BodyMedia will be the first of many acquisitions

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 30, 2011        

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BodyMedia Fit Armband

BodyMedia Fit Armband

While 2011 has brought with it a number of mobile health investment disclosures, there have been few mergers and acquisitions. GlowCaps-maker Vitality is one of the few exceptions. MobiHealthNews recently caught up with Zeo co-founder and CTO Ben Rubin to discuss the state of M&A in the consumer health space, and which company he believes to be the next likely acquisition target.

Rubin was quick with his answer: BodyMedia.

Zeo, the company Rubin co-founded, is one of the many device-centric consumer health companies. Zeo helps users track their sleep health and learn how to get a better night’s rest. Of all the device-centered companies in this space, Rubin believes BodyMedia is best positioned for an exit. That’s just a hunch though — he doesn’t have any ties to BodyMedia and isn’t privy to any confidential information about the company.

Rubin agrees that the connected consumer health industry is still young, but insists that it is heating up: “There are probably two handfuls [of companies] that [people] know about” and “fifty or sixty small companies that have yet to launch,” Rubin said. “So when you think about it, it’s too early for there to have been a number of acquisitions, but we are coming to the point now where there should be some action. This whole market is starting to take off, and the minute that starts to happen, bigger companies will wonder how they can get a seat at the table.”

BodyMedia was founded in 1999, making it one of the earliest entrants in the connected fitness space, and has become an attractive business over the years, according to Rubin. The company publicly announced more than 700,000 users, and BodyMedia’s devices hover around the $200 mark, which might put total revenues in the tens of millions.

BodyMedia devices have also been featured on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” television series and the company has inked partnerships with Jenny Craig, Sprint, Apex Gyms, Panasonic, and others.

“Consumers are very wary of subscriptions,” Rubin said, “but BodyMedia found a loophole: People are used to paying subscriptions for weight loss programs and personal training services. It’s something they’ve been doing for years with Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. [BodyMedia] glommed onto [that idea].”

So which companies, specifically, might buy BodyMedia? Rubin offered up his best guesses: Keep reading>>

What Google’s exit means for Microsoft’s HealthVault

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 30, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsIf you ask Microsoft Health Group’s Chief Architect and General Manager Sean Nolan what the shuttering of Google Health means for HealthVault, he’ll tell you the “real and simple” answer to that question is “nothing.” Apart from an expected influx of new HealthVault users — those forced to abandon Google Health — Nolan said one change will be getting “used to being out there more or less on our own.” If you are having trouble detecting Microsoft’s tone, I’ll help you out: Triumphant.

Chilmark Research analyst John Moore isn’t so sure that the imminent absence of its biggest competitor will have zero effect on the day-to-day operations of HealthVault. The end of Google Health could very well bring a PHR quiet period that lasts for the next two years, Moore said.

“In the near term, without any serious competition for HealthVault, Microsoft can sit back a little bit and move some resources over to Amalga to get that tightened up,” Moore told MobiHealthNews in an interview. Moore describes Amalga as a toolset of healthcare IT services. Now that the pressure is off Microsoft on the HealthVault front, Moore believes the company will (and should) concentrate on making Amalga into a true product.

“It’s not necessarily speculation, it’s just logical,” Moore said. “[HealthVault] has been pulled out of R&D and pulled into the Health Solutions Group Microsoft’s Business Solutions (MBS) group. That means it needs to show more responsibility in terms of [profit and loss],” he said. “They are going to have to start selling stuff.”

And while Moore believes the company should focus on improving some of its other health IT products, that doesn’t mean lights out for HealthVault.

Microsoft won’t pull the plug on HealthVault — even though Moore believes Google Health had a higher adoption rate — because, among other reasons, shuttering HealthVault would prove too damaging to Microsoft’s partner relationships. (Microsoft inked deals with Telus in Canada and Siemens in Europe to license HealthVault.)

Backing off from HealthVault at this point would prove to be more problematic than keeping it going with minimal support.

Moore contends that while HealthVault isn’t perfect, Microsoft has managed to enhance the offering with most of the basic functionalities. Recent enhancements include mobile support, imaging management, and new options for authentication and log-in. HealthVault’s user interface is also greatly improved over earlier iterations — still not as easy to use as Google Health, Moore said — but it’s passable.

“Microsoft has done enough on HealthVault — it is developed to a level that it doesn’t take a lot of resources to keep it running,” Moore said.

Ultimately, Microsoft leverages HealthVault to sell its other health IT products and services. Google wasn’t ever going to invest at the level the medical establishment was requiring of them. Microsoft is willing to make that investment, Moore said. That’s partly because Google never leveraged Google Health the way Microsoft uses HealthVault. As Nolan wrote: “HealthVault is a critical component in [Microsoft's] broader strategy.”

Moore thinks the only reason Microsoft would pay attention to HealthVault in the coming months is if another true competitive offering is launched. He doesn’t believe that calls for the government or a foundation to step in and offer a personal health platform are likely to come to fruition.

“If, for example, a company like Cerner jumps in with a personal health platform play, then Microsoft may have to up its ante,” Moore said.

Report: Older adults can benefit from mobile health

By: Neil Versel | Jun 29, 2011        

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Google Latitude

Report: Google's Latitude service could be used for location tracking.

Mobile healthcare technologies are particularly well suited for disease management, medication adherence, safety monitoring, health education and behavior modification for wellness, especially among older populations, according to an organization that supports technology to encourage independent and community-based living for seniors.

“As today’s older adults are more mobile than their predecessors, mobile devices are becoming an increasingly essential tool for an active population,” the Center for Technology and Aging, Oakland, Calif., says in a report entitled, “mHealth Technologies: Applications to Benefit Older Adults.” The report is dated March, but it wasn’t widely publicized until late last week.

“mHealth changes the traditional delivery of healthcare, allowing for continuous, pervasive healthcare anytime, anywhere,” Center for Technology and Aging director David Lindeman stated in a press release. “With mHealth, providers, caregivers, and patients have the opportunity to continuously monitor health conditions and access health information outside of either the physician’s office or the patient’s home. It promotes efficiencies in care management and improves individual and population health outcomes.”

However, the report notes, mobile health is only beginning to define its potential for seniors and their caregivers, much less realize that potential. The report does, however, reference an October 2010 column by MobiHealthNews editor Brian Dolan, who argued that adoption of mobile health apps was much stronger than other publications had characterized it as.

One purpose of the paper is to describe opportunities for the organization’s Mobile Health Diffusion Grants Program. Next month, the Center for Technology and Aging will announce the winners of six one-year grants, worth a total of $500,000.

Potential resides in at least five broad categories. “mHealth technologies can help slow progression of chronic disease and ensure continued recovery after being discharged from an acute care setting; assist with medication adherence by providing medication reminders and alerting caregivers to missed medications; alert caregivers and prompt intervention when a vulnerable older adult is injured or in harm’s way; provide patient and caregiver access to personal health information, and deploying or communicating wellness and preventive care protocols,” the report says. Keep reading>>