Health apps, devices generated $718M in 2011

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 12, 2012        

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chart-mHealth-1.2012A new report from Research2Guidance estimates that the total 2011 revenues generated by mobile health apps, companion health devices and related services totaled $718 million, which marked a seven times increase over 2010’s $100 million estimate. Still, the research firm said that mHealth is still in its “embryonic state” and it could grow substantially in the years to come. Mobile health revenues will climb into the billions by 2016 when mobile health services and related device sales will each account for a couple billion dollars in revenues.

While the specific dollar amounts were withheld in Research2Guidance’s sample documents about the report, some of the trends are clear from the graphs. Revenues from paid downloads, mobile health related advertising revenue, and transactional revenue will grow considerably over the next four years, according to Research2Guidance, but device and services sales will take over as the dominant revenue streams this year, and especially in 2013. They will  hold that trend in the years to follow.

Last year when ABI Research predicted that the overall market for health and fitness apps would total $400 million by 2012, most of those working in the industry sighed a collective groan: That’s it? Venture capital firm’s Psilos Group’s co-founder and Managing Member Lisa Suennen summed it up in a widely cited post on her Venture Valkyrie blog:

“ABI Research, reports that the mHealth market is growing so fast that it will more than triple to $400 million by 2016. If you are an investor like me, and I’m sorry to use such a technical finance expression, that sucks. We are trying to build companies that we can sell for $400 million. If that is the size of the whole market three to four years from now, it’s hard to see it as a good investment today.”

ABI’s numbers specifically focus on paid app downloads, while Research2Guidance includes service revenues and device revenues, which considerably boost the numbers. ABI seems to agree that these companion devices — the firm points to Bluetooth Smart-enabled fitness devices as prime examples — will drive adoption of companion mobile apps. ABI does not seem to include revenues from those devices in the mix, however. As an example of the type of devices it included in its revenue estimates, Research2Guidance points to Sanofi’s recently FDA-cleared iBGStar glucose meter.

For more details from Research2Guidance’s report, read the press release below.

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Merge Healthcare focuses on mobile access (not apps) for remote medical imaging

By: Neil Versel | Jan 12, 2012        

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Gilbert Gagne

Merge Healthcare's Gilbert Gagne

Count imaging software vendor Merge Healthcare among those offering a mobile option for remote viewing of medical images. But rather than assume everybody wants an app for Apple or Android devices, the vendor is relying on the Web and the cloud to deliver high-quality images and access to radiology reports on mobile devices.

With the Merge iConnect Access system, users can just go to a URL on the iPad or other tablet, without having to download any special apps, to access images and related reports away from their imaging workstations. Yet, physicians still can take advantage of the iPad’s advanced touch-screen capabilities for image manipulation.

Sliding one finger across the iPad screen changes the contrast and grayscale of a radiological image, Merge’s team leader for enterprise solutions, Gilbert Gagné said during a demonstration of Merge iConnect Access at the company’s new Chicago headquarters. (Following an accounting scandal and a reorganization, Merge brought in new management, relocated its home office from Milwaukee in 2010 and adopted orange as its color.)

Using two fingers pans the image. Zoom in and out with the pinch motion or double tap to see a larger version of the image in full screen mode. Buttons on the screen allow for additional image manipulation.

From the main screen, select a patient and up comes a study list. A patient history fly-out menu on the edge of the patient screen allows viewers to bring up as many as three studies simultaneously for side-by-side comparison. “I have full access to two studies,” Gagné explained while demonstrating this feature with a pair of image sets.

Apple’s iPad and iPhone cannot run Flash animations, and the browser-based system does not require Active-X or Java. “It’s all done through what we call server-side rendering. Basically, everything takes place on the server, and then we render either a JPEG or a PNG file in either lossy or lossless, depending on the user preference, back out to the user,” Gagné said.

“The other benefit with this is that it works really well in low-bandwidth situations. Since we’re not transferring DICOM across the Internet, we are really working with small image files.” Keep reading>>

Microsoft, Healthrageous join Ford to research in-car health monitoring

By: Neil Versel | Jan 12, 2012        

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Ford Heart Rate Monitoring SeatsFord Motor Co. is building on its in-car health monitoring initiative by teaming with Microsoft and Healthrageous to research how people can monitor their health and promote wellness with connected devices while in their vehicles. The companies are taking advantage of the spotlight at the massive 2012 International CES trade show in Las Vegas this week to show off a prototype called “the car that cares.”

Healthrageous, a Boston-based producer of online and mobile apps for self-management of chronic diseases and preventive health activities, is embedding its “digital coach” technology into the Microsoft-powered Sync communications and entertainment system now common in Ford vehicles.

“Sync will be Ford’s key technology supporting activities in the health and wellness sphere,” Gary Strumolo, manager of “infotainment,” interiors, health and wellness in the Ford Research and Innovation division, said Wednesday at the CES Digital Health Summit.

Stromolo noted that some people spend dozens of hours a week in their cars, making vehicles a convenient and private environment in which to deliver health and wellness coaching. “It’s the only logical place for people to manage their health while on the go,” he said.

This new initiative will collaborate with previously announced Ford partnerships to connect health monitoring devices to the onboard Sync computer. The auto-maker already is working with Medtronic to measure blood sugar for people with diabetes and report on serious conditions such as whether a driver is going hypoglycemic or whether a child in the back seat might be going into a diabetic coma rather than merely napping. Keep reading>>

H1N1 inspired FDA call for adverse reactions app

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 11, 2012        

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iPhone_FDAThe US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to develop a mobile app that helps it collect information and send out alerts about adverse reactions to experimental medications prescribed during public health crises. The agency realized the need for such an app during the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak.

The need for the app became apparent while the FDA was handling 2009’s H1N1 influenza outbreak. At the time, the FDA authorized the emergency use of an experimental drug called Peramivir. The only way health workers could report adverse reactions to the drug (and receive the FDA’s daily communications) was through a delayed system that depended on desktop computer access. According to the agency, 10 percent of cases went unreported due to the system’s inefficiency.

(During the H1N1 outbreak there were a handful of high-profile app launches. While hastily cobbled together, they did aim to keep providers and the general public informed about the much-hyped influenza.)

“FDA staff realized there were critical areas of the FDA’s implementation and communication process needing improvement in order to safely use investigational medications during national public health emergencies,” the FDA wrote in the work order notice.

The FDA is seeking out an app development vendor for the project, according to a posting on a government work orders website. Applications are due by January 18th.

The selected vendor will have one year to create a working prototype of the app, which the FDA calls RAPID (Real-Time Application for Portable Interactive Devices). The prototype needs to work on  iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry smartphones, and tablet support (the FDA specifically mentioned iPads) is expected once the smartphone version is complete.

The purpose of the RAPID app, as described in the notice, is to “develop an efficient bidirectional communications system enabling FDA to fulfill its medical countermeasures (MCM) mission of providing emergency use of investigational medical products during emergent health situations using mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets.”

To that end, features of the app must include: the ability to record video and pictures of drug reactions and audio of a patient’s medical history; support for viewing medical images (including X-ray and EKG); GPS functionality to track possible patterns in location for drug reactions; FDA communication to health workers through the app (“bidirectionally”) to issue warnings or directions. Finally, the app must be capable of supporting 4 million of these drug reports yearly.

The FDA isn’t the only government agency to create a mobile-based alert system. Last May, the FCC announced plans to launch an emergency alert system called Personalized Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), which sends alerts to only those mobile phone users in a certain designated area. Smartphones on the four major mobile carriers (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile USA) will receive text messages and vibration alerts during emergency situations such as a natural disaster, AMBER alert, or terrorist attack.

You can read the RAPID app request for applications in the FedBizOpps notice here.

LG taps Independa to bring health app to TVs

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 11, 2012        

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angelaAt CES this week Independa announced plans to bring its health and social engagement platform, Angela, to senior communities through a pilot with LG Electronics’ US-based R&D subsidiary, Zenith.

The company also demonstrated a version of Angela that runs on iPhones and iPads — up until now the software has been available from Independa on 10-inch and 22-inch tablets running Microsoft Windows 7. While the move to iOS devices is not surprising, Independa has long been an example of a company that has bucked the iPad trend.

The strategic partnership with Zenith will bring Angela to LG’s Pro:Centric-enabled line of commercial TV sets. Independa launched Angela last summer as an integrated tablet and software offering for the independent elderly. The software, which sports large fonts and higher contrast, offers video chat, email, Facebook, puzzles, appointment reminders, and more.

As part of the deal, the companies will work together to conduct customer trials of Angela running on LG TVs. While there is no set date for a commercial rollout, the companies expect to bring the services to longterm care facilities once the trials are complete.

This isn’t the first collaboration between a TV manufacturer and a health or wellness company.

BodyMedia integrated its BodyMedia Fit armband into Panasonic televisions last summer. In that instance, a picture-in-picture setup onscreen presents fitness data while BodyMedia users work out in front of the TV. Skimble, which Rock Health incubated in its first class of startups, also brings workout apps to the TV through Apple TV.

In 2009, Continua Health Alliance’s Executive Director Chuck Parker revealed that Continua was considering the television set-top box as one potential hub for wireless health devices, and Bluetooth SIG executive director Mike Foley told MobiHealthNews that he had noticed an uptick in interest from television makers looking at ways to embed Bluetooth Smart into new TV models, which would allow for medical devices using that protocol to connect to TV sets. In 2010, the launch of Google TV led to more speculation about the TV as a home health hub.

Read the press release below.

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Happtique steps up to certify mobile health apps

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 11, 2012        

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HapptiqueHapptique, a healthcare-focused appstore, announced plans to create a certification program that will help the medical community determine which of the tens of thousands of health-related mobile apps are clinically appropriate and technically sound. The company has tapped a multi-disciplinary team to develop the “bona fide mHealth app certification program” within the next six months. The program is open to all developers and will be funded by developer application fees.

It will certify apps intended to be used by both medical professionals and patients.

Happtique is a subsidiary of GNYHA Ventures, the business arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association, and it has used its considerable network to assemble an impressive panel of advisers to put this certification program together. The four-person panel includes experts in patient engagement, social media, mHealth, healthcare accreditation and certification programs, and medicine. Dr. Howard Luks, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at New York Medical College will chair the panel, which also includes Dave deBronkart (ePatient Dave); Dr. Franklin Shaffer, CEO of of CGFNS International — a certification organization for graduates of foreign nursing schools; and Shuvo Roy, Ph.D. a biomedical scientist and technologist who specializes in MEMS technologies.

While this level of curation seems to be a necessary and obvious measure for a healthcare-specific appstore, in late 2010 Happtique’s President Corey Ackerman told MobiHealthNews that his organization had no plans to go in that direction. It was frustrating to hear at the time.

“We are not in the business of opining whether an app is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ though. That’s not our role,” Ackerman told MobiHealthNews in an interview in October 2010. “Apple doesn’t do that and others don’t either. If the FDA indicates that an app is a medical device and needs to be regulated, well, that’s a different situation and we can take it out of the store. If it’s related to or used by healthcare professionals, then we want it. We want [Happtique] to be as full as possible. We don’t have plans to delve into whether an app is ‘good or bad’ at this point, since there are thousands of apps out there.”

As we noted at the time, if Happtique doesn’t step up to decide whether an app is worthwhile, it will miss the point of what is sorely lacking in the medical categories of appstores today — curation.

Despite the need, this certification program will be a Herculean undertaking. Once the program is developed the number of health-related apps for both consumers and medical professionals in Apple’s AppStore alone will top 20,000 based on MobiHealthNews’ own research.

For more details on the planned program and its “blue ribbon panel” of advisors, read the entire press release below: Keep reading>>