Mobile operator drops health services 5 months in

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 29, 2013        

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O2 handsetsUK-based mobile operator O2, a subsidiary of Telefonica, has discontinued two of its mobile health offerings in the UK. By the end of 2013, the company will stop supporting consumer-facing emergency response service Help at Hand and provider-facing remote patient monitoring service Health at Home.

MobiHealthNews reported on the launch of these two offerings just a few months ago, in mid-March, although although a B2B version of Help at Hand has been available since April 2012. In a statement, the company said it was dropping the offerings because of a slow uptake.

“While eHealth continues to be a key focus for Telefonica, we recognized quickly that uptake of telehealth and telecare solutions in the UK market would be much slower than anticipated,” an O2 spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email. “This is due to the early phase of the mobile telecare market.”

Instead, Telefonica will direct its mobile health efforts in emerging markets such as Latin America.

“eHealth does continue to be a key focus for Telefonica, who will continue to invest and focus resources in areas of eHealth where there is more customer demand, for example in Latin America,” O2 wrote. “Earlier this year Telefonica Digital acquired a controlling stake in Axismed, the largest chronic care management provider in Brazil, making Telefonica the first telecoms group in Latin America to deliver end-to-end services in the eHealth market.”

The company declined to disclose how many users the services had, but they are compensating their customers as part of the shut down. Help at Hand users will get a refund on device purchases, a refund on service charges if they have used the service for more than six months, and an extra £100 ($153 US). Service through December 31, 2013 will be free, at which point the service will no longer be offered. The company says it will securely delete all stored patient data at that time as well.

In March, MobiHealthNews noted that telehealth was a rising trend in the UK, with efforts like the 3 Million Lives initiative, Qualcomm Life’s launch of its 2net ecosystem of remote monitoring devices in Europe, telehealth giant Bosch partnering with a UK university to study telemedicine, and AstraZeneca and Exco InTouch launching a pilot using mobile health to help COPD patients in the UK. This move by O2 suggests that the momentum telehealth is experiencing in terms of pilots may not extend all the way to commercial viability.

For more on other mobile operator initiatives, be sure to check out our report in the MobiHealthNews library.


Two Blues discuss healthy behavior change, rewards, loss aversion, and regret theory

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 29, 2013        

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ServeitUpPremera Blue Cross Director of Member Engagement Neal Sofian and Blue Shield of California Senior Wellness Program Manager Ritu Riyat introduced ways in which their respective health plans are incentivizing patients and providing meaningful data to improve their everyday life at a mobile health conference last week in Boston.

Sofian takes issue with the one size fits all approach to a lot of wellness programs because “there’s not one thing that’s the critical thing to know”. Rather, he sees a need for many different strategies for improving health, each benefiting a different type of person.

His team’s new product, Serve It Up helps consumers create shopping lists and identify which products are healthier choices. Serve It Up includes a rewards system that compensates shoppers for choosing healthy options, a coupon finder for healthy groceries and a social sharing mechanism that enables users to share shopping lists and recipes with like-minded shoppers.

“Serve It Up is saying we recognize how people operate: They are at the grocery store 200 times a year so why not start where people are, at the grocery list?” Sofian said. “Which means it starts at the dining room table or the kitchen table when you’re making your weekly shopping list.”

Notable prizes within the program include — on the high end — tickets to a Seattle Seahawks football game.

In her presentation, Ritu Riyat of Blue Shield of California described the program Wellvolution, which launched in 2008. Wellvolution arose out of her group’s dissatisfaction with the previous model — a basic “complete an HRA, answer a few questions about fruits and vegetable consumption, possibly receive a $50 gift card and in the end making little to no impact.”

After looking at multiple different programs and testing them out herself, Riyat chose a program that she felt provided consumers with some of their “basic human needs”.

“We all want a sense of belonging, we want to be recognized, we want to take the path of least resistance, we want the easy way,” Riyat said.

She aimed for the program to be rewarding, easy, social, and fun. Instead of linking incentives to cash, the program links incentives to health insurance benefits. The outcomes of the program are set so that if someone doesn’t meet the requirements of the program, they are still rewarded for participating. To make the program easy, Riyat designed it so that people make fewer choices.

“We are all social beings,” Riyat said. “We wanted to leverage this as a strategy within our Blue Shield population by working with innovative partners like ShapeUp and MeYou Health to launch team-based step challenges as well as social platforms where employees can connect with other colleagues as well as friends and family members.”

Within the trial year of the program, participants completed over 175,000 challenges and had a 90 percent retention rate, she said.

To tackle fitness, Riyat’s team launched Walkadoo, in partnership with MeYou Health, this year. Walkadoo is a physical activity platform that uses a device made by Fitlinxx Pebble and has a step goal based on your current walking patterns and activity level.

Six months into the program, half the company is participating — almost 2,500 participants — and of those 70 percent wear the devices daily, Riyat said. As a group, they have walked over 800 million steps thus far.

This year, Riyat and her team are working with VAL Health to improve Blue Shield of California’s existing program, Healthy Lifestyle Rewards, with a new rewards engine. The new rewards program is based on regret theory, defined as a decision made when anticipating loss and choosing another option as a result. The improvements to the Healthy Lifestyle Rewards program, which were tested on an unspecified client population, Riyat said, increased participation while lowering the amount of money the health insurance company had to spend on the program.

Axial Exchange raises $5M, adds enhancements to hospital app platform

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 26, 2013        

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mzl.sgvnjoww.320x480-75Raleigh, North Carolina-based Axial Exchange, a mobile app developer, raised just under $5 million from undisclosed investors, according to an SEC filing. Axial Exchange is backed by a syndicate of venture capital firms, led by Canaan Partners.

The company recently announced a series of enhancements to its mobile patient engagement app which include prioritizing elements related to day-to-day health management including medication adherence, access to all health system resources available to patients, and a new design approach that focuses users on the health information, instead of the design elements of the app.

Axial offers hospitals a way to keep their patients continuously engaged by giving patients the information and interactive tools needed to the patient’s device. Patients can use the apps developed by Axial to share their health information with providers and care givers. Health systems benefit via lower readmissions and improved patient satisfaction scores, according to the company.

Last year, Axial acquired Mayo Clinic mobile health startup mRemedy, although they did not disclose financial terms of the deal. As part of the agreement Axial Exchange also gained access to content from that it planned to incorporate into its patient-facing wares. Before the acquisition, Central Baptist Hospital signed on as mRemedy’s first client and later hired Axial Exchange.

Other hospitals that have hired Axial Exchange include Parrish Medical Center, AtlantiCare, WakeMed, Colorado Health Medical Group, and Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center.


7 hospital apps Boston Children’s made in-house

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 26, 2013        

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MyPassportWhile Boston Children’s Hospital’s Chief Innovation Officer Naomi Fried has called for others to build more hospital apps in the past, her team is also working to bring new ones into operation at Boston Children’s through an innovation program. She outlined about half a dozen of such projects during a talk at a mobile health event in Boston this week.

Fried stressed that there is an overabundance of personal health and fitness apps in the market — around 80 percent of health apps are for consumers by her count. The rest are developed for a hospital environment, but most of those are just mobile versions of an existing medical website or tool.

“Relatively speaking,” Fried said. “There are very few truly innovative mobile apps being created.”

Fried is quick to acknowledge that there are many barriers to creating hospital apps, including the complexity of integrating them with clinical systems and issues around privacy and security. Given how tied up most hospital IT teams are with meaningful use, ICD-10 and more, hospital apps often have to take a back seat, she said.

Still, Fried and her team have found a way to push innovative ideas through at Boston Children’s.

The Fast Track Innovation in Technology award (FIT), which first began in 2010, offers employees at Boston Children’s the opportunity to submit an idea for how to make the hospital experience better and more efficient. These ideas are then brought to the pilot stage by Fried’s innovation team and could become a part of the hospital’s workflow if successful.

Fried spoke about seven ideas — not all of them were mobile apps — that have been piloted at the hospital. Keep reading>>

Wearables to move beyond activity, vital signs to chemical biosensors

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 25, 2013        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsResearchers at the University of California in San Diego have developed a noninvasive, realtime wearable sensor that continuously monitors the wearer’s sweat’s lactate levels. The sensor could be used to help assess physical performance for athletes, soldiers, or patients, the researchers wrote in an article published by a medical journal affiliated with the American Chemical Society.

“Wearable sensors have received considerable attention since they enable continuous physiological monitoring toward maintaining an optimal health status and assessing physical performance,” they wrote. “Recent research activity in this rapidly growing field has aimed at addressing the demands of epidermal sensing where durability, lightweight, and intimate skin conformance are core requirements. These endeavors have resulted in a plethora of physical sensor devices for assessing vital signs such as heart rate, respiration rate, skin temperature, bodily motion, brain activity, and blood pressure.”

Notably, the researchers charge that not nearly as many chemical biosensors have entered the market yet.

“However, further progress in this arena has been hindered by the lack of wearable and conformal chemical sensors and biosensors, able to monitor the chemical constituents residing on the epidermis of the wearer’s body. Such wearable chemical (bio)sensors could lead to additional important insights into the overall health status than physical variables alone can provide.”

The team’s sensor markedly improves on the tests in use today. Current lactate tests typically require finger pricks and blood draws and some lactate tests require samples to be sent out and reviewed over the course of several days. The newly developed sensor, which has a temporary tattoo form factor similar to sensors developed by Cambridge, MA-based MC10, aims to be the first that is noninvasive, continuous and realtime.

The San Diego-based team believes future projects to develop sensors that measure other metabolites found in perspiration are the next step.

While this group didn’t focus on it or mention it in their paper, sensors like these could prove to help — in the not too distant future — to crack the code on automatically sensing diet, calories, and nutrition.

Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers tap Asthmapolis for asthma management

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 25, 2013        

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AsthmapolisMadison, Wisconsin-based Asthmapolis, which offers an FDA-cleared inhaler sensor and companion app, announced a deal with San Diego-based Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers. The hospital will offer the Asthmapolis platform as part of its asthma respiratory health management program.

Asthmapolis’ device is a sensor that attaches to most inhalers for patients who have asthma or COPD. The sensor transmits data to an app every time the inhaler is used and the system records the time and location. The resulting report is available to physicians and patients. Asthmapolis also provides email or text reminders are sent to patients to help them remember to take their medication.

In recent year Asthmapolis has inked deals with a variety of healthcare organizations including Dignity Health in CaliforniaAmerigroup in Florida, and the City of Louisville.

“Until now we have been really focused on building the product and demonstrating efficacy, which we have done,” Asthmapolis CEO and co-founder David Van Sickle told MobiHealthNews in an interview this past April. “We are in the market, as you know, and now it is time to scale up and meet these populations wherever they are. Asthma isn’t a disease of just a certain demographic or geography — it is a part of every population.”

Earlier this year, Asthmapolis raised $5 million from Social + Capital Partnership in order to fund plans to secure regulatory clearances in countries outside the US like Canada and the UK.