Aetna offers international members mobile app to file claims from anywhere

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 26, 2013        

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Aetna Mobile Assistant AppThis week Aetna announced the launch of its Mobile Assistant App for non-US-based members that aims to make it easier for them submit health claims and receipts by snapping a photo of them with their smartphones. The free app is now available in Apple’s AppStore and for Android users through Google Play.

The app is currently available to Aetna’s international customers who live outside of the US, but a version for US expats will also launch later this year. Aetna noted that the app is not available to members who live in China, because regulations in that country require that original documents be submitted.

Using the smartphone’s camera to scan and submit health insurance claims has been available from various insurance companies for years. In 2011 we reported on the rise of camera phones’ role in the automation of healthcare-related paperwork.

Curiously, Aetna’s main mobile app, called Aetna Mobile, does offer its members the ability to view the past five claims they submitted, but it does not include a camera-enabled claims submission feature.

Aetna also announced this week that it was reviving the Healthagen brand, which used to be the parent company name of iTriage, the mobile health company that Aetna acquired in 2011. The new Healthagen division at Aetna will include Aetna’s population health management solutions and health information technologies from ActiveHealth Management, iTriage, and Medicity. Sharp eyes trolling the list of exhibitors at HIMSS would have noticed that Healthagen has been on there for weeks alongside subsidiaries like iTriage.

More on the Healthagen division formation in the Aetna announcement here.


Misfit Shine appears on Jeopardy! expects to ship in June now

By: Brian Dolan | Feb 26, 2013        

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1zZce.jpg.gifLast Friday mobile health startup Misfit Wearables received some free publicity from television gameshow Jeopardy! when its soon-to-launch Shine device was featured as part of one of the last clues in the semi-finals edition.

The clue was: “The Misfit Shine is a high tech one of these that tracks how much you not only walk but bike or swim.” The correct question was “What is a pedometer?” which one of the contestants guessed immediately.

“I wish I had a cooler story but to be completely honest, I think a staff writer probably just heard about us,” Misfit co-founder Sonny Vu told MobiHealthNews. “Perhaps they were one of the 8,000 people who ordered [a Shine device] on [crowdfunding site] Indiegogo or one of the [650,000] views on YouTube… and thought it’d be cool to include us rather than any one of the dozens of other activity trackers.”

Vu said his company hasn’t hired a PR firm or anything like that, but he was happy to see a digital health company get some mainstream action on TV like this.

“It was just a $200 hint,” Vu pointed out, “so I guess it was a pretty easy clue. [Does that mean] everyone knows what a pedometer is?”

This week Misfit Wearables also notified those who bought the device via Indiegogo that the company expects to begin shipping in June. Its customers have pre-ordered about 10,000 devices. The first 5,000 units will go out on or before June 1st and the remainder will be out by June 15th, the company wrote. When it first launched on Indiegogo last November, Misfit expected to get the devices out by March. In late January Vu told MobiHealthNews they would get them out “as soon as humanly possible”.

In its most recent email to Shine buyers, the company wrote: “We’re really sorry we can’t get Shine out sooner to you. If you’d like a refund for any reason, we’d be more than happy to give back 100% of the money that you gave us – even if your order was later in the campaign.”

In recent weeks Misfit has also made two updates to the Shine. Most recently, the device has been revamped with a new wireless firmware update feature, so the device can receive fixes and improvements when it syncs to the user’s phone, if needed. The device is also sporting brighter lights than were previously demo’d. Misfit also expects to announce its next product this fall.

Watch the Shine’s appearance on Jeopardy! in the clip below (starts at 8:59):

Rumor: Samsung Galaxy S IV to launch with mobile health peripheral

By: Jonah Comstock | Feb 26, 2013        

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Samsung Galaxy SIII

Samsung Galaxy SIII

There has been a fair amount of speculation this week based on a report in a Korean publication, first picked up by Android technology blog The Droid Guy, that Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S IV smartphone launch will include the launch of a mobile health peripheral. According to the Korean report, the peripheral device is described in part as a “pad” similar in form factor to a weight scale. The report also claims the device can track and transmit pulse rate and measure blood glucose.

Based on translations by two native Korean speakers, MobiHealthNews has learned that the original Korean report claims that Samsung will provide this health peripheral device without additional charges to those who buy the S IV. Samsung already has a healthcare division and it expects synergy effects between these two parts of its company following this launch.

If true, the rumored device will likely build on Samsung’s S Health app launch, which coincided with the device company’s Galaxy S III launch last year. S Health connects with a handful of health monitoring devices to track blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight and allows manual entry to track diet, exercise medication adherence. It was launched in several countries including the UK last July, but it didn’t find its way to US phones as planned. According to a Samsung spokesperson, S Health is currently only available on the “global” version of the S III device. Mobile operators in the US often strip out some preloaded apps and software and add their own apps, too.

Although Samsung wouldn’t confirm it, the lack of a US release might be because the app might require FDA clearance, which it does not appear to have currently. The same reason could certainly keep the new rumored health peripheral from launching here as well.

We won’t have to wait too long to see whether the rumored connected health tablet is coming to the United States. The Galaxy S IV is scheduled to launch on March 14, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Intermountain Healthcare, MModal test mobile speech-enabled CPOE app

By: Neil Versel | Feb 26, 2013        

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Intermountain Healthcare LiVE app

Another iOS app from Intermountain Healthcare: LiVE, a wellness app for teenagers.

Healthcare speech recognition technology vendor MModal is teaming up with Utah’s Intermountain Healthcare to prototype and develop what MModal is calling the first mobile app for speech-enabled computerized physician order entry (CPOE).

“We don’t know anyone who’s ever done this before,” MModal CMIO Dr. Jon Handler tells MobiHealthNews.

Franklin, Tenn.-based MModal and Intermountain, of Salt Lake City, announced their partnership Friday. They will demonstrate a prototype Apple iOS app at next week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in New Orleans.

With the app, clinicians can speak orders into an iPhone. Voice orders get sent to an MModal server in the cloud, where a natural-language processing engine that MModal calls “speech understanding” recognizes spoken words and translates the information into text, according to Handler.

The server sends information back to the clinician’s phone in a structured format, where the user can proofread and edit the order. After the clinician verifies the data and hits “send,” the MModal server formats the order in a way Intermountain’s CPOE system can understand.

The app also works with iPads, since voice commands are transmitted via the app, not as phone calls. “It really only does require an Internet connection,” Handler says. By the same token, the system currently does not work with standard landline or cellular phones or non-Apple smartphones.

Initially, Intermountain will use the system only for medication orders, but clinicians there will be testing the app for such tasks as laboratory, imaging and observation orders, according to Handler. “Part of our development at Intermountain Healthcare will be testing to see what kinds of workflows work” with this technology, he explained.

“The ability for a physician to dictate common prescription orders and have them seamlessly integrated into our electronic medical record system can create better productivity and improve patient safety,” Intermountain CIO Marc Probst says in a press release. Probst was not immediately available for further comment.

“We looked at the scenarios where there’s a clinician out and about,” Handler continues. Speech-enabled CPOE would come in handy in some but not all situations. “Either they forgot to do something or they just received some new information.”

Since this app is intended to be a convenience for specialists on call and others who might not be immediately available in person at Intermountain hospitals, do not expect physicians there to place major orders such as chemotherapy regimens by voice. “This is not the place where you would do a complex or risky order,” Handler says. It might be appropriate for treating more common ailments like minor rashes or pain, he says.

Simple is the rule since the quality of mobile voice recordings can vary so much. “There’s not an infinite amount of things you can do with this,” Handler says. “It’s a lot hard when you have to understand a lot of things.” However, he reports that the experience so far has been “shockingly excellent” and notes that there is the “human check” before orders get sent.

Intermountain is a development site for GE Healthcare and has an extensive health IT infrastructure in place, so it was imperative for MModal, formerly known as MedQuist, to create an app that worked with the existing electronic health record and CPOE system, Handler says. The user interface is less complex than that of an EHR, the MModal CMIO says, and both partners are working to make sure the app is “extensible to other customers.” That means it needs to work with more than just GE Centricity EHRs, he adds.

MModal is looking at a general release of the yet-unnamed app sometime this fall, but that will depend on how the prototype performs with practicing clinicians. “We want to make sure we give this thing a good test in the real world,” Handler says.

Needed: Standardized outcome measures for patient-generated data

By: Jonah Comstock | Feb 25, 2013        

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patientslikemeIn order to conduct meaningful clinical trials, it’s important to have solid metrics for tracking disease trajectories and patient experiences. Developing these patient outcome measures is the goal of PatientsLikeMe’s new open-participation research platform, funded by a $1.9 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio.

PatientsLikeMe President and co-founder Ben Heywood said that having good patient outcome measures, and seeing them as widely used as possible, is a huge boon for disease research.

“We’re not measuring pain in 45 different ways unless we need to,” he said. “One of the goals we have is a unified medical framework to think about that disease more broadly.”

In other words, the more studies use the same scale, the easier it is to compare their outcomes. At the same time, Heywood believes some diseases don’t have a good existing measurement system for patient-generated data. He said PatientsLikeMe discovered this early on in developing its online patient community, in which patients share data with each other about their diseases. He cited an example from their multiple sclerosis community.

“When we started our MS community, we looked at the way the disease is measured broadly. The general consensus among the research and scientific community was that those measures were inadequate, outdated, and not very good,” he said. “So we built a rating scale, that we then deployed on the PatientsLikeMe platform. Over time we had thousands and thousands of patients measuring their symptoms. We did a lot of work, making sure it was validated internally, and then we validated it clinically outside the system. And it became a much better scale.”

Now, with the new open access system, any researcher who wants to develop a scale can have access to the PatientsLikeMe disease community in order to test it out, as well as to a number of development tools built into the platform. In return, PatientsLikeMe asks researchers to share the scales they develop, making them available for users of the site and people conducting offline clinical trials. If someone uses the scale and adapts it or improves upon it, they’re asked to report those changes back to the PatientsLikeMe database as well.

Heywood hopes the platform will trigger a shift in how patient outcome measures are developed and used. He said currently even when good scales are developed, the system doesn’t always work well.

“One of the big problems with outcome measures today is once they get validated, they never get improved upon. The reality is our understanding of disease, and patients needs, evolve over time, and our cultural understanding of questions evolves over time,” he said. “This system is going to greatly lower the barrier in improving those steps.”

In general, PatientsLikeMe has a philosophy of open access to research. Paul Wicks, the director of research and development at PatientsLikeMe, who announced the new platform in his TED talk today, wrote a blog post on the subject last year. The company has published 25 peer-reviewed studies, many of which they’ve paid the publishers to open up to the public.

“It’s about allowing the people who were engaged in the research, ultimately the patients, to have access to it. We really think data should be open and available, so people can validate and understand the raw data and anyone can learn from the work of everyone else,” said Heywood. “Morally, if patients are engaged in doing this research, they should have access to the results. It’s similar in an open platform, having everyone see it and have access to it and understand it will evolve the science much more rapidly.”

At present, the grant allows PatientsLikeMe to offer the platform free of charge. However, PatientsLikeMe, a for-profit company, might charge for access in the future.

Here comes the third wave of healthcare consumerism

By: Jonah Comstock | Feb 25, 2013        

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Triple Tree Associate Joe Long

Triple Tree Associate Joe Long

Minnesota investment banking firm Triple Tree has released a report about the rise of consumerism in the healthcare industry. The company says the industry is becoming less like a traditional healthcare system and more like a retail environment, with B2B2C, or business-to-business-to-consumer, business models becoming the dominant format.

“Viewed through the lens of many healthcare product and pharmaceutical companies as well as select services providers (e.g., Weight Watchers) that have been addressing the health needs of consumers through business-to-consumer (B2C) and direct-to-consumer (DTC) models for considerably longer, consumerism is already here,” the report reads. “For payers and providers however – and for the technology and service companies they rely on – consumerism is new, and the change is having a significant impact on the industry.”

Joe Long, an associate at Triple Tree, said many analyses of the consumerization of health care focus on the fact that consumers are taking on more of the cost of healthcare. He suggested that’s an outdated framing of the conversation.

“A lot of people have looked at the consumer in healthcare and thought of it more along the lines of the cost shift that’s occurred,” he told MobiHealthNews. “But the cost shift has already happened. The issue now is consumer engagement in healthcare: Initiatives made by payers and providers to interact with the consumer and help them better navigate the system.”

The report describes the shift toward a retail healthcare model as happening in three waves. The first of the three waves of this change was the rise of consumer-driven health plans, or CDHs. These efforts were driven by employers and had the advantage of making health management for patients easier, the report says. But because the patient interface wasn’t matched with improved cost transparency, it was difficult to truly engage or empower patients. Too many CDH plans used B2B models, which were targeted to large groups and categories of consumers, rather than designed to help individuals. Keep reading>>