Utah hospital system taps Kony for mobile apps

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 25, 2012        

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konyUtah-based Intermountain Healthcare, a system of 22 nonprofit hospitals, 185 clinics, a medical group, a health plans division called SelectHealth, and other health services, announced that it had inked a deal with Kony Solutions to enable it to make its mobile health apps available to patients, members, and providers regardless of which operating system their mobile devices run. As we reported a few weeks ago, Kony struck a similar deal with Independence Blue Cross.

Kony claims that its Write Once, Run Everywhere technology enables mobile deployment across more than 9,000 mobile smartphones, tablets, kiosks, and operating systems.

Intermountain Healthcare plans to create apps for clinical care, physicians, nurses, patients and health plan members using the platform.

“With Kony, we can easily support both mobile web and native apps. Kony also helps us future-proof our mobile strategy, so we don’t have to constantly worry about OS upgrades or new devices on the market,” Frederick Holston, CTO at Intermountain Healthcare stated in a press release.

Kony’s platform will help Intermountain develop both native applications and mobile web (HTML5 and non‐HTML5) across devices. The platform enables native support for seven operating systems: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Java ME, Symbian, webOS.

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

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Smartphones becoming essential tool at nursing schools

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 25, 2012        

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voalte-one-iphoneLast week we noted that Massachusetts General Hospital had tapped Voalte to distribute iPhones to its nurses. This week the New York Times also published a feature on how smartphones have become increasingly essential tools for students at nursing schools. The Times discussed the trend with a handful of professors and students at nursing schools across the country.

This crucial quote from the Times report sums up the trend best: “But the most profound recent change is a move away from the profession’s dependence on committing vast amounts of information to memory. It is not that nurses need to know less, educators say, but that the amount of essential data has exploded,” Time reporter Richard Perez-Pena wrote.

Joann Eland, an associate professor at University of Iowa’s nursing school told the Times that there are too many drugs, interactions, and tests for students to commit to memory and that’s what has driven the uptick in adoption of smartphones among nurses and nursing school programs.

“We have a certain set of apps that we want nursing students to have on their handheld devices — a book of lab tests, a database of drugs, even nursing textbooks,” Helen Connors, executive director of the Kansas University Center for Health Informatics told the NYTimes.

Read more in the New York Times here.

Blue Shield California looks to mobile to engage members

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 25, 2012        

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Blue Shield California Anywhere iPhone appBlue Shield of California (BSC) announced this week a five-year contract with HP Enterprise Services to help the insurer to more cost-effectively bring products and services to members quicker, while helping the health plan better manage its membership and claims processing systems. Blue Shield of California told InformationWeek that it is also moving to a client-server architecture to support outreach initiatives to its members online and via mobile apps. The health plan is also exploring ways that mobile health apps can help it better engage its members to take greater responsibility for their own health care.

According to the health plan’s website, a mobile-optimized version of its website as well as native apps for iOS devices and Android devices are coming soon. The mobile-optimized website, m.blueshieldca.com, appears to be available in beta mode currently. The three mobile offerings, called Blue Shield Anywhere, all include the same features. Members can use the mobile apps and site to view claim activity, plan details, temporary ID cards, provider locations, and to get quick access to Blue Shield of California’s social media channels.

The HP deal is not at all unexpected: The two companies have worked together for 43 years.

HP will provide consulting services to BSC and also help it run its complex distributed systems, William Ritz, a spokesman for HP Enterprise Services, told InformationWeek.

“BSC believes a patient-centered approach builds upon industry trends in consumer-oriented services. These include social media, mobile applications, and less structured data. This new contract will organize the core underpinnings required to allow expansion of self-service to patients in a manner that best suits them,” Ritz told InformationWeek.

Read the full report over at InformationWeek here.
More on Blue Shield of California’s forthcoming mobile offerings here.

Mobile Marketing Association spells out privacy basics for app developers

By: Neil Versel | Jan 25, 2012        

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mma_logo_newThe Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) is recommending that developers of mobile applications be as transparent as possible with their privacy and security policies to cut down on ambiguity and engender consumer trust.

In a guidance document released Wednesday, the trade group outlines best practices for creating privacy policies and offers sample language that software companies can adopt and adapt. The MMA calls this guidance the first of its kind to tackle “the core privacy issues and data processes of many mobile applications.” There will be further privacy guidelines from the group, CEO Greg Stuart stated in a press release.

The document is intended to be a starting point for addressing privacy issues and data movement associated with mobile apps, not a blanket policy for every developer.

“Privacy policies are a key consumer disclosure tool for app developers and important to establishing and maintaining consumer trust,” MMA Privacy & Advocacy Committee Chairman Alan Chapell stated in the press release. “Our guidelines offer developers the foundation from which to craft a document that reflects the privacy practices of each of their apps and helps them stay in compliance with applicable law and industry standards.”

Nor is the guidance specific to healthcare—in fact, none of the companies on the Privacy Policy Framework committee are healthcare-only firms—but there are warnings that health data deserves special treatment, per HIPAA and other privacy standards. Keep reading>>

West Wireless Health Institute studies Sense4Baby impact in Mexico

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 25, 2012        

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Sense4BabyThe West Wireless Health Institute (WWHI) and the Carlos Slim Health Institute (CSHI) kicked off a research study in Mexico that aims to track the impact mobile health and connected devices have on maternal health in the state of Yucatan in Mexico. The technologies used in the study are part of a “Wireless Pregnancy Remote Monitoring Kit,” developed by WWHI and CSHI.

The first phase of the research study will equip as many as 10 clinics in the Mexican state with the kits, which include a 3G phone, glucometer and blood pressure meter, urine strips, and a 3G wireless embedded laptop. Providers in primary care providers will use the kits during routine visits with expectant mothers. This phase is set to begin during the second quarter of 2012.

Sometime in the fall the second phase of the study will begin. Community health workers will use a new device, WWHI’s Sense4Baby, a handheld, portable and cellular-enabled monitoring device, to provide care for expectant mothers in the comfort of their homes. The Sense4Baby device provides critical maternal and fetal monitoring for high-risk pregnancies.

Researchers at West will have access to a health care delivery system on the Amanece network in order to study the impact the technology has on reducing healthcare costs and the clinical benefits for this high-risk population.

The research study announcement should come as no surprise: When the West Wireless Health Institute first unveiled its prototype of the Sense4Baby device at the mHealth Summit in 2010, the organization already noted plans to deploy the device as part of a kit to healthcare providers working in rural communities in Mexico. As part of the original plan, Qualcomm was going to provide a smartphone running its BREW operating system as part of the kits, but since then smartphones running Android have become cheaper and that led the West Wireless Health Institute to readjust its plan as well as the contents of the kit, a WWHI spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email.

The West Wireless Health Institute is also looking to launch research studies on how effective the Sense4Baby device is in rural and urban areas of the United States. The organization is looking for organizations to partner with to carry these studies stateside.

Finally, Gary and Mary West, the founders of the West Wireless Health Institute, recently announced the opening of the West Health Policy Center in Washington, DC. The new center has some of the same leadership as the wireless health institute: West Wireless Health Institute’s CEO Don Casey will serve as chairman of the new institute and Dr. Joseph Smith (Chief Medical Officer of the WWHI) will serve as president of the policy institute. Visit the center’s website for more info.

For more on the Sense4Baby study, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

Fitness device maker Fitbit raises $12 million

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 24, 2012        

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Fitbit UltraFitbit, which offers the Fitbit Ultra activity monior and the Aria WiFi Smart Scale, announced its third round of funding: $12 million from existing investors. Foundry Group, True Ventures, SoftTech VC and Felicis Ventures all participated in the round.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, Fitbit unveiled the Aria WiFi scale, its first product offering outside of wearable activity monitors. Similar to Withings’ WiFi scale, the Aria scale from Fitbit measures weight, body fat percentage, as well as BMI and uploads the data via the user’s home WiFi network to Fitbit’s online portal. The device is expected to launch in late April and will retail for $129.95.

When the weight scale launched Fitbit’s CEO James Park stated that consumer demand for products that combine health and technology is on the rise and analysts predict that the digital health industry will be worth $4 billion by 2014. Fitbit sells its devices in various retail stores including Target, Best Buy, Brookstone, REI, RadioShack, and more. It recently announced a deal to bring its wares to the UK, too.

Last October Fitbit launched the Ultra, the second generation of its original wearable fitness monitor. Like the original Fitbit device, the Ultra is a wireless-enabled, fitness and calorie tracking device small enough to clip on to the user’s clothing. Fitbit leverages an internal motion detector to track the wearer’s movement, sleep, and calorie burn during both the day and night. Fitbit provides users with metrics like: steps taken, miles traveled, calories burned, calories consumed, bedtime, time to fall asleep, number of times awoken, total time in bed, and actual time sleeping.

fitbitariaSome of Ultra’s new features include: a Stair Tracker that measures vertical steps via a new built-in altimeter, a Chatter motivational message system, and a Stopwatch Challenge for beating previous running times. New online tools and apps include badges for completing fitness challenges and a weight management tool that adjusts itself based on completed activities. Fitbit’s first iPhone App also includes food tracking and activity-planning features.

“We’ve moved beyond being a single product company and are creating incredible digital health products and experiences. This funding will help us accelerate the hiring of the best hardware and software engineers, designers, product managers and marketers, ” Park stated in a company press release.

One of the company’s longtime investors explains why Fitbit has an edge over the others on the growing field of competition:

“The digital health and fitness device category requires a deep understanding of consumer needs, an unquestionable ability to deliver a successful product and technical expertise built from years of experience in the industry,” said Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group. “Fitbit has demonstrated these traits while building and launching several successful digital health products and services and is clearly the leading company to grow this category to its full potential.”

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>