HP supports malaria tracking in Botswana

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 6, 2011        

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HP and PINGHP has partnered with the nonprofit PING (Positive Information for the Next Generation) for a year-long clinical trial in Botswana, in an effort to more accurately monitor and prevent outbreaks of malaria in the region. In a partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and mobile operator MASCO, healthcare workers will be given Palm Pre 2 smartphones which use webOS and cloud computing technologies to document at-risk areas. HP acquired Palm last year for $1.2 billion.

The mobile app will use video, audio, pictures, and GPS information to create a database of information that can be analyzed as a malaria outbreak forms. A similar trial using the same technology to monitor cardiovascular disease is currently underway in Singapore. In that trial, a watch-like device monitors users’ heart-rates & other vital signs, which are then displayed as graphs and charts in a mobile app.

“We’re focused on addressing health and development problems by not only using technology in an innovative way, but also by creating more problem solvers in the local population,” Katy Digovich, Director of Operations at PING, stated in the release. “By combining our socially active core with innovation and business acumen from HP, and the scale of government organizations, we can achieve the greatest opportunity for lasting social change.”

This isn’t the first time HP has supported mobile health initiatives in developing markets. They collaborated with mPedigree on an SMS-based system for validating prescriptions and also gave $1 million in funding to the mHealth Alliance.

For more read the press release
And check out this article in the New York Times
Or this excellent post from Fast Company

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Should health apps be as fun as Angry Birds?

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 6, 2011        

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Angry Birds iPhone appWhen it comes to medical apps, it’s not that patients want their apps to play more like Angry Birds; it’s that they want them to be so easy and efficient to use, that they’ll have more time to play Angry Birds.

In her essay in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine supplement “Cyberinfrastructure for Consumer Health,” Dr. Jessie Gruman makes four observations about health information technology: new technology helps a lot but often demands more of patients; EHRs should be a high priority; patients need to play a role in development; and solutions need to be tested for usability more thoroughly. Additionally, she proposes ways for mobile device and app makers targeting patients to make their offerings more successful. Mainly, her suggestions fall on the side of making life easier on people managing chronic illness rather than trying to make things flashy or “fun.” In the end, managing chronic illness will probably never be considered fun, no matter how cool the iPhone apps are.

Dr. Gruman asks developers to explore what their target audiences have to accomplish in their daily lives to manage their medical issues, and to make devices and apps that simplify those tasks. Learning new systems or complicated tools should not be added to that burden. She notes that testing apps and devices with people who might use them in the future — with particular focus on older, less tech-savvy age groups — will help create solutions that will make patients day-to-day lives easier. Keep reading>>

Microsoft HealthVault goes mobile finally

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 6, 2011        

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Microsoft HealthVaultSean Nolan, the chief architect of the Microsoft Health Solutions Group announced last week that Microsoft’s PHR platform HealthVault has broken free from the desktop and gone mobile.

HealthVault users who visit the HealthVault website from their mobile devices will now find a mobile optimized layout. Microsoft has also built client libraries for developers so they can create applications that tie into HealthVault. The software developer kit (SDK) and sample apps are already published for Windows Phone 7 OS (understandable and not surprising), while SDKs for Apple iOS and Google Android are coming “within weeks,” according to Nolan. No mention of BlackBerry.

“This one changes the face of the platform pretty radically,” Nolan writes. “It is going to be really fun to see what new applications start popping up over the next few months.” Nolan writes that it has become “completely obvious” that mobile devices are becoming the primary channel through which people “communicate and compute” throughout the day. Mobile makes “complete sense” for health, Nolan writes because all meaningful health-related activities occur while we are away from our laptops: “office visits, emergencies, workouts, daily glucose testing, sleeping, you name it.”

In not so many words Nolan acknowledges that HealthVault should have gone mobile earlier: “I’m so excited that HealthVault is finally a first-class mobile citizen.”

One developer group, Akvelon, has already created an app using the WP7 SDK. The app called Health Guard is already available for WP7 users in the WP7 marketplace. Nolan revealed that he is also creating an app: “I can’t wait to see more and more awesome, task-focused mobile applications start to come online. I’m working on one of my own, but it’s a secret! ;)”

Mobile apps built on HealthVault are a long time coming. In February 2009 Dr James Mault, then-director of new products and business development for Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group, announced: “You are going to see a number of mobile applications going live on this platform in the coming weeks and months,” Mault announced. Following the session I asked Mault whether he and the HealthVault team had approached Microsoft’s Windows Mobile team to get the mobile developers in-house thinking about leveraging this platform, too. Mault’s response then: You bet. Of course, that never came to fruition, Mault has since left and it’s been more than two years until we received the “HealthVault goes mobile” announcement last week.

In a lengthy interview with MobiHealthNews back in August 2009, Microsoft HealthVault’s Senior Global Strategist George Scriban to discuss the PHR platform’s mobile strategy. Here’s a relevant excerpt: Keep reading>>

Meet Rock Health’s Class of 2011

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 3, 2011        

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Rock Health Class 2011Rock Health, the mobile health incubator that launched earlier this year just announced (most of) the names of its first batch of startups, which were picked by Rock Health’s venture capitalist and healthcare provider partners. The incubator said that more than 350 entrants applied to the program, which consists of five months of consulting on design, health policy, funding, infrastructure branding, communications and more.

“Until now, the healthcare and technology spheres have been totally separate. The brilliance of Rock Health is that, for the first time, a surge of talent is flowing into health apps — the same brainy, bold, blue-sky entrepreneurs who brought about Web 2.0,” Patrick Chang, Partner at NEA stated in Rock Health’s release. “These entrepreneurs see an ailing sector that can be restored more cheaply, easily and inventively than ever before. This inaugural class brings together physicians, web designers and more than a few yogis to work on cool, diverse concepts. Rock Health is an excitant in a field of infirmity.”

“We are thrilled to be working with Rock Health and engaging in the powerful ecosystem that is being developed,” added Dr. Michael Matley, leader in business development and new ventures for the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation. “By coupling the passion and innovation of these entrepreneurs, the scaling and business expertise of great investors, and the clinical expertise of the Mayo Clinic, we hope to create solutions to healthcare’s most compelling problems.”

It’s refreshing to see a list of startups working on mobile health and online health tools that includes few recognizable names. While few are recognizable now, what’s more important is whether any of these will be well known in the near future. It’s still very early, but what do you think, will Rock Health’s Class of 2011 produce any winners?

To learn more about each of the startups in Rock Health’s Class of 2011, click on a name from the list. Not mentioned in the list are three additional startups that are in “stealth mode” still.

BrainBot (technology to improve mental performance)
CellScope (at-home diagnosis of diseases)
Genomera (personal health collaboration)
Health In Reach (medical procedure marketplace)
Omada Health (clinical treatment social networking)
Pipette (patient monitoring and education)
Skimble (mobile fitness)
WeSprout (connecting health data and community)

Keep reading>>

Patients will pay more for better designed devices

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 2, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsIt follows: Health devices that are easier to use find greater acceptance among patients. Usability also impacts dosage compliance as well as health outcomes. Those are some of the findings that came out of a survey Cambridge Consultants conducted. The respondents included healthcare providers and 240 diabetes patients.

The more surprising findings? Those patients surveyed said they were mostly willing to pay more for user friendly devices. About 77 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay a slight premium for more usable health devices. Five dollars more.

The survey found that patients are making informed decision about the health devices they use, too. About 75 percent of the patients said their doctor gave them a choice of which device to use. Of that group, 28 percent said they followed their doctor’s recommendation, while 21 percent said they did their own research before selecting a device.

Design and usability appear to already be on the minds of healthcare providers: Of the providers surveyed by Cambridge Consultants, every one of them said they believed the device usability impacts patient compliance.

In September 2009 the Center for Connected Health’s Dr. Joseph Kvedar declared usability one of the biggest challenges facing connected health devices. Kvedar said that about 33 percent of the people the Center for Connected Health equipped with connected health devices required phone calls to set up the devices. Kvedar said the install process was as simple as installing an iPod. At the time anyway, connected health devices were simple but not simple enough. I think that still holds true.

Apps aren’t much better.

“There are some great wellness and fitness apps out there… if you want an app to help you get and stay active, you’re spoiled for choice,” Massive Health’s Sutha Kamal wrote earlier this year. “But what if you’re actually ill? Then there’s nothing sleek or sexy to help you manage your disease. You’re back to the world of clinical health applications that aren’t especially friendly, easy to understand or use, and certainly aren’t social. Today’s apps don’t appreciate that you’re a person. That’s simply not good enough.”

Whether its improved adherence, improved health outcomes, or — now that we have the survey data to back it up — a higher pricepoint, design and usability are crucial to mobile health’s success.

Medicare bill could fund SMS medication reminders

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 2, 2011        

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Vitality's GlowCaps

GlowCap: Connected pillbox top

According to a recent study by Express Scripts, Americans might be wasting as much as $258 billion annually by not taking their prescribed medications. Missed doses can lead to emergency room visits and doctors’ visits, which could be prevented if medication adherence was improved. The Express Scripts study found that more than half of people who believe they take their medications properly are not, according to a report in USA Today.

A similar study conducted by NEHI found that poor medication adherence results in illnesses and ensuing treatments that cost some $290 billion in unnecessary spending each year, $100 billion of that in avoidable hospitalizations alone.

Two members of Congress recently introduced bills to allow Medicare reimbursement for more patients to sit down with therapists one-on-one and equip patients with pill boxes or text message services that help patients become more adherent, the USA Today report said. (We have noted a number of mobile health services and devices that aim to tackle the medication adherence problem — here’s our coverage of mobile health medication adherence.)

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash, introduced the bills.

The Toronto University College of Pharmacy conducted a study that found medication therapy saved about $93.78 per patient annually in a study of 23,798 people, USA Today reports.

For more read the USA Today article here