Which sensors are coming to your next smartphone?

By: Brian Dolan | May 23, 2011        

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Apple patent wireless health sensorsAccording to an interview with the general manager of the MEMS division of STMicroelectronics, Benedetto Vigna, smartphones will soon offer up a whole slew of new embedded sensors that could help to make mobile health services more accessible.

Vigna, whose company creates sensors for mobile devices, told the New York Times that he expects more sensors to find their way into our mobile phones leading to even more medical, health and fitness applications. He believes location-based services will become even more accurate in the short-term with some devices adding altimeter sensors to the already compelling GPS location data. Altimeters will mean apps could determine elevation changes in fitness apps. The altimeter could also determine what floor a person is on inside a building — potentially useful data for first-responders relying on location data to find a person in need of medical attention.

In addition to altimeters, Vigna sees more phones including heart-rate monitors as well as sensors to detect perspiration and microphones, temperature and humidity sensors for more environmental data.

The introduction of extra sensors into consumer phones and other devices will really be just the first step into finding sensors everywhere according to Vigna. He states that in the next few years we will be seeing sensors in our socks, shoes, glasses and household fixtures like the garbage can — all aimed at measuring a person’s environmental health factors. (Of course, that’s a great prediction for the future of Vigna’s company, too — so we’ll have to wait and see how widespread embedded wellness sensors become.)

Last week Ford demonstrated a handful of research projects it has been working on during the past few months, including one with SDI for its Allergy Alert application, which could warn drivers of pollen count, flu incidence or UV rays for the area that they drive through. Asthmapolis has been working on a GPS-enabled asthma device that pairs with a smartphone, too. Each of these initiatives are part of the geomedicine trend, which Bill Davenhall evangelized in a TEDMED presentation in 2009.

As we have reported in the past, Apple has filed a number of patents showing that it is indeed working towards Vigna’s predictions. The company filed a ‘smart garment’ patent in April 2010 which involves clothing that can transmit location and physiometric data wirelessly to an “external data processing device”–read iPhone. The company also has patents for an activity monitor for tracking acceleration, an earbud that measures a user’s blood oxygen level, body temperature, heat flux and heart rate, and a heart-rate monitor that can be embedded into a device like an iPhone to be used as a way to identify a user or determine the user’s mood.

For more, read the New York Times article (sub. req.)


Ford: Cars may be mobile health’s next platform

By: Brian Dolan | May 19, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsFirst mobile phones, then tablets, then… cars? Paul Mascarenas, the Chief Technology Officer at Ford Research and Innovation, told me and a group of automotive journalists at Ford headquarters in Michigan yesterday that he believes the car will be the next platform for mobile health services.

“It’s a platform just like your smartphone… just like your tablet,” Mascarenas said at the media event. Mascarenas noted that we spend a lot of time in our cars, which have become one of our few private spaces. Couple that privacy with an increasing number of connectivity options — Bluetooth, USB and more — and “that makes the car the ultimate setting for health and wellness activities,” he said.

Mascarenas surprised me when he said that “We [Ford] see health and wellness as a core area for us moving forward.”

Gary Strumolo, Manager, Vehicle Design & Infotronics, Ford Research and Innovation explained that Ford has architected three ways for mobile health services to interact with its cars: Bluetooth connectivity between the car’s computer and personal medical devices, remote access to cloud services via the car’s computer, and synching up to the health apps users already have on their smartphones.

Representatives from Medtronic, WellDoc and SDI also presented at the Ford event — each demonstrated a service that makes use of one of the scenarios above. Medtronic demo’d a continuous glucose meter (CGM) that connected to the car via Bluetooth and allowed users to hear alerts about their blood glucose readings instead of having to fumble with their monitor’s screen while driving. WellDoc demonstrated its cloud-based DiabetesManager service, which could encourage drivers to double check their blood sugar right when they get behind the wheel if they had a low reading earlier that day. Finally, SDI showed how its Allergy Alert app for the iPhone could sync up to Ford cars and keep drivers aware of allergy, flu and asthma alerts in the areas they are driving through.

Convenience aside there are also practical reasons for bring mobile health to the car: “Health and wellness of the driver is critical to the operation of the car,” Strumolo said. Keep reading>>

Which health technology does Apple use?

By: Brian Dolan | May 19, 2011        

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Apple Hello HealthIn September 2009 one of the big mobile health stories centered on rumors about Apple’s partnership with Epic Systems to help the electronic medical records company create an iPhone-accessible (and ultimately iPad-accesible) EMR. Since then Epic has launched Haiku for the iPhone and Canto for the iPad, but has ignored other platforms.

Meanwhile, another health technology startup, Myca, which also has close ties to Apple, has outfitted Apple’s Cupertino clinic, Apple Wellness, with its platform Hello Health. Hello Health allows patients to visit with physicians right from their desks via real-time online video chats, text messages, email and more. Hello Health offers a number of features — Fast Company magazine once called it the “Facebook of healthcare”.

At a recent health design event in Boston, Myca’s CEO Nat Findlay mentioned that both Qualcomm and Apple have been using Hello Health in their on-site clinics. Findlay shared a couple of videos of healthcare providers using the Hello Health platform, which included Apple Wellness’ Dr. Martin Yee. Many of the promo videos include shots of physicians accessing Hello Health’s features from their smartphones.

Myca’s website also features a mention of Apple: “Myca is supporting South Bay Sports and Preventive Medicine on-site and online services at Apple’s corporate campus in Cupertino.” The image above and to the right is from one of the videos that Findlay showed at the health design event — it shows a patient interacting with a physician via the Hello Health video chat feature (watch the video here).

In his Hello Health profile on the company’s site, Apple’s Dr. Martin Yee explains that “this online platform provides a clear path toward provision of healthcare as a team, including doctors, other providers, and patients.” Yee also has a somewhat forward-looking view of his role as a physician: “I also consider myself somewhat of an interpreter, distilling the complex world of medicine down to its basics, so that anyone can understand the problem or potential problem and particpate in their own healthcare.”

While Yee’s profile stresses preventive medicine, his practice offers other services including primary care, weight loss, travel medicine, physical therapy, and hospital medicine.

Yee conducts virtual visits including live video chat and instant messaging with his patients, but he writes that these “may not be appropriate in some situations and are only for established patients.” An in-office visit is typically required for first timers. He also explains that “emails should only be used for routine communications and should not be used for urgent matters and questions that require prompt medical attention.”

Qualcomm has been much more vocal about its use of Myca’s Hello Health platform at its on-site clinic. While the online visits are more convenient for Qualcomm employees, the company has also found them to be much more cost effective since it reduces absenteeism due to off-site physician visits.

Medco, Verizon offer personalized medication app

By: Brian Dolan | May 19, 2011        

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MedcoMedco Health Solutions has inked a deal with Verizon Wireless to offer a mobile medication app that provides users with information about lowest cost prescription options and potentially harmful drug interactions based on the user’s prescription history. The free app, called Medco Pharmacy, is available for Verizon Wireless Android and BlackBerry devices from the mobile operator’s V CAST store.

BlippMedia developed a similar app for Medco called My Rx Choices, which was created for the iPhone, but it doesn’t appear to be in the iTunes AppStore anymore (if it ever was). Blipp described it as an “iPhone application and mobile web project for finding prescription drugs and their related generics” that enabled users to “find alternatives that could save [them] money, research interactions, view images and buy them securely at Medco.”

Verizon Wireless rarely announces new health or medical apps for its V CAST store but a deal with a company like Medco obviously warrants it. Previous Verizon Wireless app announcements include a home health worker app and an announcement about a group of health apps, including Pill Phone — both made in 2009.

The Medco app announced this week has three core offerings, according to the companies:

  • My Rx Choices: Delivers on-demand, personalized out-of-pocket costs for any prescription medication and lower-cost options based on the member’s pharmacy plan coverage, as well as for eligible dependents; informs the registered members who can share the information with their physicians or pharmacist if there are any health or drug plan rules that require a physician authorization before the drug can be dispensed; and provides alerts to potential drug interaction risks associated with the current medications the person is on and a new medication a physician intends to prescribe.

  • My Medicine Cabinet: Allows individuals to view the medications they are on and set reminders for themselves or members of the household to take or refill those medications.  Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins and supplements can be added and checked for possible interactions with current prescription drugs.  The drug review is automatic if the OTC is purchased at The Medco Health Store.

  • Prescription ID Card: Offers convenient, easy access to a member’s prescription drug card anytime, anywhere.

For more on the apps, read the press release from Verizon Wireless below: Keep reading>>

Report: Patient monitoring worth $9.3 billion in 2014

By: Brian Dolan | May 18, 2011        

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According to a new report from TechNavio, the global patient monitoring system market will swell to $9.3 billion in 2014. TechNavio’s analysis focuses on the US, EMEA and APAC and concludes that remote patient monitoring is driving growth in the wider patient monitoring market. The price of these systems is cost prohibitive, however, the report found.

“Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is greatly minimizing hospital stays, resulting in a reduction of the cost of healthcare delivery. Thus, RPM helps healthcare centers reduce costs and increase business opportunities for healthcare service providers while integrating systems and providing necessary operational facilities. As a result, the Patient Monitoring Systems market stands to gain,” TechNavio states in a press release.

Earlier this year Kalorama Information predicted that the market for remote and wireless patient monitoring will grow about 26 percent annually through 2014. Kalorama said the market for these systems will grow by over $6 billion this year alone, which seems to put it at odds with TechNavio’s $9.3 billion by 2014 figure.

The disagreement doesn’t end there, of course. Plenty of opinions on market size:

Late last year in December, we reported on Berg Insight’s market size estimation for home health monitoring of what it called “welfare diseases,” which it pegged at about $10 billion in 2010. That figure included the market for chronic condition management for conditions including diabetes, cardiac arrhythmia, sleep apnea, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Perhaps this kind of figure is more important: In 2010 we reported on Juniper Research’s estimate that by the year 2014 public and private healthcare providers may save between $1.96 billion and $5.83 billion in healthcare costs thanks to remote patient monitoring over cellular networks.

For more on the TechNavio report, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

Pew’s Susannah Fox: Mobile health is at a crossroads

By: Neil Versel | May 18, 2011        

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Susannah FoxIf, as many have said, we are truly in the midst of a mobile health revolution, it’s still in the early stages.

Although 85 percent of adults in the U.S. have a cell phone, just 9 percent of that group have downloaded apps to help them track or manage health conditions. That’s the word from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which just published a report called “The Social Life of Health Information 2011,” with funding from the California HealthCare Foundation.

“What I’m seeing is a lot of potential in that there are a lot of people who could use these apps, but that uptake is pretty low,” says the author of that report, Pew Internet Associate Director Susannah Fox, a leader in the field of consumer empowerment in healthcare.

Where consumers seem to be taking more interest in their care is on the Internet, mobile and otherwise.

“The Internet has changed people’s relationships with information. Our data consistently show that doctors, nurses, and other health professionals continue to be the first choice for most people with health concerns, but online resources, including advice from peers, are a significant source of health information in the U.S.,” the Pew report says. Keep reading>>