Voalte raises $6 million for iPhone-based clinical comms

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 8, 2012        

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Voalte OneSarasota, Florida-based Voalte, which equips healthcare provider teams with its iOS-based clinical communication offering, has raised $6 million in a strategic round of funding led by an undisclosed healthcare information technology leader and an unnamed major healthcare system.

The company plans to use the funds to add 100 new employees to its team, which would see its ranks tripling from 50 employees today to 150 in about 18 months time. Last year Voalte received a $250,000 grant from Sarasota’s Economic Development Corp. to help create 50 new jobs at the company over the next three years.

Voalte’s technology enables care teams to exchange voice calls, text messages and field incoming alerts right from their iOS devices.

Voalte’s healthcare provider customers include Massachusetts General Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, and Nebraska Medical Center among others, while its developmental partners include Cedars-Sinai, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, and Huntington Medical Center. The company claims to have about 20,000 clinician users and about 5,000 iPhone deployed across the country. Voalte first launched its services in 2009 after its founding in late 2008.

While Voalte declined to disclose the name of the HIT company that co-led its strategic round of funding, the company already has partnerships in place with Philips’ Emergin, Rauland-Borg, Epocrates, and AirWatch.


Misfit Wearables expects to start online pre-orders next month

By: Neil Versel | Oct 8, 2012        

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Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One, wearable devices currently on the market

Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One, wearable devices already commercially available

Misfit Wearables, a startup producer of wearable sensor products for fitness and medical applications, hasn’t said much about what its sensors will look like, but will start online pre-orders next month, its CEO said Friday.

Misfit likely will take preorders on the Kickstarter funding platform, CEO Sonny Vu announced at the University of Southern California’s sixth annual Body Computing Conference in Los Angeles, but the order location may change.

We haven’t seen much about Misfit’s products, though Vu dropped a hint or two on Friday.

In general, according to Vu, a health sensor won’t find a market unless it is comfortable, useful, invisible and “precious.” In other words, it has to make the user feel good about having the device.

“Would you wear a Fitbit if it didn’t make you feel better?” Vu asked about one of the fitness devices that has had some commercial success.  “I mean, you can sell a $100 pedometer for cash,” a somewhat incredulous and perhaps envious Vu said.

He does not expect to get that kind of revenue from a sensor embedded in a garment. “I mean, we’re competing against $6.99 t-shirts at Walmart,” Vu said.

Battery life needs to be long, too, because people will need to wear the sensors for hours at a time. “When is the last time you recharged your shirt?” Vu asked.

Vu had previously said that advanced wearable technology may have to be less fashionable than current iterations he has called “Wearables 1.0.” But he also has said he would not want to walk around wearing an “Iron Man”-like suit or looking like a character from “Tron,” a point he reiterated Friday. “I don’t want to be Iron Man. I want to be Invisible Man,” Vu said.

However, successful, lasting products also have to, like a fine timepiece, have timeless value, according to Vu. He said his sister still uses the iPod he gave her eight years ago – and Apple has a special place in Vu’s heart. Vu and Sridhar Iyengar, who co-founded Agamatrix, maker of the iBGStar glucose meter, the first medical iPhone peripheral device, started Misfit Wearables with the backing of former Apple CEO John Sculley.

The company actually came up with the Misfit name one year ago Friday, which happened to be the day Steve Jobs died. Vu said the news got him thinking of the famous Jobs quote from a 1997 Apple commercial narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently.”

OpenNotes study finds better outcomes, more engagement

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 4, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNews[Reminder: Be sure to join us today at 2PM Eastern for the Inevitable, Imminent Rise of Remote Patient Monitoring webinar featuring presentations by MobiHealthNews, Preventice, and The Mayo Clinic. If you are not one of the 800 who has registered so far, don’t miss out and sign up right here — it’s free!]

The final results from a yearlong study of how patients and their primary care providers would fare if patients were given access to their physicians’ notes are in: Patients with access to the notes were more engaged and saw better outcomes. The final results are available in this week’s edition of Annals of Internal Medicine. What’s more the study’s authors note that physicians did not report any increase in their workload and some didn’t even realize the program was taking place.

The OpenNotes trial, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, included participation from more than 13,500 primary care patients who were given access to their physicians’ notes via an online portal and electronic messaging. More than 100 physicians participated in the trial. Overall nearly 11,800 patients out of the 13,564 opened at least one note during the study, which took place at three healthcare facilities: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Massachusetts, Geisinger Health System (GHS) in Pennsylvania, and Harborview Medical Center (HMC) in Washington. About 84 percent of participating patients at BIDMC opened at least one note, while 92 percent of patients at GHS did, and some 47 percent of those patients participating at HMC did.

According to the study’s authors, a vast majority of the participating patients said that they could more easily understand their medical issues, better remember their treatment plans, better prepare for future visits, and that they felt an increased sense of control.

The study’s authors were also “excited to see that more than half of patients who received medications reported improved adherence, consistent with findings about general adherence from another open-records study”, but noted that self-reports fall short of objective data around adherence.

As we reported at the end of last year, many physicians expected that giving patients access to their notes about them would worry them — more than 50 percent of primary care providers who were set to participate in the OpenNotes study and a vast majority of nonparticipating PCPs expected that sharing visit notes would lead to greater worry among patients, while only about 14 percent of patients felt that way.

The overall positive outcomes from this study could help patients to work more closely with their own primary care providers — even those who practice at facilities that did not participate in the OpenNotes study. As e-Patient Dave concludes in his must-read analysis of the OpenNotes results:

“Many American hospital executives are greatly concerned about the new era of ‘accountable care,’ in which their reimbursement will increasingly depend on how well patients do, and that of course is affected by how much patients do. From the looks of things, this study – and my personal experience in it – strongly support the idea that best patient performance is supported by bringing the patient in – letting us see the medical record,” e-Patient Dave writes. “The evidence says it doesn’t ruin the doc’s life. In fact, it’ll be a business advantage: most patients said it’ll be a factor in which providers they’ll choose! That’s how much patients want it.”

Read the full study results here.

Qualcomm funds study of bloodstream sensors, app-enabled genetic tests

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 4, 2012        

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AirstripRPMThe Qualcomm Foundation announced this week that it had awarded the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) $3.75 million to fund clinical trials focused on wireless biosensor systems, rapid pharmacogenomic diagnostic tests, and apps and embedded sensors for tracking and predicting heart attacks, Type 1 diabetes and some types of cancer. The monies will help fund three years of research focused on wireless health.

According to the companies, one of the first projects that the STSI will take on as a result of the grant will be a research study of AirStrip Technologies’ mobile-enabled remote patient monitoring offering. STSI Director Dr. Eric Topol will lead the study, which aims to determine how mobile monitoring of patients by physicians may improve clinical workflow, patient recovery rates and more.

In addition to the AirStrip study, the grant will enable STSI to focus on three projects:

Clinical trial validation of biosensor systems: Tiny sensors floating in the blood stream can serve as round-the-clock scouts for signs of health problems, such as heart disease, Type 1 diabetes and cancer. Clear evidence of the benefit and value of these technologies is critical for regulatory clearance, reimbursement approval and adoption by healthcare providers.

Development of mobile apps for embedded sensors: These devices look for particular gene expressions, gene mutations, proteins or antibodies that provide the molecular signatures of medical conditions. Once trouble is detected, the sensor can send the data wirelessly to an app on a patient’s smartphone, triggering a message to seek treatment. STSI is collaborating with Dr. Axel Scherer and his team at the California Institute of Technology Nanofabrication Group to build the embedded nanosensors.

Handheld genotyping for precisely prescribing medications: In collaboration with DNA Electronics and Dr. Chris Toumazou at the Imperial College London, STSI is testing a point-of-care chip genotyping platform that can determine within 20 minutes a patient’s DNA compatibility with certain drugs such as Plavix, Metformin and Interferon. The project could help lead to a radical change in the way prescriptions are filled at pharmacies and help to eliminate the costly use of ineffective drugs.

Qualcomm Life’s VP of Global Strategy and Market Development, Don Jones will also join the Scripps Digital Medicine program in an unpaid position as chief digital officer.

More on the grant and the projects it enables here.

Text4Baby developer launches Care4Life for diabetes support

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 4, 2012        

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Care4Life1This week Voxiva, which powers the technology behind the federal government’s Text4Baby program, announced the official launch of Care4Life, a mobile-based diabetes education and support program that leverages text messaging, a mobile app and a web portal. HealthInsight, a multi-specialty care delivery network in the Utah Beacon community is currently evaluating Care4Life.

“Since 99 percent of text messages are read and over 90% are read within three minutes, we know that this channel is effective in its ability to pace the delivery of education and reinforce desired behaviors on an ongoing basis,” Voxiva CEO Justin Sims stated, “numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of mobile communications in improving diabetes self-management. We know this works and will make people healthier.”

Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE, author of “Your First Year With Diabetes” developed the content used by Care4Life, which focuses on helping patients with Type 2 diabetes to better control their condition and adhere to their prescribed treatment plan. The offering helps users to create an electronic record of blood glucose readings, blood pressure, weight and exercise that they can view themselves and share with providers. Like Text4Baby, Care4Life is available in both English and Spanish.

Care4Life2“It is the daily reinforcement that is so unique about Care4Life,” Garnero said in a statement. “Interactive text messaging, combined with an online log that is built one text message at a time, will reinforce the guidance provided by the patient’s educator and care team.”

As a promotion Voxiva is currently offering the program to health plans and providers at no charge until the end of the year.

In June 2011 Voxiva announced the launch of Text2Quit, a smoking cessation program similar to Text4Baby. Just a few months later Alere signed on as the exclusive distributor of Text2Quit.

For more on Care4Life, check out this presentation from HealthInsight about the program. (PDF)

Chopra defends Obama’s approach to healthcare innovation

By: Neil Versel | Oct 4, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeA lot of people out there believe “meaningful use” regulations has stymied innovation in health IT by effectively standardizing functionality in electronic health records. Backers of President Obama might argue the point. In fact, one did this week.

“There has never been a better time to be an innovator in healthcare,” former federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, said Wednesday at the 2012 American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) convention in Chicago. Though he curiously followed comedian and “The View” co-host Joy Behar in the closing plenary session, Chopra was not joking.

And in many ways, he was right. We have a ton of innovation going on right now, as long as you look past traditional EHR functions. And, as Chopra pointed out, a lot of it is in the realm of mobile and wireless health.

Chopra rejoined the Advisory Board Co. as a senior advisor after leaving the Obama administration, and subsequently announced his intention to run for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013, was particularly enthusiastic about one program he and his successor Todd Park – who was CTO of HHS before taking Chopra’s White House job – championed: the Health Data Initiative.

In three years, this program, which Park calls “data liberación,” already has produced a number of successful apps. How successful? iTriage, which Dr. Peter Hudson created by downloading an otherwise dry list of Federally Qualified Health Centers maintained by HHS, was bought by Aetna. “Dr. Hudson found a way to make it meaningful,” Chopra said.

iTriage may be the exception to the rule – there wouldn’t be innovation without a few failures along the way – in terms of its sale to a major corporation, but Asthmapolis, which Chopra noted pulls from a little federal database known as the Global Positioning System, has partnered with Qualcomm Life. He also pointed out that symptom-checking and triage app Symcat, which won the backing of accelerator Blueprint Health, queries National Library of Medicine databases in search of medical and scientific knowledge.

“This is starting to have a profound effect on the way you and I access the healthcare system,” Chopra said of mobile apps in general and “liberated” government data in particular.

Some things very much remain works in progress, however.

Castlight Health, which Park helped establish in 2008 before entering government service, went mobile in March. As Chopra noted Wednesday, that system draws on a mix of public and private databases to help consumers understand the costs of health services and compare the quality of certain providers. But we are a long way from having anything close to full price transparency in healthcare.

“We are probably in the first or maybe second inning of empowering patients with this information to make better choices,” Chopra said, using a baseball analogy on the final day of the 2012 major-league regular season.

Chopra also hyped the Blue Button initiative, a push to include a single blue button in EHR patient portals offering patients one-click downloads of their health information to print out, import into personal health records or share with other healthcare providers. Blue Button has its roots, and some success, at the Department of Veterans Affairs; the VA said in August that 1 million patients had clicked to download records in the first two years since Obama announced Blue Button in a speech marking the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq.

Chopra highlighted a mobile version of Blue Button, namely the iBlueButton suite of iPhone and iPad apps for consumers, veterans and physicians that can “push” data between patient and doctor when two iBlueButton users are within Wi-Fi or Bluetooth range of each other. “Apps like the iBlueButton allows people to literally fistbump their medical records [onto their phones],” Chopra said. Keep reading>>