Epocrates kisses Palm webOS goodbye

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 9, 2010        

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Palm PreThis week popular medical app publisher Epocrates sent an email to users of Palm Pre native application to inform them that come February it would no longer support Palm’s webOS platform: “Due to the relatively low interest level among our user base, Epocrates has decided to discontinue support of the Palm webOS platform for smartphones,” the email reads.

Epocrates plans to offer one more clinical update to the application later this month, but users are encouraged to update or install the app by February 1, 2011 because Epocrates said it plans to pull the app from the Palm webOS App Catalog at that time. By May, Epocrates said the webOS version of Epocrates Rx will cease to open or function.

Epocrates suggests Palm webOS users access Epocrates through its mobile optimized website. “Also, if you are in the process of deciding on a new device, we encourage you to look at Epocrates products on iPhone and iPod touch and Android devices — with quick access to all you need at the point of care,” according to the email.

HP acquired Palm last April in a deal that had us wondering whether the new parent company could help revive Palm’s prospects in healthcare. With the Epocrates news, however, some healthcare industry Palm fans, seem to be considering the move to other platforms.

Online discussions forums for Palm fans have generated a number of interesting comments from physicians who claim to be longtime users of Palm devices for medical content and apps. One such self-described physician laments: “I cannot justify using a webOS device, in any form whether it be a smartphone or tablet, if it doesn’t have any medical apps — as much as I hate to say it…. No Epocrates in six month. No word of any medical apps… coming to webOS. This is a sad day for Palm and HP. You have not only lost the consumer market and not gained any traction in the enterprise market, now you have lost the physician and healthcare market.”

Last September Epocrates made a similar move by announcing it would no longer support a handful of older Palm devices like the Palm Zire since the devices’ operating systems did not have the memory or power to run future content or product enhancements Epocrates had cooking. At the time, which was just before Epocrates launched its Palm webOS app, the company asserted that:

“Palm continues to be a prominent platform for us, and we will continue to support the majority of Palm OS devices as well as work to develop a native application for the Palm Pre. We are proactively reaching out to customers on these older devices to help them migrate to new platforms over the next 4-6 months. Bottomline for your readers: Palm and Windows Mobile are platforms Epocrates continues to proudly support.”

For Palm, anyway, come February that will no longer be true.

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Interview: Kellogg on new myPlan diet app

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 9, 2010        

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Kellogg Special K Challenge myPlanThis week major food brand Kellogg’s entered the world of smartphone apps with its first offering — myPlan, the Special K Challenge application for iPhone and Android platforms. Kellogg created the app with global ad agency Leo Burnett and mobile media agency MediaMob. The app enables users to create a two-week diet plan, update daily and weekly menus, track progress, find recipes, create shopping lists and receive motivational tips.  Kellogg’s Associate Director for the Special K brand, Jesper Lund Jacobson took some time to explain the timing of Kellogg’s first mobile app, myPlan and how it plans to drive adoption of the diet app.

What makes this app different from other diet apps?

This application is based on Special K Challenge, which is a weight loss program Special K has supported in the United States for about the last 10 years. Up until now this weight loss plan has been communicated through the normal channels of television, print and advertising. Those had directed consumers to go to the challenge’s website to customize a plan, print it out and maybe stick it on a fridge or leave it in a drawer somewhere. The mobile app is taking that challenge and putting it within the reach of a consumer’s fingertips no matter where they go. Then we can push motivational messages, tips and tricks to help keep them successful in their weight loss challenge. This is a free app, of course, but part of it is meal planning and those meals need to be purchased by the consumer, of course.

Why launch the app now?

There are really two reasons we developed this app: With mobile Kellogg will have a new touchpoint for its consumers. Mobile phones are new for us and its a media channel that is evolving fast. This app will help us get into the market and get some key learnings. For the Special K brand, well, we already had a relationship with consumers who have been participating in the challenge, but mobile is a huge opportunity for us.

January is a peak season for weight loss plans because of New Year’s Resolutions. Women, especially have resolutions related to their health and particularly weight management. As the calendar turns from one year to the next we notice adoption of our Special K Challenge goes up. There is heavy adoption throughout the year, but it’s particularly strong in January. That’s the peak season.

Why didn’t you launch this app in December 2009?

Well, look at the penetration of smartphones now and then. It’s just totally exploded in the past twelve months. I believe we are now at a tipping point for smartphone adoption. iPhone has been leading the way but now with all these Android devices coming out, there is now mass reach within this media. It wasn’t there a year ago. Of course, we are slightly more conservative than others, too. This is our first app for Special K and our first app for Kellogg.

How will this app be promoted?

Promoting it through specialk.com will be a huge driver. We get a significant amount of traffic there — I can’t share exact numbers but it’s in the millions. We expect to put a significant amount of PR into this launch throughout December including more consumer-facing PR related to the Special K Challenge overall. What will be new, however, is our mobile efforts. We will be doing special advertising campaigns that include mobile banners inserted into websites being viewed via smartphones. These banners will take users right to the download page for the app. We’ll also be using search engine optimization for mobile users searching for things like weight loss programs and health programs. The amount of money we invest in mobile advertising is also pretty significant.

Does the app change the Challenge at all? Provide new features? Keep reading>>

HP powers SMS-enabled pill authentication

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 9, 2010        

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mpedigreeHP has inked a deal with mPedigree, which offers a text message based service that helps users check the authenticity of their medications. The technology has been piloted in Ghana and Nigeria. With hosting and security provided by HP, mPedigree will offer the service to patients taking a range of medications manufactured by May & Baker Nigeria and KAMA Group of Ghana. Users can send a free text message to get an instant response as to whether the tablets or syrup bottles are genuine. Medications found to display fake codes can be reported by users, too. The pharma companies participating in the service are also funding it. The medications involved include anti-malarial (artelum), anti-amoebicide (loxagyl) and analgesic (easadol) medication. (For more on the service, check out the documentary video embedded at the bottom of this post.)

“Over the years, we have invested a huge amount of time and money in developing drugs which will protect the health of people around the world,” said Dr. Joseph Ikemefuna Odumodu, chief executive, May & Baker Nigeria, and president, West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. “It’s in both our and our customers’ interest that they receive the full benefit of that investment. This system will safeguard both of us now and in the future.”

The mobile operators in Ghana and Nigeria are also partnering with mPedigree and HP to facilitate the service.

“Technology plays a critical role in solving many serious health problems around the world,” said Gabriele Zedlmayer, vice president, Office of Global Social Innovation, HP. “While Nigeria and Ghana are the starting points for this program, we are working to create a scalable infrastructure to be used by other regions where counterfeit medicine is a growing issue.”

While the HP deal brought a lot of attention to the mPedigree deployment in Ghana and Nigeria, Kenya’s government also recently announced its support for mPedigree in that country. (More from Kenya Broadcasting Corp. here).

More on HP and mPedigree’s deal here. Or watch this documentary on mPedigree, too: Keep reading>>

More studies needed for medication adherence?

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 9, 2010        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsA study recently published in the journal Clinical Transplantation found that kidney transplant recipients improved their adherence to immunosuppressive drug regimens by 40 percent when healthcare providers tracked their adherence and offered tips for improvement. The participants used prescription bottles with wireless tracking that recorded when they opened their medicine bottle — an indication that a dose was taken.

The six-month study used a randomized controlled trial design of 30 adult renal transplant recipients, which was broken down into two groups. While the results were positive, investigators concluded that “a fully-powered study with a diverse sample is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.” More here.

In November 2009 a somewhat similar study was published in the journal Pediatrics: Investigators tested the efficacy of text message reminders on adherence to medication regimens among young liver transplant patients at Mt. Sinai. The study concluded that the messages did in fact increase adherence to regimens, but more importantly it led to better outcomes: While 12 of the 41 patients had experienced rejection episodes during the year before starting the program, only two patients had such an episode during the program. Patients could customize their message volume in the study. For example, they could choose to have multiple reminders leading up to a dose. An hour after taking their medication, teenagers had to text back that they had taken them, if they didn’t, their care giver or parent would get an alert to get on their case. More here.

This past June, The Boston-based Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners Healthcare, announced results from their own study of wireless electronic pill bottles and their effect on medication adherence for 139 patients taking blood pressure medication. The study found a 27 percent higher rate of medication adherence in patients using wireless-enabled medication packaging and feedback services compared to controls. Patients in the study were found to be 98 percent adherent. More here.

Of course, the study where SMS reminders for medication adherence failed received the most headlines: This past August the Wall Street Journal covered the story about results from a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Investigators concluded that daily text message reminders did not help the 82 women in the study become more adherent to their birth control pill regimen. Both the text-receiving participants and the control group missed about 5 pills per month. More here.

Each of these studies, of course, leveraged different technologies and various support mechanisms. They also had relatively small sample sizes when compared to the efficacy study we highlighted last week (100,000 patients with connected implantable devices). The results, however, are largely positive. Last year the New England Health Institute estimated that not taking medications as prescribed leads to poorer health, more frequent hospitalization, a higher risk of death and as much as $290 billion annually in increased medical costs in the United States.

Are the investigators of the most recent study correct in stating that we need more “fully-powered” studies to confirm results?

Prediction: 14 percent to use mobile health apps

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 8, 2010        

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To date, WellDoc's DiabetesManager is one of the few mobile health apps to have gone through an RCT.

In 2011, some 14 percent of adult Americans will use a mobile health app to manage their health, wellness, and chronic conditions, according to IDC. Why? “Demographics are accelerating this trend. Health reform will make these approaches even more important as the industry shifts to new delivery and reimbursement models,” IDC writes in its 2011 predictions report. The estimate is not at all outlandish, especially given that a recent Pew survey showed that already 9 percent of adult Americans are using mobile health apps to track or manage their health. (For more on mobile health apps, be sure to check out our latest apps report on the fastest growing and most successful smartphone health apps.)

Another analyst increasingly sees HIPAA as a challenge for mobile devices in medical environments.

“Formerly a toothless tiger,” Info-Tech’s Director of Research Mark Tauschek told Processor.com in a recent interview, “HIPAA now has some teeth, thanks to the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) act.” The Processor.com article notes that “it is one thing to protect sensitive medical data in a data center which can only be accessed through onsite desktop computers or terminals… quite another to do so when doctors who travel daily among multiple hospitals and/or clinics carry personal mobile devices with them everywhere they go.”

Awareness about security issues with mobile devices is another issue, according to Lisa Gallagher, senior director for privacy and security at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS):

“Medical personnel often assume that if they’re handed a device, it’s OK. At the highest level, like doctors, they’re not aware. They just want the devices.”

According to Chilmark Research analyst Cora Sharma physicians do indeed want devices:

“By the end of this year, 22 percent of physicians will have iPads, and half of doctors will have them within two years,” Sharma said. “As of early November, 18 percent of the 700,000 physicians in the United States were using iPads.”

More from the Processor.com article

VA wants patients to help speed up diagnoses

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 8, 2010        

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mVisum BlackBerry EKGIn less than a year the Veterans Affairs Medical Center hopes to enable its patients to use their own smartphones to “help speed up their diagnoses,” associate chief of staff for informatics Divya Shroff told the Washington Examiner. Equipping the patient with access to the appropriate medical information is just the next step in a trial the VA has been conducting with mobile health firm mVisum and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion:

“We are dealing traditionally with a patient population that has a lot of heart attacks,” Shroff said. “When people have a certain type of heart [activity], they need to get to the cardiac catheterization lab [for surgery] within 90 minutes,” or risk permanent damage, she said.

mVisum can send the EKG directly to the cardiologist’s BlackBerry device. George Washington University Hospital was the first US hospital to test out the mVisum app followed by the VA Medical Center. The software costs the VA about $75,000, according to the Washington Examiner.

Shroff hopes to enable patients to use their mobiles to respond to surveys and watch educational videos about their treatment.

More from the Washington Examiner, here