PHRs, hype and closing thoughts on HIMSS11

By: Neil Versel | Mar 3, 2011        

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Neil VerselIn this week’s MobiHealthNews industry roundup, Brian Dolan hit the nail on the head.

“Do-It-Yourself Health Care with Smartphones: That’s the misguided title of an article in the New York Times this week,” he wrote. “The article starts with the 500 million people will be using mobile health statistic — which is the best confirmation we have for mHealth being atop the Gartner hype cycle — and devolves into a discussion about Microsoft’s HealthVault, Google Health and other PHRs.”

Look further into the article and you see how vendors and the mainstream media have bought the hype. “We decided to integrate with Google Health and HeathVault because, based on their potential, a lot of people are using them as a destination site,” John Hendel, chairman of Entra Health Systems, maker of the MyGlucoHealth mobile diabetes management system, is quoted as saying.


Whenever someone offers me a story about personal health records, I ask them to show me some evidence that their product is being used by more than a small test population. Not once has anyone produced a shred of proof.

Last year, Google actually had to deny a report from Chilmark Research’s John Moore that it had effectively pulled the plug on its little-used PHR platform. Microsoft hasn’t had the same image problem, but, let’s face it, the only PHRs being accepted right now are those directly connected to a large health system’s EHR.

Epic Systems has done a good job pushing its myChart portal to its customers, and some with home-grown EHRs such as Partners HealthCare System, have gained acceptance for their PHRs. But untethered PHRs — and there are plenty of products that have been around much longer than HealthVault or Google Health that don’t have the name cachet — remain a tiny niche market.

I mention this in part because we’re just a week removed from the largest health IT event of the year, the HIMSS conference. As always, there was a lot of substantive discussion on technology that is transforming healthcare — and HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber did indicate that mobile was “the future” — but the strengthening economy also meant that the HIMSS hype was back with a vengeance this year. Keep reading>>


Dr John Halamka endorses Apple iPad at iPad 2 launch event

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 2, 2011        

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iPad2FaceTimeThe original iPad, which launched early last year, proved to be a hit with physicians — some 22 percent of US docs were using iPads at the end of 2010, according to Chilmark Research. This morning Apple launched the iPad 2, a thinner, lighter version of the popular tablet device, which now includes two cameras, gyroscope, dual core A5 processor and more. It also features more of the same: Still $499 and the battery life is still 10 hours. As is tradition, and despite being on medical leave, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the new device from the keynote stage in Cupertino, California.

A few minutes into Jobs’ talk (and before the iPad 2 was debuted), he played a video that chronicled the iPad’s adoption and uptake in various vertical markets during the past year. The second “vertical” featured? Medicine.

“Sometimes doctors are overhwhelmed with data,” Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO Dr. John Halamka said during the video. “What we have tried to do with the iPad is to give doctors at the point of care the tools they need at the exact moment the doctor can make a difference. We’re finding with the iPad doctors are spending more times with patients. In fact, doctors are engaging patients by showing them images, showing them data on the screen. So it has empowered doctors to be more productive but it has also brought doctors and patients together.”

Halamka 3Halamka, of course, recently announced that he would step down from his post as chairman of the US government’s Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP). Perhaps he’ll become a healthcare market advisor to Apple?

“So I think what is so exciting about the iPad, is it will change the way doctors practice medicine,” Halamka concluded. (Interesting footnote: Not too long ago, Halamka was pitching BlackBerry devices, remember.)

Jobs also included a couple of images of medical apps during his opening remarks. After noting that there are now more than 65,000 apps in the AppStore that take “full advantage” of the iPad, meaning they are designed for that platform and its larger screen and faster processor, he showed screenshots of a handful of such apps: “All sorts of… wonderful, wonderful apps… and a lot of apps for business and vertical markets like medical. The things people are doing here are amazing,” Jobs said.

iPad medical“For those of you who have iPhone 4s, the new iPad 2 is actually thinner than your iPhone 4,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during the keynote. “We are incredibly happy with this. When you get your hands on one, it feels totally different,” he said. “And all these other tablets are coming out — most of them even thicker than the original iPad — nothing even approaching this.”

Between April 2010 and December 2010 Apple sold almost 15 million iPads — “That’s more than every tablet PC ever sold,” Jobs said. “The tablet PC did not invent the modern tablet PC. It crashed and burned. The modern tablet PC is the iPad.”

iPad medical appsThe iPad generated $9.5 billion in revenue for Apple in 2010. “Many have said that this is the most successful consumer product ever launched.” In 2010 iPad had “over 90 percent marketshare and our competitors were just flummoxed,” Jobs said. “They went back to their drawing boards. They tore up their designs because they just weren’t competitive.”

Apple also showed clips of how the iPad had proven helpful for some people with Autism. Apps like Proloquo2Go help people with autism (and others who have difficulty speaking) to verbally communicate with others through their iPad.

Here are a number of other details about what’s new in iPad 2:

  • iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than iPad 1.
  • Features Apple’s new dual-core A5 process, which makes it twice as fast according to Apple.
  • Rear-facing camera offers 720p video recording at 30fps along with 5x digital zoom.
  • Front-facing is VGA-resolution but also records at 30fps
  • Supports Apple video chat app FaceTime
  • 3G connectivity from AT&T or Verizon Wireless available
  • Available in white or black
  • Includes HDMI output capable of 1080p
  • Becomes available March 11

More in the press release from Apple after the jump: Keep reading>>

Nokia’s NFC technology helps fight cholera in Haiti

By: Neil Versel | Mar 2, 2011        

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Nokia 6212 PicNokia, the world’s No. 1 mobile handset maker that somehow hasn’t quite garnered the headlines of Apple or Google, continues to make inroads in mobile healthcare, albeit rather quietly. A post that appeared on the company’s blog Wednesday highlights how near-field communication (NFC) — with Nokia technology, of course — is helping a not-for-profit organization fight cholera in Haiti.

Yes, the situation in Haiti remains dire, more than a year after a deadly earthquake, even though world attention has turned to revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa and natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand. Among the challenges is providing safe drinking water to Haiti’s poverty-stricken population, the vast majority of whom don’t have running water in their homes, according to a Feb. 18 Scientific American article that inspired the Nokia blog post.

According to Nokia, the organization, Deep Springs International (DSI), has provided 35,000 Haitian households with chlorination systems in 5-gallon buckets equipped with RFID chips. The chips are activated whenever a health worker toting an NFC-enabled Nokia 6212 phone visits and passes the phone within a few centimeters of a bucket. Each health worker tests chlorine levels in the buckets, answers a short questionnaire on the phone, then sends results via SMS to DSI’s offices in Léogâne, Haiti, near the epicenter of the January 2010 quake.

The SMS questionnaire replaces paper forms that often take days to reach DSI headquarters. According to Scientific American, DSI picked the 6212, a model that has been around since 2008, since the phone has a long battery life but lacks a touch screen or other advanced features that would make it attractive to would-be thieves.

The Nokia Research Center, based in Palo Alto, Calif., turned to the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, to develop texting software on the open-source FrontlineSMS platform. Keep reading>>

Extension, Ascom race to FDA clearances: Ascom wins.

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 2, 2011        

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In late January and with an eye on HIMSS 2011, Cisco’s partner Extension Inc. issued a press release announcing that it had submitted its HealthAlert for Nurses offering to the FDA for clearance. Is said that the FDA could find no communications tool on the market that was “substantially equivalent” to HealthAlert for Nurses.

“This submission for FDA clearance culminates two years of research and tremendous effort designed to differentiate Extension from similar – but certainly not equal products – currently available in the marketplace,” Extension CEO Todd Plesko stated in the release. “It also offers comfort to our growing hospital client base seeking to utilize their existing Cisco infrastructure and/or the emergence of smartphones, and serves as future-proofing for our clients and partners in the face of more FDA regulation in the middleware communication space. I think everyone in the industry agrees more FDA regulation in mobile health and communication is on the horizon. We’ve positioned ourselves well ahead of the pack both for Cisco IP-based handsets and smartphones.”

This week a different middleware vendor in the clinician communications space announced an actual FDA clearance for its product — not a submission — a clearance, which might mean Plesko overstepped in his declaration that Extension was “well ahead of the pack,” at least in terms of that specific FDA submission: Keep reading>>

Four more must-read mobile health reports

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 2, 2011        

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Mobile Health ResearchLast April we published a list of “five must-read mobile health reports” that were free to anyone to download. The list was an instant hit and in recent weeks I have had requests from a number of people for a refreshed list. As of March 2011, there have been four free, must-read mHealth reports by my count — and together they do a fine job of encapsulating a good portion of the mHealth conversation. Reading (or even skimming — some are lengthy) these four reports (in addition to last year’s five) makes for a fine primer on mHealth.

There are a number of worthwhile paid research reports out there — including our own reports on smartphone health apps, tablets, quarterly reviews, etc. — but these four free reports published since our round-up last April, should get mHealth noobies feet wet.

As we said last year, if you haven’t yet soaked in these four mHealth reports, you are handicapping your mHealth acumen. Here’s four freely downloadable reports you must read: Keep reading>>

Roundup: NIH mHealth Institute; $500K grants

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 1, 2011        

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The NIH mHealth Summer Institute: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the first NIH mHealth Summer Institute set for this summer. The week-long workshop will bring together leaders in mobile health technologies, behavioral science researchers, federal health officials and members of the medical community to provide early career investigators with an opportunity to learn about mHealth research. The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), part of NIH, partnered with Qualcomm to create the workshop. Release

$500K in mHealth grants: The Center for Technology and Aging ( has released grant application guidelines for a $500,000 Mobile Health (mHealth) Diffusion Grants Program. Up to six one-year grants will be made to organizations successfully proposing programs that focus on delivery of health-related services to patients, clinicians and caregivers through mHealth technology platforms on cellular or wireless networks. Details

Microsoft’s healthy apps competition: Microsoft announced a competition for health app developers to incentivize them create apps for the Windows Phone 7 platform. Oddly the ten winners will receive an Xbox 360 4GB console with Kinect. I know Kinect has some fitness games and lots of potential, but the prize doesn’t really fit the competition, does it? Here’s the quick pitch: “Beginning on February 18, 2011, Windows Phone 7 (WP7) partners, developers and software design hobbyists can enter their health and life science applications for Windows Phone 7 for a chance to win an Xbox 360 4GB console with Kinect. Ten (10) winning applications will be selected by our judges. Don’t delay—the contest ends June 1, 2011 at 5 p.m. (Pacific Time). Winners will be announced on June 6, 2011.” Medgadget

Do-It-Yourself Health Care with Smartphones: That’s the misguided title of an article in the New York Times this week. The article starts with the 500 million people will be using mobile health statistic — which is the best confirmation we have for mHealth being atop the Gartner hype cycle — and devolves into a discussion about Microsoft’s HealthVault, Google Health and other PHRs. New York Times