T-Mobile USA powers caregiver device, remote care service

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 23, 2011        

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GeaCom's Phrazer

If you took stock of T-Mobile USA’s activities in mobile health as of a few days ago — and we did — you’d notice the mobile operator had little to no mHealth partnerships announced or services supported. This week, however, T-Mobile USA announced two partnerships with healthcare companies where the operator is supporting the services’ with connectivity via its data network.

Multi-lingual caregiver device runs on T-Mobile USA’s network

GeaCom’s handheld multi-lingual device Phrazer, which hopes to break down communication barriers between patients and care providers, will run on T-Mobile USA’s network. GeaCom said Phrazer will launch sometime mid-year.

“Medical communication is in a state of failure,” GeaCom COO Chris Butler stated in a company press release. “Phrazer will help eliminate communication barriers, thereby improving efficiency and accuracy and reducing costs. Certainly, having a reliable, widespread wireless network like that of T-Mobile is critical to Phrazer’s success.”

GeaCom’s press release points to a a 2003 study that found an average of 31 interpreter errors occur per encounter with limited English proficient patients. Of those errors, 63 percent result in clinical consequences, according to the company.

Phrazer’s initial target customers include hospitals, clinics, and urgent care centers at the point of admissions, but GeaCom plans to offer the device to emergency rooms, other medical specialties and first response vehicles, too.

BeClose Network’s panic button powered by T-Mobile USA

BeClose offers an aging in place technology service that is backed by “a simple customizable system of unobstrusive, wireless sensors” that help caregivers monitor the daily activities of the resident. BeClose announced this week a deal with T-Mobile USA to power a panic button, which in this case is a two-way voice call initiated with the BeClose 24/7 central station partners, that can alert emergency responders and dispatch them if needed.

The BeClose system can cost as little as $1.50 a day, according to the company’s press release.

Interestingly, BeClose’s system is based on a research and development partnership with Alarm.com, an in-home wireless monitoring system that serves more than 500,000 homes and businesses nationwide.


Albert: iPad has already won healthcare tablet war

By: Neil Versel | Mar 23, 2011        

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AliveCor's iPhone ECGA week ago, MobiHealthNews shot down the myth that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to start regulating mobile medical apps. In reality, the FDA has been regulating mobile software for years.

Way back in 1997, Data Critical, a company bought by GE Healthcare in 2001, earned FDA 510(k) clearance for its RhythmStat XL software that wirelessly transmits ECG data from a heart monitor to a handheld device, in this case a Psion palmtop computer.

The inventor of RhythmStat—and founder of Data Critical—is a familiar name in mobile healthcare, Dr. David E. Albert. Most recently, Albert has been in the news for his newest creation, the iPhone ECG, which generated a lot of buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Albert actually has been thinking about marrying a single-lead ECG to a mobile device since the time of RhythmStat. “The idea is 13-14 years old,” he tells MobiHealthNews. “Quite frankly, we could not implement it because the technology didn’t exist in the 1990s.” Keep reading>>

mHealth Alliance director David Aylward to step down

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 22, 2011        

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David Aylward

Photo Credit: Ethan Goldwater

Last week the executive director of the mHealth Alliance (mHA) David Aylward decided to step down from his position as head of the alliance to focus “his talents and commitment to mHealth… on delivery of mHealth rather than running the multi-faceted Alliance,” UN Foundation Chief Executive Officer Kathy Calvin wrote in an email to mHA partners. Aylward has held the position since the fall of 2009 — shortly after the founding of the mHA.

“As founding Executive Director, David provided the vision and passion that built the mHA into a reality,” Calvin wrote. “We are indebted to David for his service over these last two years. His contributions have set the mHA on the path to great success. The UN Foundation will continue to host and support the mHA, and as we undergo the search for the new Executive Director, the mHA will be managed by a team comprised of current mHA staff members plus members of the UN Foundation’s accomplished Global Health team.”

Calvin said that the UN Foundation’s Managing Director of Global Health Kate Dodson will lead the mHA management team, which includes Clive Smith, Jennifer Potts, Jody Ranck and Autumn Wilner-Heard. Calvin also said the team will report to UN Foundation COO Rick Parnell and herself, too. Aylward will help with the transition, Calvin said.

“mHealth is one of the most important, most promising opportunities for delivering better health outcomes worldwide,” Calvin concluded, “and we are committed to continuing the work of the mHA to make that vision a reality.”

As executive director of the mHA, Aylward served in one of the most visible leadership roles of the emerging mHealth field:

“Getting a rational eHealth system with a sophisticated mHealth system extending it into the community, is certainly where we are trying to go,” Aylward Alliance told MobiHealthNews shortly after he took the helm at the mHA. ”We certainly don’t have either in this country. Even if we do find a good model, it’s not clear to me that we would import it back into this country. What could happen though is a whole bunch of consumer-based health services that were one step removed from the core health system in the developed market could be a result of success in the developing markets. The industrial barriers to interoperability in the U.S. — and I don’t know about Europe but I suspect the same thing — are so powerful that even a whole bunch of good examples from Africa and Asia is not going to overcome the vested economic interests in the United States.”

Calvin hinted that Aylward would be moving into role where he would work to deliver mHealth services. Given the high perch he has had for the 18 months, we look forward to learning more about his future pursuits in mHealth.

What does AT&T’s T-Mobile USA acquisition mean for mobile health?

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 21, 2011        

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Reasons T-Mobile USA deal benefits AT&T/T-Mob subscribers, according to Deutsche Telekom

Every couple of years another major mobile operator acquisition takes place in the US — in 2008 Verizon Wireless bought Alltel, which made Verizon Wireless the largest operator in the US by subscribers. This year it looks to be AT&T’s bid to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. While this deal still faces considerable regulatory challenges, we wondered what an AT&T-T-Mobile merger would mean for mobile health.

On the face of it, not much. More than any of the other major US mobile operators T-Mobile USA has most often stood on the sidelines of mobile health activity. Maybe T-Mobile has just kept mum on its mHealth pursuits, but the operator has made little more than a peep about mobile health these past few years.

WellCare: T-Mobile USA’s idea for an mHealth service

At the Mobile Health event produced by Stanford University’s Persuasion Technology Lab, the director of strategic innovation at the T-Mobile Creation Center, Winston Wang showed attendees a “concept” for a mobile health service that his team had created to explain the mHealth opportunity to the operators’ top brass:

Wang played a short commercial for a concept service his team developed, called T-Mobile’s WellCare. The video showed a woman in her late 60s or early 70s waking up, taking medication and going for a walk. As she moves from her bedroom to her bathroom, a “nightlight” glows and blinks indicating it recognized movement. After she takes her medication, a younger woman, assumedly her daughter, is shown in another location receiving a text message. As the older lady laces up and goes for a walk, an “activity monitor” message appears on her TV screen in the background, and the younger woman once again gets an alert — assumedly one that tells her that her mother is on-the-move. “WellCare from T-Mobile let’s you loved ones keep their independence, while keeping you informed,” the “commercial” concluded.

Wang made clear at the time that T-Mobile USA had no plans to develop this idea into a product or service.

Text4Baby: The only mHealth initiative T-Mobile USA has been involved with?

T-Mobile USA was involved in one of the major mHealth service launches in the US last year — Text4Baby. Of course, every US mobile operator — large and small — seemed to be involved with the launch of Text4Baby. Text4Baby is a free mHealth service that “provides timely and expert health information through SMS text messages to pregnant women and new moms through their babies’ first year.” Mobile operators played a big part in the program’s accessibility — the operators all waived the fees for Text4Baby-related messages, which would typically cost users the same amount as any other text message they sent or received.

My colleague Neil Versel had a rare peak inside the mind of one of T-Mobile USA’s healthcare leads: Scott Ellis, business development manager of telemedicine for T-Mobile USA, told attendees at the Mobile Health Expo in Las Vegas last year that the T-Mobile USA had made a conscious decision not to offer direct mHealth products, but rather to provide network and custom billing support to partners.

“It makes a very clean model for us,” Ellis said at the time.

T-Mobile USA: 2G is good enough for mHealth

Ellis also made an impression on EMR & HIPAA’s writer John Glynn who noted that Ellis told attendees at that same Mobile Health Expo event that mHealth services don’t need 3G data network support and that 2G suffices in most cases. While 3G and 4G data networks open up the possibility for higher bandwidth video applications and the like, 2G can certainly handle those devices that only ping the network once in a while — like with alert apps, for example.

Conclusion: T-Mobile USA is not heavily invested in mHealth

As far as the public record goes, it seems T-Mobile USA is not very interested in nor very active in mobile health. It’s new suitor, AT&T is far more active. AT&T announced the launch of its ForHealth group last year and has inked deals with chronic disease management service providers like WellDoc, MedApps, Vitality and others.

T-Mobile USA’s lack of interest in mobile health, however, does not preclude this $39 billion acquisition from helping AT&T’s position in mHealth.

If the acquisition of T-Mobile USA clears the necessary regulatory hurdles, T-Mobile USA’s parent company Deutsche Telekom would own about 8 percent of AT&T and also have a seat on the company’s board. A strong partner in Europe could bring an number of opportunities.

Also, the most talked about of AT&T’s current challenges is its network capacity issues. Smartphone users in San Francisco and New York City are especially vocal about connectivity issues with AT&T’s 3G network. The acquisition of T-Mobile USA brings an impressive amount of new wireless spectrum and capacity to AT&T’s networks.

It would mean more bandwidth and better coverage for mobile health app users, too.

More on AT&T’s planned acquisition of T-Mobile USA over at Engadget

FDA promises regulatory guidance this year

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 17, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsAccording to a report from consulting firm Emergo Group, FDA officials said they would offer up guidance on how it plans to regulate mobile medical applications before the year is over. The report is not surprising considering the work that the mHealth Regulatory Coalition (mHRC) has done on the subject. Late last year the mHRC submitted its own guidance document for the FDA to consider as it determines how best to regulate mobile medical apps.

The question of whether the FDA would regulate the industry was never a serious one — it’s always been a matter of how.

“Manufacturers have thus far received little official guidance from the FDA regarding how the CDRH would handle mobile medical applications… According to information provided by FDA officers at the town hall, software validation will be required for mobile medical applications. Whether such devices would have to go through 510(k) or pre-market approval processes, or be ruled 510(k)-exempt—has not yet been determined, [the officials] said,” according to the Emergo report.

Of course, the FDA has cleared medical devices that connect to cellular networks via embedded chips or through connections to mobile phones. In recent years the FDA has also granted 510(k) clearances to a number of health-related software applications intended for use on smartphones, mobile phones or PDAs. Yes, the regulation of medical software on handheld devices began long ago.

The Emergo report pointed to a couple of the more well-known examples of medical apps that have received FDA clearances, and their inclusion of MobiUS’s Mobisante is a little off the mark is correct. UPDATE: Mobisante CEO Sailesh Chultani confirmed with MobiHealthNews that although the summary document for its MobiUS Ultrasound Imaging System’s 510(k), clears the probe to connect to a “host computer” and makes no mention of software on or accessed through a mobile phone, the longer 510(k) document does.

However, after a quick search of the FDA’s 510(k) clearances archive we discovered only seven eight nine ten eleven examples of mobile medical software that have achieved FDA’s greenlight over the years. (Keep sending them in!) Ignore the misleading headlines that the FDA is set to begin regulating mobile medical apps, it’s clear that the FDA began years ago:  Keep reading>>

Updated: 71 percent of oncologists say mobiles reduce errors

By: Neil Versel | Mar 17, 2011        

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Physician Interactive's Brett Miller

Brett Miller, President, Physicians Interactive Holdings’ Healthcare Professional Division

In the relatively short history of mobile healthcare, 11 years might seem like an eternity. But that’s how long mobile healthcare content provider Skyscape has been in business. Fittingly for such an established player, the Marlborough, Mass.-based company has had to reinvent itself several times to stay relevant.

“Skyscape evolved as kind of an Amazon of medical resources,” Brett Miller, president of parent company Physicians Interactive Holdings’ Healthcare Professional Division, tells MobiHealthNews. It took well-known medical texts and reference books and repackaged them in digital form for PDAs and, later, smartphones.

In 2009, Skyscape was bought by Physicians Interactive, the former drug-detailing unit of EHR vendor Allscripts Healthcare Solutions. Skyscape now accounts for about 90 percent of the Healthcare Professionals Division.

Miller, who joined the company in February 2010, says it’s fair to call Skyscape and the Healthcare Professionals Division the mobile arm of Physicians Interactive for now, but expect that to change in the future. “It probably will evolve into more than that,” Miller says. “We own some proprietary resources to help physicians with their workflow,” he explains.

And mobile is the right way to reach them, according to a survey of oncologists that Skyscape planned to release today. “Responding to a survey by Skyscape, oncologists said the use of mobile technology helps reduce medical errors and increases the amount of patients they can see during the day,” a company statement says.

Actually, less than a majority made those claims, but the results are interesting. About 33 percent of respondents said that mobile devices “create efficiencies in their weekly workflow that  allows them to increase patient volumes,” according to Skyscape. More than 71 percent Some 45 percent of the oncologists said mobile resources—including Skyscape’s drug-dosing calculator—helped them reduce medical errors. (Update: Skyscape tabulated the wrong percentage in an earlier version of their press release, which is now pushed back and will be published next week.) Keep reading>>