Insurer: Apps may help unravel complexity of health insurance

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 5, 2012        

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UPMC ChildrensPgh iPhone appDavid Passavant, the senior director of consumer innovation at UPMC Health Plan, which is owned by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, sees the advent of mobile health apps as an important tool for unraveling the “incredibly complex and confusing” world of health insurance for consumers.

In an interview with Smart Business, Passavant noted that by the end of 2012 most health insurance companies will offer apps that enable members to search for healthcare providers and contact their insurer. Other features that basic apps from health plans will offer include personal health records access, location-aware provider search, and virtual member ID cards. The next generation of apps offered up by health plans will include real time updates on claims status, tools to understand “costs and quality of care”, personalized health tips, and various health trackers.

Passavant said that “the opportunities these devices provide are endless” and that health plans are only now “just scratching the surface”.

Passavant said that “soon it will be possible to include, for example, technology that could collect blood glucose level readings and send them directly to a member’s physician.” This service, of course, is already possible. WellDoc’s DiabetesManager enables it. Telcare’s recently FDA-cleared, wireless-enabled blood glucose meter also makes it possible. The even more recently FDA-cleared iPhone peripheral, the iBGStar from Sanofi and made by AgaMatrix, is another device that enables sharing of blood glucose data with physicians right from the patient’s mobile phone.

Perhaps the most promising quote from Passavant was this:

“Once the use of mobile technology is accepted and members are able to let us know how they want to use it and how it can best fit their needs, we will evolve.”

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which owns UPMC Health Plan, has developed a couple of iPhone apps already. ChildrensPgh is a free iPhone app developed by UPMC that offers a symptom navigator, medical advice, and more for parents. UPMC also created, UPMC EMS Navigator, an app to provide emergency medical services staff with an up to date set of clinical guidelines.

Be sure to check out Passavant’s insightful interview in Smart Business for more on UPMC Health Plan’s mobile health strategy.


Yoritex demos BlackBerry medical device hub

By: Neil Versel | Jan 5, 2012        

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Yoritex YoriMed BlackBerry medical device hubApple’s iPhone has been widely praised for its elegant design. Similarly, the much-heralded iPhone ECG from Dr. David Albert’s AliveCor is simplistic in its form, easily bolting on to the back of the iconic smartphone.

A competing offering from Canadian mobile medical products developer Yoritex seems more diverse in its potential uses. But it appears to be clunkier when it comes to design, raising the question of whether consumers will go for form or function.

Toronto-based Yoritex last week released a video demonstration of YoriMed, a medical network hub that connects small, home-based medical devices to smartphones via the micro USB port on most Android and BlackBerry models. YoriMed can accept a range of devices, including plug-in ECG/EKG sensors, blood-pressure monitors, thermometers and blood analyzers. Software loaded on the smartphone collects and displays readings in real time, and the data can be forwarded to medical professionals for analysis.

The hub is powered by a rechargeable battery that is separate from the phone’s battery. It has a 36-pin medical connector on one side — following the ISO/IEEE 11073 communications protocol for personal health devices — and a micro USB port on the other. Keep reading>>

Small medical practices to spend $7K on tablets this year

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 4, 2012        

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iPad medicalAbout 76 percent of small- and medium-sized medical and dentals offices plan to purchase tablets in the next year, according to research firm NPD Group’s recently published Third Quarter SMB Technology Report. What’s more, these practices expect to spend about $6,800 on tablets, NPD told DOTmed news. NPD conducted the survey in September 2011.

NPD’s report has a much broader focus. The key finding was that 73 percent of small- to medium- businesses (SMBs), which have fewer than 1,000 employees, in the US plan to purchase tablets in the next year. However, the average SMB expects to spend about three times as much as medical and dental practices plan to spend on tablets in the coming year. The average SMB expects to spend $21,000 on tablets.

Just this week, we reported on the West Wireless Health Institute’s contention that less than 1 percent of hospitals in the US have a fully functioning tablet deployments. A June 2011 survey conducted my physician social network QuantiaMD found that more than 30 percent of US physicians used tablets and about 25 percent used both smartphones and tablets. At the end of 2010, before the iPad 2 had launched commercially, Chilmark Research estimated that about one in five US physicians had purchased iPads — not tablets — just iPads.

Of course, some of the larger providers are set to spend much more than $6,800 on tablets in the coming year. Last October the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced plans to buy as many as 100,000 tablets primarily for use by its medical staff. Ottawa Hospital has already deployed 3,000 iPads and may buy “a few thousand more”.

Of course, many of these devices are also being brought into healthcare facilities by the clinical staff themselves. NPD’s survey only takes into account those devices likely to find their way into clinical settings because they were bought specifically for that purpose. The BYOD trend portends a wider adoption for tablets among small- and medium-sized practices than NPD’s numbers let on.

More on the NPD report over at DOTmed
More stats on SMB plans for tablet purchasing from NPD’s release here.

Utah home health provider says app saves time, money

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 4, 2012        

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allscriptsA small healthcare provider in Utah has saved $500,000 over the past year and reduced employee travel time 70 percent using a mobile EMR app, according to a report in ZDNet. First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah, used the Allscripts EMR for Windows 7 smartphones and saved half a million dollars and hours of travel time for remote clinicians.

First Choice serves 400 patients in four counties, and has around 160 employees, the majority of which are remote clinicians. The provider realized that their workflow needed improvement; revenues were down 30 percent, and some remote caregivers totaled 2,500 miles per years in mileage solely in trips to update medical records at its main office.

When exploring ways to improve the efficiency of its EMR system, the healthcare provider originally considered laptops and tablets for the solution, but eventually chose smartphones. The organization said it tested laptops equipped with 3G wireless, but the speed of input was slow compared to when the providers were using smartphones.

“Computers felt like a barrier to the patient,” Beau Sorenson, CFO of First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah, told ZDNet. “It didn’t feel like a good patient/clinician connection. So we ended up working with Allscripts to find a device that supported the application.”

When it first launched its Mobile Homecare app at the National Association for Home Care’s (NAHC) in October 2010, Allscripts stated that “traditional laptop point-of-care platforms are not well suited to the mobility, flexibility and ease of use requirements demanded in the variety of post-acute care environments,” while existing PDA apps focus largely on admin or scheduling. Allscripts stated that its app was distinct because it focused on remote access to clinical information for home care workers. Keep reading>>

Independence Blue Cross gears up to launch apps

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 4, 2012        

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konyPhiladelphia-based insurer Independence Blue Cross (IBC) will release multiple mobile applications using Kony’s middleware development platform, called KonyOne. The platform enables developers to create scalable apps that work across a number of devices and operating systems.

Kony’s Write Once, Run Everywhere technology churns out apps that natively run on various operating systems, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Java ME, Symbian, webOS. It works via mobile sites, too, of course. Kony says the platform enables apps to run on more than 9,000 different types of smartphones, tablets, kiosks and computer devices.

IBC plans to develop both simple web-based information resources and “more complex native applications”. IBC already offers a mobile site called IBX that helps members find doctors, verify referrals, compare the prices of medications, track spending, view health history, and apply for a temporary ID card. The insurer offers HMO, PPO, Medicare, and Medicaid plans that cover 3.2 million members and processes some 22 million claims each year.

“The Kony Platform lets us create mobile web applications as well as native apps and provides us with a standardized platform across all of our business units,” stated Michael Yetter, director of eBusiness at IBC, in a press release.

This isn’t Independence Blue Cross’ first move into mobile health. The insurer recently partnered with Healthrageous in November. Healthrageous, which spun out of Partners Healthcare’s Center for Connected Health in 2010, offers a wellness platform that uses wireless-enabled fitness devices and apps to power team challenges among employee populations. At the time of that announcement, Yetter said that IBC was looking into developing health apps that encourage health eating and exercise.

“Healthcare enterprises have many mobile app technologies to choose from,” stated Yetter. “We chose the Kony Platform because it clearly demonstrated that we could get to market quicker, reach the broadest range of smart devices, and lower our overall development and maintenance costs. Kony also allows us to reach a wider audience and meet the consumer on their mobile platform of choice — we will no longer have to worry about operating system upgrades or new devices on the market.”

Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

AirStrip secures CE Mark, heads to Europe

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 3, 2012        

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AirstripRPMAirStrip Technologies announced that it has received CE Mark certification to bring its mobile patient monitoring apps to Europe and other markets that recognize the CE Mark. AirStrip enables medical professionals to use their smartphones to gain access to vital signs, critical waveform data and other clinical information, which is sent directly from the hospital and can be viewed from virtually anywhere a cell phone or other wireless connection is available.

“This is a significant milestone that indicates our FDA-cleared solutions also meet the quality and safety standards required by the international healthcare marketplace,” AirStrip Technologies CEO Alan Portela stated in a company press release. “We have seen an incredible level of interest in bringing our applications to Europe and other territories, and we can now aggressively move forward with our expansion plans.”

The CE Mark certification is for AirStrip’s three core offerings: AirStripOB, AirStrip Patient Monitoring, and AirStrip Cardiology.

AirStrip’s initial product, AirStripOB focuses on remote monitoring of maternal and fetal vital signs. AirStrip Patient Monitoring and AirStrip Cardiology are apps that extend the companies virtual real time monitoring technology for mobile devices to a number of acute patient clinical environments, including the intensive care unit, the emergency department, the operating room, the neonatal ICU and other similar settings, according to the company.

AirStripOB was the first iPhone app to receive FDA clearance, while the company’s other offerings received clearance in July 2010. AirStrip also announced an undisclosed amount of funding from Sequoia Capital in 2010.

More recently, AirStrip inked a $4.3 million deal with Catholic West, partnered back up with GE, and added hundreds of new customers in the past year.

More on the AirStrip Technologies’ CE Mark certification in the press release below: Keep reading>>