Small study: Patient portal fails to improve education, activation

By: Jonah Comstock | Jun 23, 2015        

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Female Doctor with TabletWhat constitutes a successful patient portal? Is it enough that patients engage with the portal, or do they actually need to demonstrate that they’ve learned new information from it?

These are questions hospitals are grappling with as they seek to deploy patient portals and meet Meaningful Use guidelines. One study, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Society, found that even when 80 percent of the patients in a small study made use of the mobile patient portal provided to them, it didn’t make them that much more knowledgable about things like their care plan or their medications. The only significant benefit of the portal was that users were more likely to know the name of their doctor than members of the control group.

The study was conducted on 202 patients (100 in the intervention group and 102 in the control group) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Researchers created their own patient portal for the study, an iPad application that integrated with the hospital’s Cerner EHR and provided patients with their general health information, names and photos of their care team, their medication list, and their agenda for the day.

Eighty percent of the patients in the patient portal group used their iPad at least once during the study, while 57 percent used it more than once per day. Seventy-six percent of patients said they were satisfied with the portal, and 71 percent said it was easy to use.

But when patients in each group were asked questions about the information contained in the portal, in nearly every category there was no difference between the groups. The control group was actually slightly more knowledgable about planned tests and planned procedures (though not significantly so). The short form patient activation measure, an established test for patient engagement, also showed no differences between groups.

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Planned Parenthood launches app so Californians can order STD tests

By: Aditi Pai | Jun 23, 2015        

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Planned Parenthood DirectPlanned Parenthood Affiliates of California launched an app, called Planned Parenthood Direct, that helps people order confidential STD testing kits, which arrive through the mail. This feature was also added to another Planned Parenthood app that serves Minnesota and Washington.

The new app will alert users via secure message with their results and if they test positive, the app will also help them order a treatment. Tests are available for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Users who order tests from Planned Parenthood Direct, which is only available in California, can get the STD test and treatment for $149. Planned Parenthood Direct does not take insurance for the tests.

This is the second app Planned Parenthood has launched in the last year. In September 2014, Planned Parenthood launched a pilot program for an app, called Planned Parenthood Care, that prescribes birth control to women via video visits, powered by American Well, and then sends them either the pill, the patch, or the ring through the mail. That app is available in Minnesota and Washington.

At the time, the Planned Parenthood Care app didn’t include an STD testing service, but the company has since added functionality very similar to that of California’s Planned Parenthood Direct app. If Planned Parenthood Care users have insurance, they can get a portion of the video visits covered. Plans accepted include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Health Partners, Preferred One, and Medica.

“Planned Parenthood Care and Planned Parenthood Direct provide the same high-quality health care people have trusted Planned Parenthood to provide for nearly 100 years,” Cecile Richards,
president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “What’s new is now our clinicians can literally meet people where they are — wherever they are — to get them the care they need, when they need it. These apps are about expanding access to the economic, educational, and health benefits that come along with access to quality reproductive healthcare.” Keep reading>>

Accenture: 73 percent of health execs saw positive ROI from patient-generated data

By: Aditi Pai | Jun 23, 2015        

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Heart rate-tracking wearable

Heart rate-tracking wearable

Health executives have already seen the benefits of patient-generated data, according to an Accenture survey of 601 doctors, 1,000 consumers, and 101 healthcare executives.

Some 73 percent of execs have seen positive return on investment from using technologies like wearables that track a patient’s fitness and vital signs.

Accenture found that 85 percent of physicians believe wearables improve patients’ engagement with their own health. Some 76 percent of patients said that wearables have the potential to help them manage and improve their health.

“We’re entering an era of personalized healthcare where patients expect to have a meaningful and convenient individual health experience, both virtually and in-person,” Accenture’s health business lead Kaveh Safavi said in a statement. “The advent of real-time patient data, smarter technologies and individualized services will help health providers break from their traditional business models and provide outcome-focused services for individuals.”

The survey also found that 84 percent of healthcare executives predict, within the next three years, that the healthcare industry will need to focus as much on training machines, including algorithms, intelligent software, and machine learning, as they do on training people. And 83 of healthcare executives percent believe that providers will need to start managing these machines in addition to their employees as a result of the increase in clinical data.

“As the digital revolution gains momentum, doctors and clinicians will use machines to augment human labor, personalize care, and manage more complex tasks,” Safavi said. “The digital revolution is also creating a data goldmine that can spark medical breakthroughs and improve individualized treatment plans.”

Some 41 percent of health executives said their data volume grew more than 50 percent last year. Approximately 59 percent of executives said they use rule-based algorithms, 52 percent use machine learning, 49 percent use intelligent agents, and 45 percent use predictive analytics.

Heal raises $5M to expand MD house call app to another 15 cities

By: Aditi Pai | Jun 23, 2015        

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HealLos Angeles-based Heal, which has developed an app that helps people request a doctor to visit their house, raised $5 million from Slow Ventures, March Capital, Pritzker Capital, and angel investors. This brings the company’s total funding to $8.7 million.

Existing investors include singer-songwriter Lionel Richie, Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs, and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Jamie McCourt.

The app, available on iOS and Android, first launched in January. Users pay $99 to have a doctor come to their house in under an hour. Similarly to Uber, after requesting a doctor, the user can see the doctor’s location in the app when they are en route to the user’s house. All doctors are provided through a medical practice established by Heal, called Heal At-Home Medical. The doctors on Heal are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Patients are able to receive many of the services that they get at a doctor visit like an annual physical, blood tests, specialist recommendations, and prescription delivery. Doctors will bring digital health tools to visits, including an AliveCor ECG and CellScope otoscope.

The company said it will use funding to help expand its service to 15 cities over the next year. Currently, Heal is available in Los Angeles and expanded in April to San Francisco.

“I created Heal to make life easier for busy parents and adults to get world-class primary care in the comfort, convenience and privacy of their home,” Heal Founder Dr. Renee Dua said in a statement. “Our vision is to transform primary care into a one-stop primary health solution, where patients can call on Heal at a moment’s notice not only for everything a traditional doctor’s visit can provide, but also for cutting-edge services and tools that put patients in control of their health like never before.”

In early March, a similar service, Pager, raised $10.4 million. Pager’s doctors do an initial consult over the phone to determine what sorts of diagnostic and treatment tools they might need to bring, then show up at the patient’s house for the visit. The service currently costs $49 for the first visit and $199 for each visit after that.

And a week after Pager announced the funding, San Francisco-based FirstLine Medical launched its doctor consultation service, called FirstLine. The offering allows patients to call, text, or video chat with a doctor, but if users choose, they can also request a doctor to make an in-person visit to their home or office.

In a recent keynote, Scripps Health cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol mentioned Heal as he poked fun at the recent influx of Uber-like house call apps.

“There’s five different apps where you can get a doctor to come to your house to do a consult,” he said. “One of them’s called Heal and it’s backed by Lionel Ritchie. I wrote to him and said ‘Maybe you should have called it ‘All night long’. He said ‘No, it’s all day long too’.”

Google X is developing a wearable for clinical research

By: Jonah Comstock | Jun 23, 2015        

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1200x-1Google (specifically the life sciences team at Google X) is building a wearable health sensor for cardiac and activity tracking, but it isn’t a Fitbit or Apple Watch competitor: Google’s device is a clinical-grade sensor designed for investigational use.

“In brief, we’ll be starting to use it in clinical studies to see if/how a continuous stream of medical-grade measurements of biological signals (e.g. pulse, skin temp, activity levels) could be useful to physicians and researchers as they try to understand and intervene earlier in disease,” a Google spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email. “This could give them insights that are currently only available sporadically — e.g. via a diagnostic test, or when a patient is being observed in a clinical setting.”

The wristworn sensor will measure pulse, activity level, and skin temperature continuously. It will also be able to take an ECG and pick up on environmental information like light and noise levels, which might indicate to investigators that a person isn’t wearing the device or isn’t leaving their house much. Google will investigate different research cases for the device, including sending it home with discharged patients at risk for readmission.

“Doctors have always looked for new ways to gain insight into the subtle biological patterns that could help earlier diagnosis or intervention in disease,” Andy Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google, said in a statement. “Our hope is that this technology could unlock a new class of continuous, medical-grade information that makes it easier to understand these patterns and manage serious health conditions.” Keep reading>>

StartUp Health gets strategic investment from Wisconsin health system

By: Jonah Comstock | Jun 23, 2015        

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A smart pill bottle from AdhereTech, a StartUp Health company.

New York-based digital health accelerator, network and innovation fund StartUp Health has a new strategic investor: Wisconsin health system Aurora Health Care. The terms of the investment are undisclosed, but the companies described Aurora in a statement as “taking a lead investor role” in the company.

Update: According to a new SEC filing, StartUp Health recently raised $5 million from a single investor. The company would not confirm whether that funding was from Aurora Health Care.

“The Aurora and StartUp Health collaboration is significant because together we can quickly identify the next generation of solutions for the people we serve,” Aurora CEO Dr. Nick Turkal said in a statement. “We’re living in an age where every aspect of our lives is being reinvented by technology; the opportunity now is to streamline how the most effective innovations can be applied to improve the health and wellness of our patients. With StartUp Health we can do this more quickly and efficiently.”

Since its founding in 2011, StartUp Health’s portfolio has grown to include more than 100 startups from 10 different countries. Aurora will not only invest in StartUp Health but “will be afforded early access to proposed innovations and will be able to work side-by-side with entrepreneurs to implement solutions in Aurora’s provider and patient communities,” according to a statement.

“This is a meaningful collaboration with Aurora that we believe will not only transform the pace of how innovation makes its way to patients and doctors, but we hope will serve as a roadmap for other leaders throughout the industry,” Unity Stoakes, co-founder and president of StartUp Health, said in a statement. “Virtually every aspect of healthcare is being re-imagined and there’s no better way to speed up the cycles of innovation than to collaborate to provide entrepreneurs and innovators with ongoing support, expertise and resources to grow their business. Aurora is the perfect entity to do this with.” Keep reading>>