News 10/26/11

Gary and Mary West, founders of the West Wireless Health Institute, form an investment fund seeded with $100 million. It seeks early stage companies with the potential to lower healthcare costs. The initial portfolio includes six companies that offer a wide range of healthcare services. All profits (returns) from investments will go into medical research. Very cool.

The VA just put out an RFI seeking a national mobile device management (MDM) system to support its mobile device strategy. Some stories are reporting that the VA is buying 100,000 tablets, but the RFI is only looking for an MDM to support “up to” 100,000 tablets. Considering the statements made by the VA in the past, my bet would be that it is planning on supporting staff-owned devices in addition to VA-owned devices. The RFI also states that the MDM vendor has to deliver only 60 tablets during each year of performance: 20 that are Windows-based, 20 Android-based, and 20 iPads.

Clinical communications vendor EXTENSION announces integration with Polycom handsets. The new service connects Polycom handsets to EXTENSION messaging, allowing the legacy handsets to communicate with EXTENSION-enabled smart phones.

Mobile provider GreatCall announces the 5Star Responder Device. The device provides push-button access to "Certified Response Agents" or 911. In the case of an emergency, the service can also be used to communicate with first responders to provide them with information about the users location, profile, meds, or medical history. The cost is $50 for the device, a $35 activation fee, and $15 per month. As long as people remember to carry it, I could see this bringing peace of mind to adult children of elderly parents.

Just in case GreatCall users forget their responders, they can always be tracked by GPS-enabled shoes from GTX Corp. The shoes are being marketed specifically for Alzheimer’s patients. As odd as it sounds, I think this would be great for families. I know my family would have loved it for my grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s and would wander off. I feel as though somebody should apologize for the video above, so I’ll say I’m sorry. I think GTX needs to raise some marketing money.

A new report by Manhattan Research finds that 26% of consumers used mobile phones to access health information in the last 12 months. This number includes consuming health-related news, so I wouldn’t put much stock in it. The press release also mentions that 8% of the population used phones for med refills or reminders, which seems sky high to me. They must be including people using mobile phones to call pharmacies, which is more indicative of a mobile phone trend than a mobile health health trend.

Washington Hospital Center (DC) and AT&T jointly develop a platform called CodeBlue to connect teams of providers around critical care patients. It works over Web and mobile, enabling providers to see patient data and video even if in transit to the hospital. It could be helpful in preparing facilities for fast-track patients who need to go straight to the cardiac cath lab, for example.

Numera launches an iOS version of its Numera Net Gateway. The new app allows users to automatically upload biometric data from Numera device partners via iOS-connected device. It’s being tested with hypertensive patients.

A CSC report provides guidance for how healthcare organizations should develop social media policies. Most of the report is dry and not of much use, at least from my perspective, but the table of current healthcare social media examples is good.

PharmaSecure closes a round of fund raising worth $3.9 million. Its product prints unique codes on medications packages that can then be verified over SMS by consumers. The service is designed for developing countries, where counterfeit medications are such a significant problem. PharmaSecure has been able to secure relationships with major drug makers across India that will allow it to protect over 1.5 billion med packages over the next year. Additional services to drug makers, like real-time market intelligence and direct connections to consumers (a bit scary) are also part of the package.

For those with an interest in global mobile health, Popular Mechanics has a good profile on it and of Josh Nesbit of Medic Mobile, who has become a leading voice on the subject. The best quote is in relation to mHealth hype vs. reality, in which Nesbit says, "All the media coverage and promises made about mobile health in recent years make it seem as if millions of health workers in developing nations have already integrated their phones into their daily practice. In reality, only about 20,000 have done so." I have been shocked to hear from people on the ground in Africa about the lack of current use of mobile technology in healthcare, despite what we hear in the news.

More on global health, this time from speakers at the recent Connected Health Symposium. Speakers called developing countries a "blank slate" because telehealth systems don’t need to integrate or interoperate with existing systems (because they don’t exist.) Despite that advantage, the lack of financial resources and health infrastructure to address acute issues identified using telehealth present unique challenges for those working in developing countries.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups.

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