News 11/16/11


The AMA made some mobile app news this week with the announcement of its 2011 App Challenge winners and the launch of the AMA’s first patient facing app, called My Medications. The 2011 App Challenge invited entries from docs, residents, and students for apps that the AMA would build. The winning apps were Rounder, an app that allows docs to easily collect data at the bedside for tracking patient progress, and JAMA Clinical Challenges, a learning tool that I think will take the content from Clinical Challenges (images, vignettes) published in JAMA and offer it on mobile. The AMA will officially launch both winning apps at its conference. The My Medications app allows patients to store and e-mail health information including medications, providers, immunizations, and allergies. One of the features is the ability to "store information on your device, not on the Internet". I’d rather my data get backed up automatically in case something happened to my device or it wasn’t with me.


Catholic Health West (CHW) signs a three-year deal worth $4.3 million to implement AirStrip OB in the health system’s 32 birthing centers. The rollout will take place over the next 12-18 months. I wonder how long it will before the hospitalists and cardiologists get AirStrip Cardiology at CHW?

iPad testing at Seattle Children’s hospital finds that it doesn’t work well in the clinical environment. The reason is that the applications that clinicians use, namely the Cerner EMR, are desktop applications that do not provide a good user experience on the smaller touch screens. Clinicians were using the iPad to connect to virtual desktops, so I’m not really surprised at the outcome. Eventually enterprise EMR vendors will release decent native mobile apps and then I think iPads — and hopefully other tablets — will get a better test.


In contrast to the poor experience of running desktop EMRs over mobile, this article highlights five ways that hospitals are using mobile:  1) educate, 2) inform, 3) make money, 4) impart history, and 5) heal. It’s not very flashy, but I really like the Survey on the Spot app (video above). So much is done poorly in terms of customer service that getting feedback might go a long way. The mobile app (tablet and smart phone) gives patients the ability to provide feedback about their experience before they leave the hospital or ED. I think this is much more useful than sending somebody an HCAHPS survey two weeks after discharge.

A recent article in Forbes looked at text messaging for health. The researchers interviewed were all very positive on its prospects, especially for chronic disease. I tend to be a little less positive, but that’s mostly because I think SMS campaigns need to be planned and executed in a strategic way to avoid message fatigue, especially when trying to change the behavior of chronic disease patients. Incorporating personalized SMS with more in real-world (real-person) interaction is also a good approach.


CareStream Health receives FDA clearance for its Vue Motion medical image viewer. The viewer interfaces with different PACS and image archiving systems. It is Web-based, so it can be accessed on a PC or mobile browser (video above). Vue Motion joins Mobile MIM as an FDA-approved mobile image viewer. Are there other mobile-enabled viewers with FDA approval?

Several apparently unrelated stories on smell-related mobile health were published this week. Grand Challenges Canada and the Gates Foundation are funding a collaborative project between groups in California and India to test technology called the Electronic Nose to diagnose tuberculosis. I assume this non-invasive diagnostic tool would be very fast. Now if we can get people to complete TB treatment, we’re making progress.


In related news, a Belgium-based org, Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC), is trying to incorporate the smell technology into mobile phones "to check out freshness of food, test air quality or measure alcohol level in your body after a party." Between TB testing and checking blood alcohol at a party, you’ve got most of the globe covered in terms of demand. Really though, combining the sensor technology being funded by Gates for TB with inexpensive mobile technology would be great for global health.

Buffalo County (NE) is using telehealth to deliver remote behavioral health visits to county inmates. The program is a partnership between the sheriff’s office and three groups of providers. Do people do studies and publish on telehealth with inmates?

Kaiser Health News ran a good story last week on the investment trends in healthcare, with a focus on health technology. After funding expensive biotech ventures, now much of investment is going towards companies that are trying to curb the costs of healthcare.

The VA in West Virginia is getting some good press about its home telehealth program for vets. Are vets using the Health Buddy device from Robert Bosch? Also, according to the article, all VA primary care managed vets are being considered for home telehealth.

"In order for any M-Health initiative to be sustainable, it has to be commercially sustainable," according to an article on global mHealth. The article outlines the need for entrepreneurship in mobile health to take it beyond NGO pilots to scale. It’s internationally focused, but obviously the sentiment translates well to the US, where more and more companies with very cool mobile health services are searching for sustainable models.


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

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