News 11/2/11

Walgreens is testing full-time health guides in 16 Chicago-area stores. The guides carry iPads that run software from mHealthCoach to access health information from various sources, including medication records from Walgreens. The story goes into the goals of the guides as expanding the image of Walgreens from a drug dispenser to a healthcare service center, for lack of better descriptors. Retail pharmacy has a lot to gain — not to mention the resources for testing ways to expand services — as healthcare changes. I think Walgreens is perfectly positioned (and mHealthCoach as well) to push virtual health services and mobile health apps (journals, medication adherence services, etc) to users.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announces a new $100,000 app challenge for developers to create an app that will help consumers make informed decisions about the quality of care in their area. The information content for the app will be supplied by RWJF, so the developer’s task is to make it more usable and interactive.

A new survey finds that 75% of nurses own a smart phone or a tablet, with Apple devices far and away the most common. The survey is incredibly skewed toward academic nurses and those with graduate degrees in nursing, so I don’t think its findings are necessarily applicable to nurses generally.

A recent study from Cleveland Clinic examined YouTube videos related to inflammatory bowel disease. It found that most of the top 100 videos on the condition were not accurate. The authors of the study cite drug companies as a large part of the problem, as they post videos that do not clearly identify the source. Drug companies have caused problems by doing this on other social networks.

ONC will engage consumers about the use of mobile health tools for communication of health-related data. The campaign will run for 24 months.

Sensors for Medicine and Science Inc. (SMSI) closes a Round D of financing to the tune of $54.1 million. SMSI produces an implantable, continuous glucose monitor that automatically sends glucose levels to a reader worn on the wrist. It seems like this is a step in the direction of an artificial pancreas, which is very exciting.

A survey of 300 doctors finds that they use trust Google as an outlet to health information only behind colleagues and professional journals. I’m not very surprised, as Google and other search engines are usually fast and can direct you to information from trusted sites like those by the National Library of Medicine.

On the heels of the Epocrates infographic that showed providers download tons of apps but use very few, Epocrates announces the Epocrates App Directory to help providers find other useful medical apps. The directory contains apps that Epocrates is willing to puts its name behind and that presumably providers will trust.

A new program in Maine allows patients to get telemed consults from out-of-state providers. The article presents the program as better than those currently in existence because patients can go direct to telemed specialists out-of-state without approval from Maine-based doctors. I think I understand what the program is trying to do by breaking down barriers for patients, but it certainly makes it sound like patients in Maine deserve direct access to academic specialists at Tufts (MA) without having to be burdened with inadequate local doctors. Maybe I’m reading into the story too much, but that’s how it sounds.

Venture funding continued to be strong in health technology and medical devices during the last quarter, according to a report by Dow Jones VentureSource. Health IT accounted for 24 deals and $207 million, up from the same number of deals and $184 million Q3 of last year. It will be a fun ride to see what all this investment amounts to in terms of sustainable clinical and cost improvements.

A new report from the Consumer Electronics Association ($999) investigates consumer attitudes towards health technology. The report is 573 pages and includes data from 1,679 adults. Please do yourself a favor, save some time and money and just read up on blogs and other forums. This will be out of date by the time you get done with it.

Well-funded mobile health startup Massive Health releases it’s first app, called The Eatery. Users take photos and rate foods, identifying health habits in the process. Other users can rate your food and comment on meals in case you weren’t sure if that burger was bad or that salad was good. I’m a bit surprised that this is the first release from Massive considering all the press it received at launch.

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

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