News 11/9/11

Lots of mHealth Summit news as we are getting closer to the conference. The event is in DC December 5-7. Just this week, two new keynote speakers were announced – HHS Secretary Sebelius and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA. I imagine both of these talks will focus on policy and public health issues related to mHealth.

In related news, the Rockefeller Foundation and mHealth Alliance have opened voting for the Top 11 in 2011 Innovators Challenge. The winners of the challenge will get all-expense paid trips to the mHealth Summit and will be honored there. The list of 30 finalists is a little surprising to me, as the United States and Europe have only each, both involving mobile platforms that sound somewhat similar to each other.

The US-based nominee is Howard Rosen of LifeWIRE, a mobile communications platform that connects patients to care teams. It’s being tested as part of the Army’s Wounded Warrior program. I’m surprised that this was the nominee from the US, but maybe the platform itself is better than the website and marketing material that I was able to find. International mHealth is admittedly more innovative than in the US — or at least more interesting because of the pace of testing and breadth of models being developed — but to not include AirStrip, Withings, AliveCor,, WellDoc, and Telcare shows the lack of real global representation in the challenge itself. Just a little disappointing to see.

Jawbone launches UP, the wristband and personal health motivator that was featured at a TED event a while back. The system actually seems quite cool, at least for the younger and health-conscious crowd. It’s a pairing of a $99 bracelet and iPhone app. The bracelet monitors activity and sleep, while the app takes care of nutrition via a photo food journal. It’s like combining Fitbit with Zeo with a food journal, all integrated and all tied to mobile. For activity, the wristband counts steps and the app also includes GPS tracking for running or biking. The device syncs with the iPhone through the headphone jack like the Square credit card reader. The platform has social features to connect to friends and challenges sponsored by third parties for different fitness goals. Not bad for $99.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (CA) chooses Voalte for internal communications. Apparently Voalte and Cedars have been in testing for the last year, resulting in the development of 30 new Voalte features.

Panasonic announces its entry into the tablet market with the ToughPad, a tablet version of the ToughBook laptop. The new, super durable tablet will run on Android, have front and rear facing cameras, and weigh in at 2.1 pounds. Durability is nice, but I think you give up too much in weight to make this a viable tablet option (assuming you want to carry the tablet around all day, which is the value of a tablet in healthcare.) The price tag for the 10-inch version of $1,299 is too high compared to other tablets, even if you add on a durable case like an Otterbox.

Speaking of cool tablets, has anybody seen the Aakash tablet? The extremely low-end, 7-inch tablet, built on Android 2.2, will have a suggested retail price of $60. The plan is to put this in the hands of 10-12 million Indian students by the end of 2012. I don’t see this being a clinical tool in the US, at least one used by clinicians, but globally this could have some great impact as it enables much more functionality than the current mobile technology in terms of data entry and access, at least at the low price point. In the US, I could also see this as a very cheap home health gateway with limited features.

Genomic Heath launches Cancer Coach App for iOS devices. The app is meant to be used by breast and colon cancer patients. It provides education, a calendar, journals, and custom guidance for medical appointments based on responses to questionnaires. Cancer patients are engaged patients, so I could see this being downloaded and used. Genomic Health is in the medical testing business, specifically cancer testing.

SweetSpot Diabetes Care, one of the recipients of a recent VAi2 grant, will start a trial of its glucose reading collection system. The press release makes it sound like the glucose data will be collected remotely from patients at home, but the SweetSpot website makes it sound like the tool is a kiosk or computer-based system that reads data off glucometers at the providers office. Either way, the trial is going to be done at the VA in Dayton, OH.

More VAi2. American Well and the VA announce plans to roll out American Well’s telemedicine platform for the VA. Virtual services will be provided by VA clinicians and personnel using the platform from American Well. Services to be offered include behavioral health, oncology, and perioperative care. American Well is having a very good year and I’m betting it’s only going to get better for them.

HIMSS issues a letter to the FDA urging the agency to help educate people about the FDA’s regulatory policy and also break out clinical decision support with its own guidance.

The mHealth Initiative and the American Telemedicine Association joined HIMSS and the mHealth Regulatory Coalition in questioning the FDA’s draft guidance for mobile health app developers. Most of the responses have been seeking more clarity and granularity in classification of apps.

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

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