News 2/10/12

I’m on vacation this week with my wife’s family. It’s been fascinating to me, and a bit annoying to my wife, to discuss health-related startups and business models with my father-in-law, who has been on the business side of healthcare for the last 25 years organizing surgery centers, home health, and medical practices. It never ceases to amaze me how broad healthcare is, but also how disconnected my world — and the world of most health startups I know about — can be from that of community practices, both primary and specialty focused. These aren’t health systems or enterprises, just 3-15 doc groups, all independent. It’s a part of healthcare that I increasingly think very few people really understand, but also one that might be dying a slow death as most younger docs I know are more than happy to be employed, not interested in working with something like my father-in-law’s company to organize and manage their practices. Either way, having the discussions is always a great way to get real-world feedback on what does and doesn’t make sense for working docs today.

OK, I just had to get that off my chest. Now on to the news.


There was lots of different funding-related news this week. AirStrip announces an investment from Qualcomm. AirStrip is making a push beyond enterprise, in-facility monitoring (OB, cardiology) towards the projected-to-be-massive remote, home monitoring space. Qualcomm is already a partner of AirStrip’s in this area. I imagine this investment is more about strategic alignment with what AirStrip considers to be a valuable partner and less about the cash infusion.


PerfectServe closes a Series C round of investment worth $10.9 million. PerfectServe offers a clinical communication platform to intelligently find and connect physicians and nurses over preferred communication channels. The press release talks about the value of communication in caring for patients across different settings. PerfectServe says the platform has 20,000 physicians using it across 50 hospitals. If hospitals pay a per-user license, which I’m not even sure they do, what happens if a provider has rights at multiple hospitals that use PerfectServe? Does PerfectServe collect license fees twice for those providers?

One more bit of news from PerfectServe from the week. Advocate Christ Medical Center (IL), a 695-bed facility, rolls out PerfectServe for its providers. This is the fifth deployment for PerfectServe in Advocate’s 11-hospital system.


More clinical communication funding news. HIPAA-compliant messaging platform company TigerText raises $8.2 million. According to the release, this investment values the company at $41 million, which seems a bit ridiculous as the company only has 21 clients and I’m betting several of those were early and didn’t/don’t have any real margin. I guess the value is likely based on closing that many clients in a relatively short time, but still, $41 million seems way too high. I’m really curious what TigerText charges its customers. Anybody have any information that they’d like to share?

A very small pilot study (25 patients) coordinated by the Center for Connected Health concludes that text messaging patients during pregnancy and post-partum with tailored messages may be helpful. Ninty-five percent of patients in the pilot found the messages helpful. The press release vaguely states that it "potentially" increased attendance at prenatal appointments. We obviously need a lot more data than this, and let’s hope some of that comes out of the Text4Baby research.


Another fairly small study (70 patients) coordinated by the Center for Connected Health finds that virtual coaching with animated "agents" helps improve patient activity.


Text4baby announces a new Toolkit for Employers in partnership with Benz Communications, a benefits campaign company. The Toolkit makes it easy for employers to customize and integrate text4baby messaging into corporate benefit communication strategies. Text4baby is pushing on all fronts to meet its total user goals.


The AMA releases a free mobile app for patients called Weigh What Matters. The app is meant to be used by patients to track progress towards goals set by providers. It’s a cool concept to have providers prescribe the app and tailor goals to the patient. The app tracks weight, eating, and activity. It would be very cool to have an accompanying app, either Web or mobile, for providers to approve canned or setup custom messages to be pushed to all or select portions of their patients. You’d need to link app users to providers, which I don’t think is possible with this version of the app, but this is only Version 1. Kudos to the AMA for trying.


Urology EMR vendor meridianEMR announces a native iPhone app for mobile access to medical records. The press release talks about optimizing the experience for iPhone users with the native app, but then I looked at the screenshots and saw the one included above. Is that really optimizing the mobile experience of reading an patient encounter note? My bet is that you could probably do a lot better by only showing — and making readable — the most important points that most physicians are interested in. You can provide access to the rest, but not all in a dump like meridianEMR has done. That just seems lazy.

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Supporting HIStalk, HIStalk Practice, and HIStalk Mobile at the Platinum sponsorship level is White Plume Technologies of Birmingham, AL. Their name is memorable as well, referencing the last line in the play Cyrano de Bergerac (“and that is … my white plume”) that symbolizes courage, integrity, and honor. White Plume helps 7,800 physician customers improve their PM/EMR systems (covering “the stuff they left out,” as they say), capturing charges better and faster to the tune of an average net savings of $0.83 per encounter. The company is so confident in its low-risk solution that it will happily sign daily contract commitments, letting its value stand on its own legs. Specific modules in its ePass (Electronic Practice Acceleration Solution Suite) include AccelaCAPTURE (an intelligent superbill on a tablet PC,) AccelaMOBILE (charge capture, rounding lists, and appointments on mobile devices,) AccelaSMART (rules-based management and workflow engine,) AccelaPASS (charge passing and validation,) and AccelaSCAN (a paper superbill with quick-scan processing, up to 1,200 encounter forms per hour.) Some of the vendor systems they work with: McKesson, NextGen, GE Healthcare, athenahealth, Allscripts, Vitera, and LSS. I found a YouTube video called Waiting on the EMR of the Future that provides some background, and they have a Top 5 Things to Know and slideshow on their site. Thanks to White Plume for its support of HIStalk, HIStalk Practice, and HIStalk Mobile.

A new report by Spyglass Consulting finds that most physicians use mobile devices and believe the iPad has lots of potential. No shocker there. Despite that, the majority of providers surveyed feel the iPad is not ready to transform healthcare today. The reasons aren’t surprising, namely that clinical applications need to be rewritten and optimized for tablets, taking advantage of native hardware acceleration and touch gestures.

A survey of IT executives and managers in healthcare finds that the majority have concerns about consumer-grade tablets (think iPad) related to cost, durability, and data entry. If you look through the whole report — which I don’t advise — you won’t get much more than that.


Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) announces that he is working on a bill to make it easier for physicians to practice telemedicine across state lines. Thanks for the announcement, I guess.

Here’s another article about the lessons to be learned from ZocDoc’s success. I like the quote from ZocDoc investor David Weiden of Khosla Ventures, about ZocDoc being "focused and specific" to get traction in healthcare before expanding out from there beyond appointments. Maybe OpenTable of healthcare is not what ZocDoc has been calling itself to its investors because it wants a lot more in the long term.

If you have an iOS device and are curious about what happens when you press down for a while on certain keys, this article highlights some of the shortcuts and functions that are possible with a long press.


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

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