News 2/15/12

Is everybody super excited about HIMSS next week? I sure hope so. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of people and several companies. For those lucky enough to be attending HIStalkapalooza, I’ll definitely see you there. Safe travels.

AT&T opens up beta access to its Developer Center ForHealth. The development platform is supposed to make apps creation and data sharing easier. AT&T wants to make mHealth app development faster, drive development to its environment, and become the backbone for mobile health apps, breaking down silos in the process. The biggest sell today is HIPAA-compliant storage, though developers can get that with Amazon pretty easily. Going forward, AT&T wants to help mHealth developers with HIS integration, billing, and customer support as well. For AT&T to win in this game, it’s going to have to drive lots of developers and apps into its environment, which will not be easy. Apps will work on all carrier networks and AT&T’s is lowest ranked (but improving) by groups such as Consumer Reports.

On the heels of my recent posts about eHealth Second, mHealth First (Part 1 and Part 2), here’s a post about how companies can prepare for a mobile first world. The article is basically a summary of a new Forrester Report ($499). Aside from the usual stuff about mobile as the increasingly dominant front end engagement platform, the Forrester report also recommends appointing a chief mobility officer (CMOO) to set and guide mobile strategy. Apparently this isn’t a new idea. I’m sure people are being slotted informally into this mobile leader position at larger healthcare orgs, today but I’m curious to see if and when we see the first healthcare CMOO.

Telcare releases its iPhone app for tracking glucose readings by diabetics and approved caregiver. It also provides "feedback" based on readings, though I’m unclear exactly what feedback means. The app automatically syncs with glucose readings from Telcare’s connected glucose meter. You can manually enter and track glucose readings with the app even if you don’t have the Telcare glucometer.

This post addresses a question I get all the time – mobile app vs mobile site? I favor apps because the experience is better and this article references good data that mobile apps are more usable that mobile sites. I also think certain user groups are less forgiving (physicians as an example), so optimizing performance with apps is a good idea, especially for providers. The author goes on to say that bandwidth will improve at a faster rate than mobile hardware, cost to develop apps will increase, and HTML5 improvements will eventually make mobile sites better. It’s an interesting theory that might end up being true, though shifting away from the now very dominant app model will take a lot of time.

Here’s an extremely critical appraisal of the FDA’s ability to regulator mobile health apps. While I think FDA regulation, once we have a little more clarity on what that even means, will likely impact mobile app development costs and time — and by extension pace of innovation — regulation is a necessary step, as important decisions are being made based on free apps developed by amateur app builders for drug dosing or other point-of-care apps for assessment and care algorithms. The author’s key point, which is a good one, is that the FDA needs to come up with a more streamlined approach to regulation and app review, not the traditional, slow, costly approach.

Voalte is looking for hospital executives to register for its Chips for Charity craps game at HIMSS next week. Five entrants will be selected and given the chance to win $1,000 or more for hospital charities. Cool idea.

Wireless cardiac monitoring company CardioNet acquires ECG Scanning & Medical Services to get access to additional customers.

A Canadian study of 22 heart failure patients finds that fairly intensive home monitoring generally works for patients and clinicians, but concerns about additional clinical work, costs, and long-term use remain. From the abstract, I can’t really get much value from the findings. It’s intuitive that forced intensive patient engagement results in more data for clinicians and more awareness for patients. How that translates meaningfully to the real world (more than 22 heart failure patients and more than five cardiologists) is not entirely clear.

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Clinical communications platform vendor PerfectServe continues with its very good 2012 by adding Todd Cozzens, co-founder of Picis, to its board of directors. Cozzens currently leads Optum Accountable Care Solutions. Good communication is going to be a key factor in the success of ACOs in caring for patients across the continuum of care, so this is very strategic for PerfectServe.

The mobile operator group GSMA, with its vast experience and expertise in healthcare, predicts that "mobile technology will play a significant role in the provision of healthcare services globally," The report was actually written by PwC, which does know something about healthcare and report writing. I’m also a PwC alumnus, so I have a soft spot for them. Moving along, the report predicts the global mHealth market will be $23 billion by 2017, with Asia and Europe being larger markets than North America. The report lists four key factors that will drive this tremendous growth. Government and regulatory support are the obvious ones, but healthcare industry acceptance is crucial and I think often overlooked.

Cellnovo  launches the first clinical trial of insulin pumps with all data collected remotely. The trial will use Cellnovo’s system that consists of an insulin pump with a separate dedicated, connected glucometer.

A couple of months ago I wrote about Path, a mobile social app that I use and love. Path has been getting a lot of press, most of which is positive, but recently it was discovered that Path uploads your entire address book to its servers. Path claims this is necessary for quickly finding and suggesting contacts, though this isn’t really true. Being a free app, I’m not surprised. Path has a pretty big, impressive looking team behind it so I assume Path also has a pretty big, impressive revenue model that it used to raise money. Since it’s a free app, revenue is going to come from other sources, and that revenue is going to be dependent on the size of the network, demographics of the network, usage of the network, and the amount of data available on each user. So yes, free is not free. I still love Path, though I wish it would have at least given me a heads up before pulling all of my contacts.

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

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