News 2/29/12

Happtique, the mobile health app store for healthcare providers, invited me to speak on the on its inaugural mHealth Zone radio show (Thursday, March 1 at noon EST.) We’ll be covering HIMSS from a mobile perspective, as well as trends in mobile health. An mHealth radio show is a new concept for me and it should be an interesting experience. Check it out here.

Also, I’m part of a panel for the NextGen: Health conference in New York March 29-30. The first day of the conference is structured like a TED event, with 18-minute interactive talks in an auditorium setting. The second day is focused on mobile health. If you’re interested, the event is invite only, so please e-mail me for a invite code.

I reported last week about the competition heating up around secure communications for physicians. Last week it was PerfectServe and TigerText raising big sums of money. Now Imprivata, which has 900 healthcare customers, launches CorText to allow physicians to exchange text messages and images with PHI. Also, DocBookMD (creative name — I’m betting DocBook was taken as the MD seems to be redundant) announced recently it has raised $2.2 million from private investors. DocBook, which was founded by husband and wife physicians, is taking a slightly different approach to getting users by working through the medical societies.  Add to this mix Doximity and its DocText service. The problem is rapidly becoming that docs will need to have five different apps for securely communicating with colleagues. I imagine somebody will try to roll these up at some point. Or maybe doctors will just continue to use SMS, MMS, and increasingly iMessage without much concern for HIPAA. More than once I’ve been shown MMS images of disgusting lesions or films at a social gathering.

Speaking of iMessage — the Apple messaging service for connecting fanboys — Apple releases a beta version of Messages for Mac OS. The ability to sync SMS and IM seamlessly across devices — as long as they are all Apple devices — is very cool.

The results of an SMS-based study by for diabetics finds that patients overwhelmingly (67%) responded To messages requesting glucose reading responses. The two-way SMS trial was relatively small (47 patients) but the majority of patients were older and the population served by Denver Health, the organization that conducted the study, is predominantly uninsured or on Medicare/Medicaid. The second phase of this trial was recently started and I’m anxious to see how the program scales.

Voalte is selected by Samsung to delivery clinical communications for Samsung healthcare smartphones. Voalte had to rewrite the application to make the move from iOS to Android, which is what the Samsung devices are based on.

Ipad3 pano 14351
Again speaking of Apple, it announced an event in San Francisco for March 7. The consensus online is that it will be the unveiling of the iPad 3, which is speculated to have a much faster processor, screen display close to the Retina resolution on the iPhone 4, and no home button. I held off on the iPad 2, which makes me feel like I’m slumming it at business meetings, but I might try this one out.

iTriage announces a partnership with Infinity Healthcare, an emergency room management company. This is the third such partnership for iTriage. Users will have wait time and check-in options for the 20 Infinity facilities across Wisconsin and Illinois.

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin MD announces the winners of the Healthy App Challenge. I think this is the one where you win press, but no money. The four winners are: Lose It! (a nutrition app, recently signed a partnership with United); GoodGuide (info about foods and household products based on barcoding in stores); Fooducate (healthy options comparison shopping for food, also based on barcodes); and Healthy Habits (general healthy behaving goal setting and tracking.) Needless to say, or maybe I need to say, I’m not terribly impressed other than with Lose It!, which I’ve used and liked. To be fair, I’ve never used Healthy Habits.

Duo security

I’ve written before about the importance of mobile security, especially in healthcare and especially in a bring-your-own-device world. Last week Duo Security announced that it has raised $5 million. The company provides a supposedly easy platform for securing mobile devices (iOS, Android, BlackBerry) to enterprise networks. It seems like it is already working with several healthcare organizations. I’m wondering when a we’ll see a partnership between Duo and a mobile health vendor.

Two former Facebook employees launch a web and mobile app for finding accurate prices on medications. The company, GoodRx, actually launched last fall, but just raised $1 million. The service works pretty well, combining both mail order with brick and mortar, as well as generic and brand name meds. GoodRx plans to expand to provide education about medications, costs, and ways to find discounts. One cool feature is refill reminders with price alerts via e-mail. One scary feature is the help to seek out "therapeutic equivalents."

Secure, in-facility communication platform EXTENSION signs with Sentara Healthcare (VA) to equip its ICU nursing staff with EXTENSION-configured Cisco handsets.

Unintended consequences
Patient engagement matters, right? I think we can all agree on that. It’s not easy to do, as evidenced by the amount of money and effort to engage patients and the lack of good examples at scale or over extended periods of time. I don’t have the answer, but I know mobile is a key component of it because mobile = engagement. I used to cite Facebook and Twitter usage examples, but here is a great Forrester post with specific examples (table above) of how mobile can have unintended scaling consequences because of the extreme success of mobile app adoption.

Adult gadget ownership over time
On that same front, Pew releases new mobile usage numbers. As the graph above shows, mobile phone use seems to be winning out over all other devices. The report finds that 35% of all Americans have a smart phone. Read further and you find that, not surprisingly, the financially well off, younger, educated groups have higher smart phone uptake. Other groups that does have an increased health burden and lower access proportionally — namely African-Americans and Latinos — have higher rates of smart phone adoption at 44%.

Twitter has made available archives of tweets that span back to 2010. The objective is to monetize the data, and I imagine the market insights that can be potentially gleaned from Twitter are very valuable. I’d love to see public health research on this data, ideally using the historical data to develop tools to identify health trends in real-time. My favorite quote is from a privacy advocate, who said, "Twitter has turned a social network that was meant to promote real-time global conversation into a vast market-research enterprise with unwilling, unpaid participants.” Is this something that is actually catching people off-guard?

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

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