News 3/16/12

Walgreens continues its push to stay in front of the pack when it comes to mobile retail pharmacy. The pharmacy giant has released new features for its mobile app, including med reminders and Transfer by Scan. Reminders is an interesting shift for Walgreens from purely a convenience offering — which may actually increase adherence by making refills easier for patients — to more of a patient care support tool. Walgreens makes it easy to add reminders just by taking a photo of the barcode and setting notification preferences. It will be interesting to see if Walgreens allows for export of adherence info to PHRs like MS HealthVault. My guess would be it would release adherence data without the name of the medications. The Transfer by Scan feature is genius in that it makes it incredibly easy for patients to move prescriptions from competitors over to Walgreens. Above is an infographic about its mobile offerings.

Google Circles for healthcare startup Jiff raises $7.5 million in Series A funding. Jiff also named Derek Newel, former CEO of Robert Bosch Healthcare, as CEO. Jiff offers a patient-centered, secure platform and apps to connect patients, caregivers, providers, and potentially payers. JiffPad is an iPad app that allows providers to create custom instructional videos of common topics for patients. I like Jiff’s approach of going direct to consumers who can then invite providers, as well as going direct to providers with JiffPad who can then invite consumers. Jiff literally calls its groups Circles of Health — could that infringe on a Google trademark? I’m just curious, especially on the heels of the similarly-named DocBookMD raising seed money for clinical communications.

I wrote last summer on medical schools issuing iPads to students (Stanford, UC Irvine, Yale, a couple others I can’t remember). Now a study out of the University of Chicago finds that medical residents were more efficient with iPads, translating to more time spent on education. For Apple, it also translates to a new crop of residents becoming used to its products for patient care. A friend of mine that had an iPad during residency can’t live without it now that she is in practice.

ED vendor (and recently discussed T-Sheet maker on Dr. Rick’s posts) T-System signs a partnership with iTriage. The partnership enables T-System’s 1,700 facilities to offer premium listings, wait times, and remote check-in through the iTriage mobile app. As an aside, in case you haven’t been reading some of the EHR Design Talk posts from Dr. Rick, you should check them out on HIStalk.

Google missed the PHR boat. A new report by Frost & Sullivan finds that consumer engagement and subsequent use of PHRs will increase over the next several years with increased awareness, increased use of health IT tools, and better usability and functionality. The report predicts PHR-generated revenue will grow by 5.8% through 2015. While I’m not sure I even agree with the immensely positive tone of the report, doesn’t 5.8% revenue growth make it a pretty weak segment compared to other health IT segments? I know mobile health gets crazy growth predictions, but I thought EHR growth was predicted to be around 10%. What about telehealth and PMs?

So much for apps! A new Geisinger study finds that interactive voice response (IVR) — which I personally despise — plus case management reduces 30-day readmissions by 44% over case management without IVR. According to the release, this was a two-year, large-scale program. Those are pretty impressive numbers. The IVR protocol is the Geisinger Monitoring Program (GMP) and the technology is from AMC Health.

Based on an environmental scan of mobile health, mobile consulting and research firm Float Mobile Learning concluded that 40% of docs thinks mobile health can reduce office visits. There are lots of other findings as well and they are nicely laid out in the above infographic. Unfortunately, you have to buy the report to see the sources.

Secure clinical communications platform vendor PerfectServe keeps signing new customers. The new ones over the last couple weeks are St. Jude Medical Center (CA, not TN) and WellStar Health System (GA).

Highmark, a BCBS licensee with 4.8 million members, launches mobile sites for members, along with motivational health text messaging. Of the text message examples in the press release, this is my favorite: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Pictured above is the mobile app from Highmark, which I think it already had released.

Insurer Fidelity launches a new mobile app for iOS and Android. The app provides access to benefit info, provider info, and a retail pharmacy finder.

UnitedHealthcare also updates (I don’t think this was a launch) its mobile Health4Me app. The app now allows for benefit lookups, downloading insurance cards, calling a nurse 24/7 (is that extra?), and callback button so member can have a United rep call them to answer questions about benefits.

For the first time in the history of the company (at least according to TechCrunch), Nike opens up an API to developers. It’s a beta version of NikeFuel API and seems to be somehow music focused, but still, it’s a start. The Nike FuelBand is a wristband that tracks activity and syncs to a mobile app wirelessly (or to a computer via USB). Other fitness trackers, like RunKeeper, have already opened up APIs, but Nike certainly has more brand power.

In related news for both Nike and APIs, collaborate journal app Path (which I love) has integrated Nike+ and Fuelband into the app. I don’t use Nike+ or Fuelband, but I imagine you configure the integration on the Nike end, as I can’t find anywhere in Path to do it and the posts from Nike should be automated based on activity.

For those interested in international health, the CDC and The Kenya Ministry of Health presented data recently finding that collection of disease surveillance data using smart phones was faster, cheaper, and more accurate than paper-based data collection. What surprised me most was that the initial setup costs for smart phone collection were only about 30% higher than paper.

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

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