News 5/18/12

This post was UPDATED with the inline CORRECTION below.

I love community anchors as a part of health and wellness. Community centers, churches, and even barber shops have great potential to improve health and wellness, especially in minority communities that have an increased burden of chronic disease. The key is to integrate them with existing health delivery, extending the reach and definition of care. I was excited to see this story about churches in Brooklyn helping to increase adoption of PHRs, specifically working with Dossia.

CORRECTION: I mistakenly called RU-486 (mifepristone) the morning-after pill below (in italics now). RU-486 and the morning-after pill are different medications. Specifically RU-486 will end an implanted pregnancy up to 7 weeks after last menstrual period. Planned Parenthood has a good comparison page of the two methods. This correction motivated me to look at the actual bill, not the news story that I linked to below. The text of the actual bill prohibits “funds provided to providers of telemedicine services who provide telemedicine abortions.” It goes on to define ‘telemedicine abortions’ as “the use by a health professional of telemedicine services to prescribe, dispense, procure, administer, or otherwise provide any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance, device, or method to terminate the life of an unborn child, or to terminate the pregnancy of a woman who is pregnant, without such health professional conducting an in-person medical examination of such woman during her current pregnancy”. Is this wording clear legally? Does it imply prohibiting both morning-pill (pre-implantation) or RU-486 or anything after unprotected sex?

I’ve talked about ‘telemedicine abortions’ before on the site. It’s obviously an emotional and heated issue. Women get virtual consults with physicians who remotely prescribe RU-486 , more commonly called the morning-after pill. Last week, 48 House Republicans proposed a bill to cut public funding to organizations that offer telemedicine abortions (the only organization I know of is Planned Parenthood.) The problem really boils down to access, with parts of the country lacking access to providers that do abortions or prescribe the morning-after pill. Choice, if that’s still legal, is only really choice when you have access. If we’re going to outlaw telemedicine abortions because of the potential risk from virtual care, we need to critically assess all forms of telemedicine that have a risk associated with them (which includes basically everything.) Sometimes the games lawmakers play –and the time and energy they waste doing so — drives me nuts.

Aetna expands its ACO technology offering to Banner Health to include the iTriage mobile app, HIE technology from Medicity, and Active CareTeam clinical decision support.

A new study of the bant app for logging glucose readings evaluated if the app and incentives could encourage people to increase the frequency of testing blood sugar. The incentives were iTunes credit, which worked well because the app is only available on iOS devices. I love the mobile incentive concept and wonder why more apps aren’t doing it. You could also give airtime as an incentive if you had a large pay-as-you-go population (think Cricket users). bant also connects to LifeScan glucometers using Bluetooth. The study found a 50% increase in average daily frequency of glucose testing. It was a small study of adolescent patients with only 20 participants, so it’s really more preliminary than definitive.

Seattle startup EveryMove raises $2.6 million from angels and payers. The new company is creating a rewards program for healthy activities and has Premera Blue Cross as a first customer. The product has not been launched yet, but I hope we’ll see something like GetGlue for healthy activities, with badges and rewards linked to real savings. I also imagine the service will have a strong social component. Above is the pitch from the founder.

A new survey of ~3,000 physicians finds that tablet adoption doubled last year, up to 62%. More than 50% of physicians who own a tablet use it at the point of care. While I agree there has been considerable increase in tablet adoption with physicians (almost exclusively iPad), I think the survey results are likely a bit inflated, maybe because it was completed online by physicians.

A Nielsen report from March finds that 50.4% of people in the US use a smart phone, with 48.5% of those smart phones being Android. Apple is behind at 32%. Also of note from the data, minority groups were above average in terms of smart phone adoption. Nielsen didn’t report on usage by occupation, but obviously physicians are way above average, with numbers closer to 75-80%.

The 218-bed Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center (CA) selects PerfectServe as its clinical communication platform. It sounds like this is the first deployment of five hospitals within the same health system.

Mega-payer Aetna selects Kony as the platform for Aetna’s mobile app. I assume the app, which has been around since 2010, will be redeveloped using Kony’s platform, enabling it to pushed to an huge number of different mobile device types.

I enjoyed this article by an anesthesiologist (who now happens to be an MBA student at Sloan MIT), about his recent trip to Silicon Valley and his impressions of startups in health. My favorite quote: “Medical training, for all its excitement, is absolutely dreadful at teaching the importance of business and organizational process.” The author isn’t quite as naive as the article makes it out — he’s the founder and CEO of a startup that has won several awards.

Global mHealth news: Johns Hopkins will offer two new courses next year on incorporating mobile health into fieldwork. The courses will be part of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, which is researching the impact of mobile technology on global health. I’d be excited about this if I was an MPH. I’m excited about it and I’m not an MPH.

I thought this was an interesting story about Google launching search enhancements to help make meaning from searches. The first new feature helps clarify what the user is searching for, which is particularly valuable when searching for terms or titles with multiple meanings. The second new feature, to me at least, is potentially interesting for health. When users search for a topic that is “well defined by the Knowledge Graph,” Google will present a topic summary of what it thinks are the most salient points about the topic, based on its own analytics. As more people go online to find health information, Google could present them with health summary information right on the search page. Unfortunately there is no mention of credibility of sources and I imagine Google will just show content and data that its users historically have clicked for a certain topic. No offense to the masses, but that doesn’t always translate to the most accurate health info. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it would be awesome if Google presented credible summary topic data for health-related searches, and now it could do it right on the search page.

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

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