News 5/2/12

Welcome to May! I can’t believe it’s already this close to summer. I hope everybody else is enjoying the warming weather.

Facebook launches features to encourage people to register as organ donors. It’s nice to leverage the 900 million-user-strong network to do good things. I read some other stories about Facebook having an impact on healthcare and wondered if readers agreed.

The VA is rolling out its mobile EMR starting this summer. Initially limited to 1,000 devices – apparently all VA-issued iPhones and iPads — the program will be expanded once the VA has implemented a more advanced and scalable mobile device management (MDM) platform. It sounds like the mobile app will enable reading, but not writing. That’s probably a good choice to start with because it’s easier and has value as read-only.

"One of the greatest risks of social media is ignoring social media", according to Don Sinko, chief integrity officer at Cleveland Clinic. This was my favorite quote from an article about patients wanting social media tools for healthcare. The main use cases for social media are benign – appointment requests, reminders, and referrals.

A new survey of employers finds that 9% of them plan to implement games as part of their wellness programs by the end of the year. That’s good news for companies like Keas that are creating gamified wellness programs.

Back in February I wrote a couple of posts arguing in favor of building health apps for mobile devices before the desktop. I read an interesting story (not specific to health) that takes it one step further and argues the Web 2.0 Age is over and the Age of Mobile has begun. The author discusses the reasons why entrenched Web 2.0 players like Google and Facebook should be scared of this shift. I think you could use the same argument in health, and find the entrenched players — many of which haven’t even hit Web 2.0 — should fear the growth of mobile. It’s not as easy in health as the consumer space because of the enterprise nature of sales, lack of data portability, restrictive nature of security and privacy rules, and misaligned incentives, but it’s still nice to imagine a world where mobile apps can be used to preempt entrenched companies, improve care for patients, and make the daily lives of providers a little better. If you look at a recent Medscape survey — which found that only 41% of doctors would choose the same specialty again and only 54% would choose medicine as a career again — you see why improving the daily lives of docs is something they’d probably like a lot.

A new app store is launching specifically for genetics. The app store concept is being driven by Illumina, which will provide an API to its genetics platform. The app store will enable developers to create tools for researchers that use Illumina’s platform. It’s certainly a good way to speed up and reduce the cost of innovation.

There’s a new health incubator in town, the New York Digital Health Accelerator. The program has a strong set of partners including 18 New York-area healthcare organizations. The story is projecting that the incubator / accelerator will bring $150-$200 million in VC investment and create 1,500 jobs. That would certainly be impressive and would provide a good return on the $4.2 million used to launch it.

A new survey by medical publisher Lippincott finds that 71% of nurses use a smart phone on the job. Surprisingly, a slightly lower percentage (66%) of nursing students use a smart phone for school. Not surprisingly, 85% of those surveyed would want a mobile drug reference app, of which there are a few to choose from.

HIMSS is getting into the infographic spirit with this one from HIMSS12. The graphic details the number of visitors and associated social media stats. The most interesting stat to me was that 70% of mobile users at the conference were using Apple devices vs 14% Android and 2% BlackBerry. My bet is Apple is both iPhone and iPad so that’s a little skewed, but that’s still a dominantly Apple mobile crowd.

Since that infographic from HIMSS isn’t exactly scientific or representative, I thought I’d include some of the other recent data showing the growth of Apple mobile market share at the expense of Android. The story paints a very bad picture for Android. The arguments are well laid out. I think the most relevant reason for Android to worry is the interest in developers and investors in iOS vs Android (graphic above.) Instagram showed everybody they need to build iOS first. I also start to think about the iPad and the battle of the e-book readers. I wonder if Apple is going to be able to continue to drop the prices on older model iPads like it does with iPhones, bringing them closer to the price point of a souped-up e-reader like the Amazon Fire (which I have and don’t like.)

Here’s an interesting but incredibly long story about the convergence of big data and biology, showing the immense potential of the quantified self movement. The article is based on a meeting with lots of people in the field, Eric Topol among them. It’s a good overview if you want the highlights on why big data could be a huge force. Still some kinks to work out in getting and connecting all that data, but the potential is there.

More Facebook and mobile trend news. As Facebook prepares for its IPO, people are writing about it a lot. This story outlines facts and figures related to Facebook. I found it interesting that Facebook has 488 million mobile users each month and 83 million users who only access the network over mobile devices.

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

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