News 7-13-11

From Vincente Fernandez “Re: consumer health apps. Although similar to RunKeeper, and the fact that it’s target market is certainly much different from the metabolic syndrome population you describe, I think Nike+ is worth mentioning and investigating. I’m sure there are lessons to be learned from it’s success that could be applicable to healthcare; particularly in influencing behaviors and the ability to inspire, motivate and encourage ongoing exercise. Very good points. I think I’ll cover RunKeeper, Nike+, and DigiFit together as they deliver somewhat similar tools and functionality. I am, or was before I got busy/lazy, a RunKeeper user so I’ve reached out to both Nike+ and Digifit to see if I can get some comparable products to review. Thanks for the suggestion and I’ll try to keep up with the relevant news stories once a week now, instead of twice.

Anybody out there using Google+ Circles? I’ve been using it for about a week now and I think I like it. I’m not a facebook user, mostly because I can’t filter people into different categories. With Circles, I just dump people into friends, acquaintances, not-quite-acquantances, professional connections, etc, and then I don’t really have to worry about sharing something meant for friends and family with professional colleague. I’ve actually started using it with some of the people I work with as well. Just curious if others have opinions on the service.

TRICARE launches TRICARE Express Rx in partnership with Express Scripts. The new mobile app and mobile website allow users to order refills, switch to home delivery, look up medication information, and find retail pharmacies.

Quest Diagnostics announces Gazelle Mobile Health Platform for Android. The app allows users to get their lab results directly, store health and insurance information, and find and schedule appointments at Quest lab locations.

The Mayo Clinic launches the Mayo Clinic online community. The new site is open to anybody and aggregates Mayo’s other resources like blogs, videos, educational content, and news with a discussion forum. It sounds a little like WebMD but direct from a very credible provider.

Speaking of social media, the AMA has an interesting story about docs that tweet anonymously, several of which do so in a profane and insulting manner to patients. My wife and several of my resident friends tweet about work but they all do it under their real names. I’m pretty sure a lot of the horror stories I’ve heard from them never made it to Twitter, precisely because it is not anonymous for them, but maybe that’s a good thing.

I thought this was pretty cool. University Health Network (Toronto) is launching a pilot program to give patients tablets to help them communicate with staff, ask questions, see lab results, learn about discharge, and even Skype with friends and family. I didn’t see any mention of the type of tablet being used. Even cooler than the tablet story was the title for Dr. Dante Morra, pictured above, Medical Director of Innovation at University Health Network.

AirStrip OB was selected as one of five finalists to compete in the “Mobile App Smackdown” at the Healthcare IT Leadership Forum today. The other finalists are Epocrates Essentials, Robert Bosch Health Buddy, DermoMap, WellDoc’s DiabetesManager. A panel will choose which has the “most potential to provide real benefits in terms of keeping physicians and patients in closer contact, facilitating clinicians’ work, and providing quality care”. These are such different solutions with different target users but I think you can instantly eliminate Health Buddy (I think we’ll see some much better versions, in terms of usability and connectivity, of this type of tool in the near future), DermoMap (I can’t imagine consumers using this, especially at $4.99, though I do think it is very valuable for a niche student/resident and potentially PCP market), and AirStrip OB (I’m not convinced that OB care needs to be improved by being remote though I do see the value to obstetricians). That leaves Epocrates and WellDoc. While WellDoc has a lot of potential with a very big group of patients and comes closest to hitting all 3 criteria for determining the winner of the smackdown, in my opinion, Epocrates is probably the most valuable because almost all clinicians use it and it helps them make prescribing decisions on a day-to-day basis (“facilitating clinicians work” and “providing quality care”). That’s so disappointing because Epocrates has very little “wow” effect, just practical functionality where it is needed.

A new report from marketing firm Russell Herder finds that patients are increasingly turning to social networks to share medical information and gain support. The report goes on to say that providers may be able to step in to develop some of these tools to assist patients in finding timely support. I’m not sure what that means exactly but Mayo’s new online community site (above) might be a start.

The video above is great. It’s a nurse demoing the Chef Sleeve, which is basically a custom clear plastic sleeve for the iPad, as an infection control tool. She uses the sleeve while wearing gloves and the device seems to respond fine to her touch. The sleeve is only $0.70 if you order 50 or more.

Everybody wants to keep elderly people at home and out of assisted living. This story highlights the reasons and approaches being taken to accomplish this “connected independence”. I think this space is about to get very crowded very fast as companies like Intel-GE CareInnovations and a handful of startups and other big players enter the space to chase companies like Independa and Robert Bosch, who really aren’t established yet anyway. The market is so huge that there should be plenty to go around.

Another story about the promise and efficacy of telemedicine, specifically for mental health, being stifled by the lack of reimbursement. The best part of the story is the reference to a 40-year old article calling telepsychiatry “feasible and acceptable”.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA and is involved with health IT startups.

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