News 7/13/12

Asthmapolis announces that is has received FDA 501(K) clearance for its inhaler sensor. The sensor sits on top of an inhaler, monitors its use, transmits data to a smartphone app, and links to information about triggers. With this data, it aims to provide personalize guidance to users. The data collected also has interesting value for public health monitoring and campaigns.

A new crowdfunding site specific for healthcare launched this week called MedStartr. The press is describing it as Kickstarter for healthcare, and if you look at the site, you’ll see the similarities as well. The goal is to build a hub that connects people with ideas and products with potential users and customers. User and customers invest small amounts to get somebody to a goal. If they get to that goal, MedStartr takes 5% of the amount raised and the company gets the rest (minus ~3% for payment processing middlemen). It’s an interesting model and I’m curious to see if it succeeds. I don’t think it’s sustainable if it’s just people like me and you investing in things that interest us, basically health IT people. It might work if it can get providers, healthcare organizations, payers, and pharma investing in projects. I didn’t think Kickstarter had many — or any — organizational investors. The reason Kickstarter is so successful is that it has a big, motivated group of people that pay to get access to cool products or help people make art or something else. Who doesn’t want an iPhone mount that can be remotely controlled or some young kid to make a new album because it is their dream? Patients, who I imagine as the users of lots of the products on MedStartr products, are not always as motivated to find health tools as they are to find iPhone cases. That will likely be the big challenge for MedStartr. There are things they can do to specifically target motivated populations and that’s probably the best way to start. I did find several things on the site intriguing. For example, the site listed an example project a new, young doc wanting to raise money to start a practice. I think it would be really cool to enable communities, especially rural and/or underserved ones, to help pay off a portion of a physicians debt or pay for the practice or some way raise the money needed to get a provider where they are most needed. That’s a bit theoretical, but I love the idea. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Happtique issues draft standard for its app certification program. The standards are open to comment through August 17. It’s relatively cut and dry stuff, but at least sets a standard in writing.

A company I really like since getting introduced to them at HIMSS is Tonic Health. The company does medical data collection – anything from registration and intake to patient satisfaction. The way they do it is fun and interactive. Tonic just released its iPad app to the app store. The free service enables providers to create surveys of up to 10 questions. The paid version provides lots of additional tools for creating forms and reporting results.

Patient to doctor Q&A service HealthTap adds several new features, included DocScore and private questions. The private question service enables patients to ask questions of specific docs, charging patients $9.99 for the service. HealthTap is going to be making a big push this year with its funding from last December and I guess this is an attempt to test the waters with a revenue generating service. I’d be concerned about the legal ramifications of this type of paid-for medical advice without exam or an existing relationship. Maybe there is an attorney out there that can clarify the potential legal issues for a doc using this service.

Following in the success of the VA, UnitedHealthcare rolls out its own Blue Button to members, allowing them to download medical records with one click. Currently limited to members of certain plans, United hopes to offer Blue Button to all 26 million members by the middle of next year. I’m curious to see if United has the same success with rapid adoption that the VA had.

Health incentive startup GymPact raises $850K and changes its name to Pact. The company’s apps allow users to set goals and then determine what it’s worth if they don’t meet those goals. Money lost for failing to meet fitness goals goes into a community pot and is paid out to people that are successful in meeting workout goals. Originally only for check-ins at gyms, the company now wants to extend to other forms of fitness tracking. I’m betting Pact isn’t far away from a Runkeeper partnership.

Telemed platform vendor Carena Health raises $14 million in strategic investment from Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI). CHI has lots of facilities across the country that Carena will target as customers. The competition in telemed is definitely heating up.

Practice Fusion raises $34 million to ramp up growth. The company was valued at a staggering $500 million. This brings the total funding for the EMR company to $75 million.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center wins a $500K grant to develop mobile apps for stroke patients and their families. I’m curious what the grant team produces over the two-year grant and how it compares to what the private sector creates over that same time period.

This article emphasizes the need for healthcare organizations to create special security and privacy policies for the use of mobile devices in healthcare. While health data on any technology platform, be it mobile or anything else, needs to be treated with care, I’m starting to think that by adding new policies for new technologies we’re going to make it virtually impossible for those policies to be retained and followed. I realize people specialize in auditing and securing systems (it’s something I did in a former life as a consultant for BCBSs and healthcare orgs like HCA, amongst other organizations), but clinicians do not. Clinicians specialize in a combination of seeing patients, clinical problem solving, documenting and coding encounters, finding and interpreting relevant evidence, and a few other things based on specialty. The more policies we throw at them, the harder it is for them to keep it all straight and fit it into the other 99.9% of their work. I don’t really have a great answer for how you resolve this other than basic guidance on how digital health information is supposed to be handled. Creating new policies for every new technology is not the right approach. With BYOD, I think this is even harder.

Private social network Path adds integration with another Nike app. I wrote about the integration of Path with the Nike+ running app, which I use and like a lot, but now Path has added integration with the Nike+ Fuelband app. If you’ve got a Fuelband and you beat your daily goal, you’ll get an auto-post to Path with a nice graph of your activity for the day. I set it up for my wife, but for some reason, the auto-posts aren’t getting passed from Fuelband to Path, though the Push notifications are getting sent. Path support hasn’t gotten back to me yet. I see a lot of value in future Path integration with apps like LoseIt! for nutritional data integration, weight tracking, and a bunch of other wellness-related stuff.

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

  • Bob Pritchard


    You’re correct in saying that “Creating new policies for every new technology is not the right approach. With BYOD, I think this is even harder.” — IF we attempt to enforce policy on devices. New BYOD technologies let IT enforce policy at the application level, using a “container” approach that communicates with mobile devices over a private communication link and isolates sensitive data from the rest of the device.

    One such solution is Rover Apps, which you can learn about at I’m not a Rover Apps employee, but have done some consulting for them, and they’re helping people resolve mobile healthcare dilemmas. I know of one confirmation lab that built a solution on Rover Apps for secure, paperless drug test requisition by third parties — the lab has found it easy to enforce policy (again, at the application level) even though it has no control over the device environment (clinics, hospitals, court systems, employers).

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