News 7/20/12

A new study finds that interactive health records (iPHRs) helped increase utilization of preventative services. The study created tailored records, recommendations, and education for patients. At 16 months, the rate of adherence to preventative services (18 preventative services were assessed) was double in the intervention group vs. the control group. That’s significant and translates to significant cost savings if those increases are sustainable. The iPHR was based on My Patient Record and education was based on HHS’s HealthFinder.

PokitDok, available in Los Angeles, raises $1.3 million in seed funding. The new company is attempting to build a unified social health platform, or at least that’s how I’d describe it. It includes a marketplace with local health and wellness deals, a community for sharing and asking questions, and the ability to find local health and wellness services. The goal is to combine all options, both traditional and non-traditional, in one place. This will be a challenging process for PokitDok because traditional and non-traditional medicine don’t always play well together. When you combine licensed and heavily regulated professions with professions that lack credentials and regulations, it’s not easy to make everybody happy, especially if you are weighting them all the same for consumers. Doctors will not like being listed next to a non-traditional provider that is making claims the doctor feels are false and lack evidence. If they stay within cosmetics this likely won’t be a problem. My bet is they fork the site and go one way or the other or both but separately – traditional and non-traditional.

A new study comparing the quality of images on an iPhone vs. a desktop finds that ophthalmologists preferred images on the iPhone, even though it was only a 3G without a Retina display. The images were not taken with a smartphone. What would have been more interesting would have been to compare images taken with a smartphone to those taken with a professional camera, and also comparing opinions of docs looking at smartphone images vs. examining patients in person.

Secure messaging startup TigerText, which offers HIPAA-compliant mobile messaging, adds integration with Dropbox to allow for secure document exchange. The use cases in the press release are exchanging clinical and financial files securely. This is not a formal partnership between the two companies.

A recently released report by Pew Internet finds that 30% of US adults serve as caregivers to a loved one. They are active users of the Internet for health information and social support, including reviews of medications, doctors, and hospitals. This is a great group to target because they are already engaged and are active health resource seekers. Apps or devices that help them with caregiving and monitoring are addressing a great and growing need.

In the effort to win the elderly market, GreatCall and Independa partner to integrate GreatCall’s emergency response system into Independa’s monitoring platform. This seems like a good match. The companies, both of which I’ve come to like, will benefit. I think we’ll see further integration of some of GreatCalls other services into Independa as time goes on.

The VA launches a new program to improve access to specialty care for veterans. The program enables PCPs to connect with specialists using videoconferences to present cases, get treatment plans from specialists, and also to get clinical education.

Students in Australia create a smart stethoscope, called StethoCloud, that records breath sounds, connects to a smartphone app to transmit sounds to hosted servers, and analyzes the sounds to automatically diagnose pneumonia. It then sends WHO treatment recommendations back to the smartphone. I’d be curious how effective this is at differentiating pneumonia from other lung pathologies. I guess the studies that are underway will investigate this.

Boehringer Ingelheim, which represents pharma companies, is working with Healthrageous, the mobile health spinoff from Harvard, to assess mobile health interventions on patients with Type 2 Diabetes. This is another interesting example of pharma using mobile technology to do chronic disease management services.

Should hospitals market directly to patients using Facebook and Google? Apparently Penn tested the waters by putting ads on Facebook for lung transplants. The ads resulted in 36 appointments and one new addition to Penn’s lung transplant waiting list. I’m not opposed to this kind of marketing, but it surprises me that Penn would have success in something that I would think would be so specific and specialized. I’m waiting for a checkin on Foursquare close to a healthcare facility to result in an offer for a discounted health service or free health assessment.

Have you been looking for a mobile app to help you assess potential privacy breaches? Look no further, for $1.99 you can get the the North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance (NCHICA) Breach Reference Application. The application is a mobile version of the HITECH Breach Risk Assessment Tool. Not very exciting or glamorous, but potentially useful. How often do people and organizations use the current version of the HITECH tool?

I enjoyed this article about smartphones more as trackers of activity and actions than phones. My phone doesn’t work very well as a phone, but I’m dependent on it for about 20 other things a day. It’s why I’m intrigued by a technology like, which is trying to use phone activity to identify variance,and associated risk from user baseline activity. It will be interesting to see if people care about this data as it relates to their health and if we can turn that information into something that helps modify individual behavior.

Has anybody else seen the recent speculation about Apple making a 7-inch tablet? If it’s real, it’s a different device with a different purpose and target market from the original iPad. I’m not sure what you gain with it in healthcare. Yes, it fits in your pocket better, but is 7 inches enough to look at a patient record (maybe if the record is optimized for that size… maybe) and do you gain much over an iPod touch? Here’s a very thorough discussion of the purported baby iPad.

I’m interested in business models, both in and outside of healthcare, and especially in startups. I found this blog post defending the use of free services and thought I’d share it. There are a lot of good points in the article and especially in the comments.

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

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