News 7/6/11

Readers with mHealth research projects or presentations in need of an event: the mHealth Summit is closing submissions later this week. Topic areas include remote monitoring, health promotion/prevention, screening, maternal and child health, infectious and acute disease, chronic disease (I think acute+chronic = all diseases), and health disparities. Last year the abstract hall was pretty extensive and I imagine it will be considerably bigger this year.

A new report (press release here) from IBM finds that 80% of people with chronic disease (or their caregivers) would be willing to pay up to $100 for a medical device. The most important factors for consumers are ease of use and price. The most trusted recommendations are those from physicians. The report is quite good and definitely worth a read if you’re interested in the consumer health device market. The authors do a nice job of segmenting the market into healthy motivated people, chronically ill people, and everybody in between — what the authors calls Information Seekers.

7-6-2011 7-43-03 AM

A new startup out of MIT’s Media Lab,, has a mobile app (Android only) that monitors a person’s phone usage in order to identify changes in behavior. These changes can then potentially be used to improve behavior or detect an impending problem, with the example given of a bipolar patient beginning a manic episode. Currently it only alerts the user, but the company plans to expand notifications to caregivers and friends. The one roadblock may be that Ginger plans to sell the data. According to the IBM report above, that is a big concern for users of connected health tools.

The VA announces that it will support employee mobile device usage on its network beginning October 1. Mobile access will be for reading data from the VA’s EMR, VistA. Likely devices supported include Apple and Android. VA CIO Roger Baker says it will support employee-owned devices as long as those devices can be monitored, which might be a challenge with Apple devices.

Independa announces that its Angela personal interaction solution is available in beta release. The tablet device is meant to connect elderly patients with caregivers and providers. It sounds like a custom tablet with some functionality around medication reminders. It is supposed to be available after the beta release in both 10- and 22-inch screen sizes, though 22 inches seems like it might be rather large to lug around. Above is a video of Independa’s offerings.

Despite Google’s recent departure from the PHR space, the overall PHR market is thriving, according to a new Frost & Sullivan report, The US Personal Health Records Market: Understanding Technical and Strategic Imperatives around Consumer-Focused Health IT. The report forecasts that PHR market revenues will grow by 33% from 2010 to 2015. This growth will occur because of the increasing use of EHRs by providers. The report agrees with others that the current rate of PHR adoption in the US is 7%. All the reasons cited in the report for consumer use seem to be around tools related to health information and not the PHR itself, which is not surprising.

Banner Health virtual ICU model, iCare, has been in operation for four years and Banner estimates it has saved 600 lives, 26,000 ICU days, and 100,000 hospital days. If that’s correct, then I have to imagine that’s a pretty good return on investment at a cost to Banner of just over $11 million.

Congratulations to Kony, the mobile platform vendor and new HIStalk Mobile sponsor, on winning "Most Innovative Company of the Year" at the very prestigious Stevie Awards.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles publishes a paper on the use of robotic virtual ICU devices in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The authors compared assessments made in person with those made remotely and found agreement to be "good to excellent".

A new paper examining 23 studies of weight loss programs finds that online tools help in weight loss, but only if integrated with face-to-face interactions. This isn’t surprising and is likely the same for mobile apps, as they alone are not likely to have impact. What I’d be curious about is the impact of social integration into weight loss programs, as social networks are easier to scale than the providers that are required for face-to-face.

Finally … an iPad white coat. For some reason, I’ve had what seems like countless discussions with docs about how the iPad is not doc-friendly because it doesn’t fit into a white coat pocket. Now it does.

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

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