News 8/24/12

I’m always interested in secure forms of communication, and in particular, the vulnerabilities inherent in SMS. It’s an subject that’s been explained to me from a technical perspective more than once. Anyway, David Brooks of qliqSoft reached out to me with the linked infographic outlining the security vulnerabilities that exist in SMS and why it’s a poor choice for ePHI transmission. I asked David for some more background and he sent me the following:

The “SMS problem” is, of course, the widespread use of SMS-based texting by healthcare professionals to communicate sensitive protected health information (PHI). While this is not exactly a new problem, it is becoming clear that the heightening enforcement of HIPAA and HITECH privacy and security regulations by both the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and state attorney general offices is forcing covered entities to take a much closer look at previously ignored ("don’t ask, don’t tell") gaps. Despite the explosive growth in organizations seeking a secure alternative to SMS, the question I am most frequently asked is, “Why isn’t SMS HIPAA-compliant?” On one level, it’s a good thing that so many organizations are getting the word and are beginning to explore alternative solutions. On another level, however, I think the general lack of understanding of SMS’ inherent limitations helps to perpetuate the belief by end-users that it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. As one CIO lamented, “it’s pretty hard to convince the docs to stop texting when I can’t draw a clear picture for them why they shouldn’t. We couldn’t agree more, so we created this infographic in the hopes that users can understand why SMS – while great for exchanging recipes with your new BFF – might just not be the best way to exchange PHI.

Allscripts will integrate American Well’s telehealth platform into the Allscripts EMR. The joint offering will be piloted by University of South Florida (USF) Health as part of its healthcare delivery offering to the largest over-55 community in the country. Smart move by American Well and Allscripts.


Sotera Wireless receives FDA clearance for Visi Mobile System, not to be mistaken for Sotera’s ViSi Mobile Monitor, which earned FDA clearance earlier this year. The Monitor is the actual physical device that collects biometric data, while the System is the wireless transmission of data over WiFi. ViSi is trying to bring continuous monitoring beyond the ICU to ambulatory and non-ambulatory inpatient settings. Sotera is in Qualcomm’s portfolio, so extension to home monitoring is definitely on the roadmap, as is integration with Qualcomm partners like AirStrip for viewing Visi Mobile-collected data. What does something like this cost?

A new survey of patients finds that only 26% want digital records and 85% have concerns about them, with the biggest being privacy of data. Before these surveys are conducted, it might be wise to educate participants about some of the problems with the current methods of accessing and handling paper records. I don’t love EMRs (especially in their current versions) by any stretch of the imagination, but I understand the need for them and the value they bring to the system. Thinking about it, this might be a good process to go through when we generally discuss and poll people about healthcare. Instead of scaring them off with all this frightening “we need reform” stuff, why don’t we just scare the crap out of them by detailing how our system currently operates (access to care, misaligned incentives, communications issues, and on and on)?


Wireless glucometer maker Telcare raises $25.5 million round led by Sequoia. That’s an impressive amount of money. Sequoia has a similar sized investment in another mobile health company, AirStrip, that’s had a lot of success post-Sequoia infusion. Qualcomm is an investor in both.

Qualcomm releases its 2net SDK, enabling developers to more easily build apps that leverage data from other 2net apps (Runkeeper, Fitbit, Withings, a bunch of others). Qualcomm, not surprisingly, also announced a developer challenge to leverage the SDK to create a mobile app.

In what I think is a strange partnership, GetWellNetwork and MEDSEEK will integrate GetWellNetwork’s GetWell@Home platform into MEDSEEK’s patient portal. I thought GetWell@Home was a very smart move by GetWell, as I believe using tech to bridge the point-of-care experience with care outside the four walls is a great way to hook and engage patients. I thought GetWell could have built out the rest of the portal pieces itself but maybe MEDSEEK brings customers or some other value that GetWell thought it needed.


The New York Times is talking about physicians prescribing apps in the near future. While I wholeheartedly agree that prescribing apps is the future, it’s a ways off on any sort of large scale. First, somebody needs to start funding the apps, and according to the article, two payers are spending $100 per month for members to use WellDoc’s diabetes platform. I’m a bit skeptical about this claim. Second, somebody needs to carry the liability so it’s not on the doc prescribing the app.

The Army awards a $1.9 million grant to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and UMass Medical School (UMMS) to develop wireless sensors meant to be worn by soldiers in battle. Medics will then have smart phones to provide them with data and analytics about each soldier’s health, including blood loss. It’s a pretty cool idea that will be evaluated in the semi-controlled, pseudo-battle environment of the ED at UMMS. If it works and the sensors are easy to use, I imagine it would be nice to use it with patients on or starting blood thinners.

NYU forms a multidisciplinary institute to investigate the use of wireless technologies across several industries, including healthcare. NYU’s med school is part of the institute, which has been founded with $3.5 million.

Denmark, "a global leader in healthcare technologies" (maybe it is, I have no clue), announces that it will use Continua as the standard for its National Telemedicine Action Plan. I think it’s great that, at a national level, they can agree on a standard for collection, transmission, and storage of health data form personal devices.


A new study of 240 docs finds that over 91% are interested in a mobile EHR offering. This isn’t really surprising. The infographic above outlines physician use of mobile more broadly.

Five self tracking (quantified self) apps of interest. TRAQS.me seems relatively cool as a way to consolidate your data and I hadn’t heard of it. I like the concept of Studycure, but I’m not sure how much work it is to actually set up and test a hypothesis. I’m wondering if Rock Health is writing some of these stories since two of the five companies are Rock companies and another one on the list has acquired a Rock company.


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

  • Robert Lafsky M.D.

    Denmark has its whole population in a single record system, so it’s a major source for accurate epidemiologic data that’s not polluted by the referral bias and other biases in studies here.  We should take what they do seriously.  

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