News 9/14/11

The mHealth Alliance (mHA) announces a new executive director, Patricia Mechael, PhD, MHS. She was previously the Director of Strategic Application of Mobile Technology for Public Health and Development at the Center for Global Health and Economic Development at the Earth Institute (Columbia University), which is a long way of saying she has experience implementing and evaluating mHealth as a component of the Millennium Villages Project. I wasn’t really sure what mHealth had been used as part of the Millennium Villages. Googling it found this document. I’m still not sure what has been implemented yet, but it sounds like projects in development include mobile vital statistics, clinical data collection and decision support, and animal health tracking. I thought the mHA has been trying to be more domestic (US) focused but I can’t really imagine Mechael helps in that effort. I think that’s a challenge of trying to bridge international and domestic mobile health.

A study of hypertension finds patients with mobile apps that connected to home blood pressure cuffs had reduced average blood pressure vs. those patients using a home cuff without an app. Also, the results did not leverage providers and relied on patient-led changes. I’m not sure how much can be inferred from these results because I don’t think most people are motivated enough to change just because they are getting guidance from a connected app, even if it shortens the feedback loop. Of course, I’m not the one with published data.

AT&T announces support — monetary, mobile devices, and software – for Diabetes Self-Management Training (DSMT) in an underserved population in Dallas. I’m not 100% clear on what mobile health services will be used, as the announcement says smart phones will go to "patients, diabetes educators and other education personnel." AT&T has been increasingly active in the mobile health space and I think we’ll be hearing about some exciting new partnerships in the coming weeks.

More on AT&T and its commitment to health. It announced its new CMIO, Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA. This is a new position at AT&T. Dr. Nayyar is an assistant clinical professor at GW Med and has served as principal medical officer at Vangent and CMO at Apco Worldwide Inc.

Not mobile, but interesting nonetheless: this story highlights the importance of the consumer voice in health reform. The representative that should champion that voice — the employer.

Everybody is doing infographics these days, so I thought I’d include another one that I came across that shows how people use mobile devices today. What sticks out to me are local searches, mobile social vs. desktop social, and women as the main users of mobile socialization.

Ten questions to ask when trying to value a new mobile app. The list was developed from an institutional perspective, which I think is slightly different than the private sector. For private sector developers, I’d bump #7 (is there somebody that will pay for this?) up to #2. Either way, it’s a good high-level list.

A new study of integrated telehealth using the Robert Bosch Health Buddy for chronically ill patients finds a reduction in health spending of 8-13% per patient per quarter. Savings were most significant for CHF patients. That’s pretty compelling data for self reporting and integrated virtual care. It goes to show you don’t really need to be flashy, as the device above clearly is not.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology launches a Consumer e-Health Program to encourage patients to take more active roles in their care. The three pillars of the program are Access (PHR), Action (mHealth), and Attitude (ask your doctor questions, no more paternalistic care). More to come on this in the coming weeks.

University of Missouri researches are testing Microsoft Kinect devices as an early fall detection / prevention system for elderly patients. Part of the selling point is that the Kinect is not as invasive as a camera.

Can Silicon Valley investment revolutionize healthcare? This is a good story about the current state of venture investment — much of which is early stage — in HIT companies. I’ve been surprised at the difficulty some have had at raising money. This is a great quote that sums up some of the issues:  "On the one hand, you have people raising money who know nothing about regulation or reimbursement codes; on the other, a bunch of health-care guys who think Zynga is some kind of fruit. There is truly a chasm between world views."

The University of Virginia gets a $1 million grant to launch the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center. The center will expand access to telehealth services in the region, which includes six states and the District of Columbia.

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

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