The health revolution, uncertain: The Australian

The Australian surveyed 100 professionals from the local commercial healthcare sector (40 percent doctors, salaries> $100,000, most in small to medium-sized companies) and came up with numerous findings both specific to their overall healthcare system and with some depth on eHealth. In Australia’s mixed public/private system, there is concern about further burdens on the public health system due to rising costs (just like the US) and lower subsidies for private insurance. Regarding eHealth, most of the findings were optimistic, but again affected negatively by government regulation (56 percent).

Because of Australia’s dispersed population, there’s hope that eHealth will ‘revolutionize care for remote communities’ (79 percent). Yet data capture/scanning/management and sharing take the lead in technology present and future, with remote monitoring a distant second. Will eHealth mitigate the pressure on the system? Despite 66 percent responding that “e-health will play a major role in ensuring a sustainable health system”, taking all the charts and graphs (PDF here) in their totality, it was hard not to discern a great deal of uncertainty. Perhaps there is thought of the Australian Government’s difficulties with instituting a national PHR and Nehta’s subsequent legal challenge by MMRGlobal [TTA 11 March]. Fear health revolution is suffering needlessly

myhomehelper wins ‘The People’s Award’ (UK)

In a ‘David v Goliath’ battle on 4th July at the Technology4Good Awards organised by AbilityNet, myhomehelper – a computer-based reminder system for people with dementia – won ‘The People’s Award’ i.e. it was the most popular of 10 entrants voted for by the public. Read the story from the perspective of myhomehelper founder Kevin Marsch here. Information on the awards which may interest others for next year here. Heads-up thanks to Mike Burton, Telecare Coordinator, Hull City Council.

Award given to retiring alarm dog (UK)

Heartwarming story of Jara, a 15 year old Labrador/Collie cross, who was trained nine years ago by the Dog Aid charity to help his owner Kerrie whenever she has a seizure. As soon as one occurs he pulls an alarm cord in her flat that alerts her telecare control centre which then sends assistance. As well as sounding the alarm Jara is trained to fetch Kerrie’s medication and to bring a special ball on a rope which he can use to help pull Kerrie upright as she comes out of a fit. But now he is ‘retiring’ and has been given an award by the telecare provider Welbeing. (Good for them!) Full story: ‘Alarm’ Dog Jara Given Welbeing Retirement Award.

Related: Previous TTA alarm dog item, May 2012.

What has happened to the 3ML Pathfinder Worcestershire tender?

In February we reported and commented on the clumsy tender by Worcestershire County Council for ‘Supply of a Solution for Assistive Technology for Worcestershire’ as part of its 3millionlives (3ML) Pathfinder site status. The tender process should have completed and been awarded some weeks ago and yet we cannot find any reference on the internet to the outcome. Does any reader have a link to an announcement we have missed? All we have seen referencing Worcestershire lately is a gushing – but apparently unrelated to the tender – press release by Tunstall on 25th June in praise of its long-standing partner organisation Worcestershire Telecare a service supplier that is independent of the council.

Active & Healthy Ageing: EU cities and regions get star ratings

Despite the echos of star (reward) charts for children as recommended by Supernanny, the issuing of stars by the European Commission to cities in recognition of developing ways of helping older people is probably a Good Thing. It provides a mechanism for recognition of good practice and a means of promoting healthy competition. It also means that, in order to rate the cities, someone somewhere has to have a vision of what is ultimately possible. There are six categories of innovation in the EU’s ratings: medication adherence, fall prevention, frailty and malnutrition, integrated care, independent living and age-friendly environments. Good examples have been noted from Andalusia, Scotland, the Basque region and Portugal. There are details in the press release. Moreover, it is not just about recognising good practice it is about sharing it via a Digital Market Place for Innovative Ideas. Perhaps the rating process holds some ideas for NHS England as it wonders how to promote telehealth. Hat tip to Bob Pyke.

New home for 3millionlives (UK)

Back in May we wondered if it might not be time for the 3ML initiative to be “moved to a new home” But this week’s low-key 3ML announcement (undated) that it has moved (from where it used to couch surf, with the Telecare Services Association) to a new home within NHS England’s Medical Directorate* leaves one wondering whether the also desired “reinvigorated and regenerated” will come about.

The move seems to confirm the widely held suspicion that, despite assurances about 3ML including telecare, it is really about telehealth. This is reinforced in the language of the announcement which is quick to reference clinicians. But how will NHS England get the ‘real’ NHS to adopt telehealth in practice? By being “a true partnership and synergy within NHS England” of course! [Glad to see, by the way, that it will be “delivered going forward”, not delivered backwards!]

We wonder too whether NHS England will continue to accept funding from 3ML’s private company partners. If it does not, it will not be the 3ML partnership originally envisioned and if it does, it could become a political embarrassment.

Has 3ML just been hit from the sandpit of the bunker into the long grass of the rough?

* “The English NHS is controlled by the UK government through the Department of Health (DH), which takes political responsibility for the service. Resource allocation and oversight was delegated to NHS England, an arms-length body, by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.” Wikipedia.

Healthsense acquires WellAWARE (US)

Another sign of consolidation in technologies targeted to long term care and aging services providers is the acquisition of telecare system WellAWARE by Healthsense. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. It was long rumored that WellAWARE, which lately concentrated on sleep monitoring in LTC and SNF residences, was having long term difficulty seeking next round funding. Some speculated that it was due to its ownership structure shared by users/early funders Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society (GSS) and Volunteers of America (VOA). More recent investors .406 Ventures and Valhalla Partners were also rumored to be eager to exit after 3 1/2 years with no major breakthroughs, significant technology difficulties and management turnover. In retrospect, the 2009 $7.5 million round of funding was inadequate yet quite possibly misdirected in essentials like developing positioning and the business plan. Some evidence: a narrow focus on resident sleep quality versus diversifying capabilities, not aggressively going mobile, and not strengthening technology to be rock solid reliable, a major issue in all telecare/remote monitoring sold into senior housing. In such circumstances, acquisition was WellAWARE’s final bid.

In contrast, once also-ran Healthsense has superior funding from major investors (BC Ziegler, Radius Ventures, Merck, West Health etc.–now joined by .406 Ventures but not Valhalla) and is up to Series D [TTA 28 Sept 12] funding round. Healthsense over the years diversified considerably with capabilities and offerings spanning telehealth and telecare, strategic partnerships and a month ago received the Triple Tree iAward in recognition for clinical effectiveness. Combined, the two companies now serve over 20,000 individuals, which in the mHealth context would be a blip but makes Healthsense a formidable competitor to Care Innovations’ QuietCare and Health Guide. There is no statement in the release regarding customers or staff integration, but this Editor notes that the release is not on the WellAWARE site and most pages (notably Team and Board) are blank, which does not bode well for the reportedly few employees left. Healthsense Acquires Monitoring and Analytics Provider WellAware (release)

Update 5 July. Previously in TTA: Depending on the exact start, this June may also have marked the close or near close of a $8.1 million grant that The Good Samaritan Society received in June 2010 [TTA 24 June 10] to study and operate the WellAWARE system versus traditional care for residents of rural communities. Its operation of the system may very well be ended as active data gathering concludes and the study moves into evaluation of data/writing/publishing phase. But ‘between the lines’ readers will note that neither GSS nor VOA are mentioned in the Healthsense release.

Update 8 July. The local Minneapolis Star-Tribune gleans some additional information about the acquisition from Bryan Fuhr, Healthsense co-founder and current VP Business Development. WellAWARE was bought specifically for its greater capabilities in sleep monitoring such as breathing; the acquisition adds “5,000 new customers to Healthsense’s base of 15,000 people in 24 states”; that major Midwest provider Ecumen, one of the earliest adopters of now Care Innovations’ QuietCare, has switched to Healthsense; and that “there are no plans to cut jobs as a result of the acquisition”. But this must mean at Healthsense, as according to sources, a number of the few remaining employees at WellAWARE were released as the press releases went over the wires.

Will it be the watch or the glasses?

While last week’s CEWeek conference along with the FashionWare booth/show were notably light on smartwatches and glasses on display, that may not be true this time next year. And watches seem to be where the action is. In the news are:

  • Foxconn’s prototype smartwatch. (Foxconn is the trade name of the iPhone/iPad manufacturer in China, Hon Hai Precision Industry, which has taken much flak for worker abuse). Reportedly it will not only pick up the usual phone calls and alerts but also some vital signs monitoring. Medgadget, CNET.
  • Qualcomm has filed a name trademark and patent application (26 June) for a device named “Qualcomm TOQ”, described as a “personal communication hub in the form of a wristwatch…” though it may be making the device for others. Phandroid (Whither the long-awaited Lifecomm mPERS watch of the static home page? Beginning to look more and more obsolete?)
  • Pebble’s smartwatch may be hitting the shelves at Best Buy within a few weeks. CNET
  • The Kreyos Meteor smartwatch, currently on Indiegogo, promises that it’s the first with voice and gesture controls to control your smartphone. It’s also 4x over its funding goal at over $400,000–and with 38 days to go. Their page targets a late November in-market date….timing for holiday.
  • Seen at CEWeek’s Innovation Zone:
    • WearIt, seen in CEWeek’s Innovation Zone, is a smartwatch concentrating on sports and activity data plus Bluetooth connectivity for streaming music and ANT+ connectivity for activity/vital signs monitors. At a pricepoint of about $400 it is scheduled to formally debut after CES in January 2014. Gizmag
    • PairASight is a ‘glasses’ device in prototype whose main feature is two-way video and audio, so that a wearer could confer with other people in real time. In this Editor’s opinion, it’s unfortunately named. Gizmag

Samsung speeding hospital EHR/workflows (US)

Much has been made of iPad/iPhone dominance in the US hospital/clinician setting, but Samsung is interestingly going after blockages–not heart ones, but workflow and data integration systems. This brief Technorati article on their pilot with Olympic Medical Center (OMC) in Washington state notes how Samsung is working with them and others on digitization (such as cloud services and touch screen monitors) which help to speed physician dictation and chart completion, as well as soon speeding secure interoperable access to patient records. The article unfortunately is short on Samsung-specific details. Now if hospitals and practices work with Samsung on this, can the hardware (tablets, phones, monitors) be far behind? 

New York, New York…it’s a health tech town (Part 1)

New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the groun’.
New York, New York, it’s a helluva town!

From ‘On The Town’, lyrics Betty Comden/Adolph Green, music Leonard Bernstein

Last week’s three events convinced even The Gimlet Eye that New York City is finally a helluva town for many things eHealthy. There were full houses at both Health 2.0’s Matchpoint|East and Health 2.0 NYC’s first-ever Healthcare Pioneers: Healthcare 2020. CE Week, presented by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), prominently featured health tech on the packed show floor and hosted the Digital Health Summit (DHS). Matchpoint|East is our starting point in Part 1. (more…)

DARPA Virtual Robotics Challenge winners (US)

‘Tis the season for competitions to end and winners to be announced. Earlier this month, the virtual part of DARPA’s multi-level 2013-2014 Robotics Challenge engaged 26 teams from eight countries, both DARPA-funded and ‘open’ (unfunded) competitors, in a series of software tests for specific tasks applied to a simulated ATLAS robot. There were nine winners who will move ahead to the physical DRC Trials with a real ATLAS robot in December 2013. DARPA/VRC press release, Gizmag.

Pilot HealthTech NYC winners

The Pilot HealthTech NYC program, which paired health tech innovators with NYC-based providers [TTA 15 March], announced their ten winners on Friday. The companies are: AdhereTech, eCaring, Rip Road, Vital Care Services, BioDigital, Flatiron Health, Sense Health, Bio-Signal Group, Opticology and StarlingHealth. The companies are provided with up to $100,000 each for their pilot projects. A listing of companies and partners is on the Pilot HealthTech website and a summary of the partnerships on StartUp Health’s blog (StartUp Health a program collaborator with Blueprint Health and Health 2.0). Examples:

  • StarlingHealth and VillageCare of NYC will place touchscreen tablets (in eight languages) by residents’ bedsides at VillageCare Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. The tablets will deliver education materials to residents, send requests and real-time feedback to administrators. Wall Street Journal/release.
  • eCaring and Pace University will use the eCaring care management/monitoring system for six months with a randomly selected group of chronically ill, multicultural older adults in Henry Street Settlement’s Vladeck Cares Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC). eCaring release
  • Pace University is also partnering with Vital Care Services, a telehealth provider, to provide services for six months to test the effectiveness of telehealth with diverse communities. This will combine both telehealth monitoring sent to a Pace RN with visits from Pace student technicians to assist with the monitoring process. Pace release.

Local telecare publicity, West Midlands, UK

Local radio is a great way to reach people who are not glued to the internet over breakfast, so congratulations to Eastbourne-based Welbeing for getting BBC West Midlands to run a two-part feature on telecare on Friday. Readers who want to listen have a couple of days left. As this is a radio programme it may be available outside the UK – skip to 1hr 07min 58s for the first part and 2hr 06min 27s for the second. Each section is about 8 minutes long. The clips feature a widow called Mavis who has had two strokes, who falls frequently but who is determined to live in her own home as long as possible. When the broadcast is no longer available read her story here: Welbeing Lifeline is a ‘Life Saver’ for five falls Mavis.

Three items from Ireland

Three noteworthy items of news from Ireland thanks to Toni Bunting, Editor, TANN Ireland:

  1. Launch of Northern Ireland’s first Electronic Care Record system “will improve the speed, quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery”.
  2. SilverCloud Health raises €1.5m to target global e-therapy market New e-therapy platform for people with depression or chronic illness.
  3. Fujitsu Launches Research Project to Provide Health Monitoring Technologies and Assisted Independent Living “monitoring services and assisted independent living for senior citizens and patients who live in smart houses”. [It will be interesting to see how what they produce compares with the outcome of this study. TTA 9 May]