MMR Global vs. Nehta, Round 2 (US/AU)

click to enlargeDing! The Australian reported last week that Nehta (National E-Health Transition Authority) is defending itself against charges by PHR company MMRGlobal that it has not responded to information earlier requested from and supplied by its operating company MyMedicalRecords and its licensee in Australia. MMRG is claiming that Nehta’s planned national PHR system will infringe upon patents held in Australia. According to The Australian article, Nehta’s chief Peter Fleming said that they learned of the claims only on 7 February and that MMRG had “nothing solid” to back them up:  “MMRGlobal has never contacted us at all and indeed our understanding is that they’re investigating a potential claim but have nothing solid” and “we’ve obviously taken a look at their patents, both from an architectural and a legal perspective, and have obviously briefed our lawyers to investigate, but certainly this company has not contacted us at all … We undertook very detailed analysis through third parties who put the standards in place around the world.”  The Australian (access via MMRGlobal website) Robert Lorsch, MMRGlobal CEO, has of course put on a full court PR press to counter this involving Australian singer Guy Sebastian and what appears to be a global awareness program to underscore the importance of a PHR–and their patents/IP–with Australian revenues being directed to a charitable foundation including charities Mr. Sebastian already supports. Guy Sebastian Speaks Out About MMRGlobal Patent Investigation in Australia (MarketWire via NBCNews.com) TTA recent related on MMRG: pre-HIMSS (26 Feb) and lawsuit update (20 Feb).

Quantified Selfing as…Show & Tell?

click to enlargeJames Wolcott in February’s Vanity Fair (!) tries on Quantified Selfing in an amusing and quite Gimlety take on the idée fixe of many Digital Health types. He tries out activity trackers FitBit, Jawbone Up (which maddeningly don’t correlate); the emWave2 Personal Stress Reliever; the Pivothead spy camera sunglasses to film the Movie of His Life.  He lightly lampoons the NYC Quantified Self Meetup (one of many all over the world) likening it to a geek version of Weight Watchers (5-10 minutes of individual Show & Tell, applause, huzzahs of ‘carry on’). “With its continuous data streams and hive‑mind chatter, Quantified Self is Weight Watchers exponentialized, an emerging neuro-cellular confraternity.”  How true, but at least with WW you did lose pounds. Witty observations abound, such as Quantified Selfing as an ongoing science fair (oh, those geeks again), and its historical roots in American self-improvement dating back to that QSelfer Ben Franklin tracking his progress on 13 virtues. The Gimlet Eye observes that Ben did not shun indulgence in beer, ladies (French and otherwise) or dangerous experimentations with revolutions and lightning, either.

Disappointingly–or ironically–at the end, in true VF style, he pirouettes to a volte-face, grasping for concluding points out of the kultursmog of politics, trends-on and philosophy, the weirdest being how Quantified Selfing may ultimately achieve Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point of supreme collective consciousness a/k/a Man Fusing With God. Now this the Eye does object to, believing far more in the Jungian collective unconscious, particularly after a gimlet (fresh lime, please) or two indulged in a pleasantly sociable watering hole, and that God’s last probable direct relationship with a Jawbone was empowering Samson to take one from a donkey and slay a few thousand Philistines with it. Wolcott’s real reason may be much more literal after his investment in all these ‘doodads’: “I better start getting my numbers up. Otherwise, I run the risk of my Fitbit telling me you suck, and the last thing I need is a personal heckler.”

IBM Watson working on medical license, practicing and shrinking (US)

The IBM Watson data analytics/decision-support tool now in test advising doctors on oncology at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai and other hospitals is being prepped for the US Medical Licensing Examination, which is a three-part series which licenses medical school graduates for practice.  It’s also making progress on shrinking–not going for its psychiatry boards, but reducing its physical size: from a master bedroom to bathroom to possibly a projected smartphone size by 2020, if you can think that far in advance.  The next big step appears to be integrating ‘big data’ into Watson’s computing capabilities leading to an entirely new stage of cognitive analytics, but right now ‘Dr. Watson’ is busy digesting a big oncology data meal, according to this article:  600,000 pieces of medical evidence, two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials. It’s also busy practicing its capabilities of sifting through 1.5 million patient records representing decades of cancer treatment history to provide to physicians evidence based treatment options. Computerworld

Eric Topol, M.D. to appear on ‘Colbert Report’ (US)

For our US readers, health tech/mHealth advocate and cardiologist Eric Topol, M.D. will be guesting on the Stephen Colbert talk show/humor (?) program on Comedy Central Tuesday 26 March. Check your local listings for times. For our ex-US readers, it will probably hit YouTube in a flash. Some good mainstream publicity for mHealth, but one hopes that Dr. Topol will avoid the ‘celeb doc’ syndrome that’s working against Dr. Mehmet Oz. San Diego U-T. This was in the news the same week as Dr. Topol’s whipping out his trusty AliveCor heart monitor on a New Orleans-Houston flight to aid a woman in distress; the AliveCor snap-on electrode ‘case’ to the iPhone+app provides a clinical-grade ECG (snapshot of the actual ECG below). At $199 why this isn’t part of the medical kit on commercial aircraft escapes your Editor.

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A sensor to treat your aching back

click to enlargeWafer-thin sensors are popping up all over in wearables (Misfit Shine being the buzziest) but here’s one that could help that twinging knee or whingeing back. The Thimble patch uses a reasonably smart looking adhesive patch with a central sensor that delivers Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) to relieve pain. It will be controlled via Bluetooth by a smartphone app for pain tracking and management. CEO and developer Shaun Rahimi, a medical device designer, conceived of this as a way to deal with his own back and arm pain. Target date for release is later this year, but your Editor needed this badly last week. Job alert–CEO Rahimi is seeking iOS designers for the mobile app: Contact info. Gizmag

Mobile, flexible–but not joint–military healthcare (US)

If two areas of the government have made a great deal of progress in telehealth and mobile health, it is the Department of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) which jointly are the leading users (and developers) of telehealth. Your Editor has often mentioned the US Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) as a leader. Of their current 15 mHealth projects, one of the largest is MobileCare. Working jointly with the University of Miami’s William Lehman Injury Research Center at Ryder Trauma Center (where it is being piloted) and University of Central Florida, MobileCare is a smartphone interface for patient documentation into EHRs using intuitive data entry and voice recognition; mobile learning and point-of-care information; and telemedicine (audio/video consults). Miami’s staff designed the user interface, learning content and programmed interfaces, while an IT team at the University of Central Florida is assisting with mobile development.  Mobile Healthcare Is Solving Major Problems for Military Doctors and Nurses (FedTech)

click to enlargeThe Army Research Laboratory (ARL) located at the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University is pioneering flexible, thin, low-power plastic displays, about 1/16 inch thick, for use in battlefield devices. These are designed to be worn on every soldier’s sleeve, on the side of an armored vehicle or used in monitors that need no ruggedizing–produced using commercial methods and thus (relatively) inexpensively. The potential for medical devices, smartphones and tablets is substantial if translated quickly to commercial use. Imagine Samsung’s flexible smartphone at CES 2013, the much-heralded iWatch/iPhone combo and even the cutely colorful and crowdfunded EMBRACE+ bracelet smartphone notifier on steroids. Future Soldiers Will Have Flexible Electronics Everywhere (Armed with Science)

Thus it is doubly disappointing when DOD and the VA, who declared their fine intents to develop an integrated EHR (iEHR–another acronym) to be implemented by 2017, have declared to Congress that the project has come to a screeching halt after 1 billion in taxpayer dollars. DOD might use the VA’s Vista EHR–or not. As the Magic 8 Ball says, ‘hazy, try again’. DOD, VA Face Questions Over Halting of Joint EHR Project (iHealthBeat)

Telehealth Soapbox: Protecting your IP and patents online

This is the second of an occasional series on US law and intellectual property (IP) as it affects software and systems used in health technology. This article is an overview of the issues surrounding and actions you should take to protect your proprietary website, software and patents. Especially for early stage companies, the last has grown in importance with ‘patent trolls’ demanding settlement fees for claimed infringement.

Mark Grossman, JD, has nearly 30 years of experience in business law and began focusing his practice on technology over 20 years ago. He is an attorney with Tannenbaum Helpern Syracuse & Hirschtritt in New York City and has for ten years been listed in Best Lawyers in America. Mr. Grossman has been Special Counsel for the X-Prize Foundation and SME (subject matter expert) for Florida’s Internet Task Force. More information on Mr. Grossman here.

Imagine if you found a portion of your proprietary software or your website in cyberspace. The only problem was that it wasn’t located at your Internet address. Let’s say that it was smack in the middle of someone else’s website and/or made available for download. You would fume and want justice.

No License to Steal
The Internet, like many technologies, promises substantial consumer benefits and, at the same time, invites fraud and deception. The technology is such that it’s all too easy to steal software or a whole website with a mere click.
For businesses and consumers to continue to fuel the growth of the Internet we must aggressively address the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights online. Any good business plan maps out a strategy to maximize opportunity and to handle calculated risk. So protecting your IP rights must be a core part of your business plan.
You should consider taking the following steps to minimize your company’s risks. (more…)

Why GE is getting imaginative about startups

The latest permutation of GE Healthymagination, beyond an ad slogan, is a $250 million Silicon Valley-based fund, complete with a brace of imported VCs. According to new CEO Sue Siegel, the partnerships with StartUpHealth (along with a slice of its companies; TA 10 Jan) and Rock Health are only the start. Their rounds begin at a thrifty $250,000 and they are targeting five areas: personalized (precision) medicine, clinical decision support, life sciences and cellular therapeutics, minimally invasive guidance and patient monitoring. Ms. Siegel notes GE’s current presence but that it needs to go ‘more mobile.’ (Is Care Innovations still in their thoughts, or plunged off the edge of their world?) For a GE, like pharmaceuticals a while ago, it’s evidently easier to buy than to instill innovation, but the investment cash is welcomed in starving health tech. A happily not-firewalled article in the Wall Street Journal’s Venture Capital Dispatch.

Where HIT implementation hits a brick wall

While HIT-ers are commiserating about the latest and greatest, and touring the refined establishments of the Vieux Carré during HIMSS13, Sean McCown, a heavyweight IT and database (SQL) consultant as well as contributing editor for InfoWorld, hangs out the unmentionables that he’s experienced in the average HIT area–and why he’s leaving again.

A short summary of his points and a few choice quotes: (more…)

The ongoing cost of the NYY telehealth project exposed (UK)

At the end of this month NHS North Yorkshire and York (NYY) – a Primary Care Trust (PCT) – and the Yorkshire and the Humber Strategic Health Authority (YHSHA) that oversees it, will be no more. They will be replaced by four Care Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

NYY and YHSHA together spent £3.2million capital money on Tunstall telehealth equipment in 2010, with the PCT paying ongoing support fees and depreciation costs. The procurement was intended to provide 2,000 devices for a project to deliver telehealth to people in the area. It was a pre-cursor of the 3millionlives (3ML) campaign but the local GPs had to be persuaded to participate without the benefit of knowing the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) results.

The NYY project has had the aspect of a slow motion car crash for everyone apart from (more…)

Telehealth’s first 90 day refund

A notable first for telehealth (certainly for this Editor) is the 90-day, 100 percent refund guarantee made by New York-based AMC Health at HIMSS13. As reported in MedCityNews and other sources, AMC “would refund 100 percent of all costs incurred during the first 90 days of the program if the 30-day readmission rate doesn’t decline by at least 10 percent compared to a risk-matched reference population receiving the usual care.”  For our international readers, US hospitals are now being penalized for same-cause readmissions by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and key to reduction are post-discharge programs integrating home care.

But the actual guarantee is a little different. In the words of (more…)

The regulatory landscape for mobile apps (audio)

mHealth regulatory expert Bradley Merrill Thompson of the Epstein, Becker & Green law firm and Bakul Patel, Policy Advisor for the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA, will be discussing mHealth regulation on the mHealthZone program on BlogTalkRadio tomorrow (Thursday, 7 March) from noon to 12:45 pm (US) Eastern Time. The interview will be available later as a podcast at the same link.

Timeline: the WSD evidence so far, as set out by Pulse (UK)

Given that GPs are so heavily reliant on technology these days – for medical records, for communications, for finding patients’ homes when undertaking visits, etc. it is somewhat surprising that the medical profession is represented as being so hostile to telehealth monitoring by one of their major publications, Pulse. One would assume from the benefits the doctors get from technology that their stance would be to encourage their patients and the patients’ carers to benefit from the technology now available. Perhaps its a doctor-patient power thing. Or perhaps they are insensitive to the disruption caused to the people who have struggled along to the waiting room for something that could be dealt with by phone, SMS or email. Or perhaps it is a symptom of the profession’s current displeasure with all things Government-endorsed. Whatever the reason, Pulse has now published an index of its articles on the subject of the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) programme – Timeline: the evidence so far on telehealth, telecare and telemedicine. UPDATE: Friday 8 March – This article now seems to be accessible only if you register on the site.

Just Checking – now for the direct-to-public market (UK)

Somewhat overshadowed this week by the high profile O2 launch, but highly complementary to it, was the launch of Just Checking’s (JC) new version for the general public. For many people concerned about relatives living with dementia the JC system of in-home sensors and text or email alerts triggered by various events or non-events will have great appeal.

Until now, JC systems have been primarily sold to services for assessment purposes. The new version is designed for easy self-installation and online management by carers and can be set up to trigger an alert under the following conditions:

  • Exit property: if an exterior door is used and no activity is detected in the property.
  • Not up and about: if there is no sign of life by a specified time in the morning.
  • Visitor late: with carers expected at certain times an alert can be sent if the front door is not opened as expected.
  • Door left open: if a door is left open for longer than a specified time. This will send an alert if the door has not been shut securely.

It does not have an alarm button and it does not track the person when outside – but there are other systems which can do that.

Product launch information. Information about the Your Voice campaign for carers launched alongside the product launch.

Follow the ‘Read more…’ link to see a video from 2010 showing ease of Just Checking self-installation. (more…)

O2’s mobile care – in a shop near you (UK)

It is just over five years since Paul Gee, then CEO of the Telecare Services Association (TSA), flagged up to members in a prescient article that the time would come when it would be possible to buy a mobile telecare device in a supermarket [Telecare Soapbox: Tesco Telecare]. The question he posed was ‘How far away?’ Now we know. It took five years, but it arrives today. The telecare suppliers of the time did not respond to the wake-up call and they have now been overtaken by O2, the mobile arm of Telefónica in the UK. At the press conference in London yesterday O2 announced the next stage in the development of its Help at Hand service and several points struck this editor as particularly interesting: (more…)