Isansys Lifecare has closed a major funding round with Isle of Man investors and has been awarded a grant from the Technology Strategy Board’s Smart awards programme. The funds will accelerate the roll-out timetable into UK hospitals of the company’s CE-marked clinical surveillance and early warning platform – the Patient Status Engine – and enable its use to be extended across the entire patient population, from children to older adults. Press release. Perhaps doctors need to become used to remote vital signs monitoring in hospitals before they see the advantages of extending it into people’s homes.
The Telecare Services Association (TSA) has confirmed in a press release (PDF) that when it launches its Telehealth Code of Practice in May that it will be integrated with its Telecare Code of Practice and that accreditation to its standards will be opened up to non TSA members. [Excellent news – this will help service commissioners by levelling the playing field for member and non-member suppliers. Ed. Steve].
The actions of companies like CVS Caremark [TTA Telehealth Soapbox] have aimed a white-hot klieg light onto corporate wellness and the various methodologies companies are using to force a change in employees’ behaviors to positively affect their healthcare spend. Both positive and negative incentives have their pros and cons–positive incentives tied to completion of wellness ‘tasks’ seem not to work long term, penalties can be a blow to morale and verge on full-blown discrimination and lawsuits. Increasingly the price of being in a corporate health plan seems to be acceptance of ‘intrusion for your own good’ and privacy loss. On the other hand, why should health insurance be any different than home or auto, at least in the US? The Wall Street Journal has written several non-firewalled articles on this issue in recent days: Your Company Wants to Make You Healthy; Carrots and Sticks: Which One Works The Best (infographic); If Workers Are Out of Shape, Should Companies Make Them Pay? (At Work Blog–read over 85 comments)
In terms of effectiveness, the only study this Editor has seen was published this month in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine from wellness/disease manager Healthways’ Center for Health Research, as mentioned in a secondary article by the Integrated Benefits Institute. According to IBI’s summary:
Looking at over 19,000 employees at five employers, the authors find that employees who reduced their total health behavior risks over a 12 month period—for example, by increasing exercise or improving their diet—had a lower likelihood of absence, less presenteeism [working while sick–Ed.], and better job performance.
But some of those 19 factors included work-related risks such as “poor supervisor relationship, not utilizing strengths doing job, and organization unsupportive of well-being” (JOEM)–not health related at all. And the total reduction was a whopping 5 percent.
Magic 8 Ball says: ‘picture cloudy, try again’.
So perhaps the real choice has become this: adhere to employer requirements–or not have any coverage at all. There’s been a 10 point decline in Americans covered by employer-sponsored insurance, from 69.7 percent in 1999/2000 to 59.5 percent in 2010/2011 (SHADAC/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Much of that is also the US 7.6 percent ‘official’ unemployment rate (U-3)–but the real accelerator here is the 13.8 percent U-6 rate which counts in part-timers and the ‘marginally attached/discouraged’ who are not going to have employer insurance. The Affordable Care Act and its requirements/fees have also discouraged many smaller employers who are simply dropping insurance coverage.
So what is the bottom line? And where there are the opportunities for consumer engagement and self-maintenance linked to telehealth and mobile health which can mitigate cost? Understanding the ill-defined situation companies are in, especially in the US, will help in identifying them.
Wireless/mobile health tech in and out of the hospital is profiled in this special report from iHealthBeat (California Health Care Foundation): Sotera Wireless’ ViSi Mobile Systems (a wristlet which uses chest and thumb sensors to track multiple vitals including heart rate, respiration rate and skin temperature, and sends the data to Palomar Medical Center’s EHR); startup MedSensation’s robotic Glove Tricorder with temperature sensors and ultrasound pads for diagnosing breast cancer; and the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize to push reliable health diagnostics into the home for 15 diseases. Another reason is the Deloitte estimate of all wireless health devices generating $22 billion in the US by 2015 (not cited by iHealthBeat but we do here–Neil Versel’s January roundup of inexact forecasts). When It Comes to the Future of Wireless Sensors in Health Care: The Sky’s the Limit: article/audio, transcript PDF.
Wearable tech’s own blog, FashioningTech takes the measure of four new arrivals and puts them into the ‘Fail’ bucket. Some are obvious: Hi-Call Bluetooth Talking Glove is ridiculous. Others are clonky bracelets which don’t do much (Embrace+ got kicked to the curb on Kickstarter) or are good only for bar conversation starters (LinkMe–and who wants people to see your messages?). One’s an ‘almost’–charging/smartphone storage purse Everpurse. This Editor thinks they should target energy-hogging tablets, not smartphones which have a longer life. (And $250 would not seem quite as bad for a larger case.) Wearable Tech Fails
Sproxil, the anti-counterfeiting mobile drug authentication system in use in India, Kenya (for East Africa), Nigeria and Ghana (West Africa), was one of ten recipients of the ‘Patents for Humanity’ award given annually by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Most of the nine other recipients were pharmaceutical (medicines and vaccines), food and nutrition, clean tech (water and solar bulbs) and information tech (Sproxil and Microsoft). Congratulations to Sproxil, which is up to 3.8 million products verified. We’ve followed them for the past three years for its fine work in developing countries, combating one particularly evil business; drug counterfeiting is a $200 billion global fraud that sickens and kills the vulnerable. USPTO, Sproxil releases.
Not only drugs are counterfeited (see article on Sproxil) but increasingly there is a world trade in counterfeit electronics–old, substandard components are remanufactured to appear new and brand-name. For mission-critical functions–or in health tech–this can mean bad readings, hazard or failure. Initial research from the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Army Research Office (ARO) on a DNA tag was developed with a private company, ChromoLogic LLC, which first developed a tag with a biomimetic barcode that can be aligned in the proper order and decoded by an optical reader–and the technology was extended to optical mapping of electronic components’ intrinsic surface or ‘fingerprinting’ by their DTEK system. The rather circuitous story is here in this strangely titled Armed With Science article, Sneaky Discovery Can Identify Counterfeits, Track Materiel
The AllAfrica website picks up on a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India report report launched at the annual Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, 25-28 February. It highlights the life-saving potential of SMS services (such as the Bangladeshi Aponjon service) but also points out that so far take up has been slow in Africa. Africa: Mhealth ‘Could Save a Million African Lives By 2017’
“The mhealth program is being run through the Aponjon (dear one) initiative run by the Bangladesh government. It sends weekly text messages to expectant mothers, providing them with advice and reminders that they might find highly useful. Each text comes with a fee of $0.03 (Tk 2). For individuals who cannot read, recorded voicemail messages are used, instead.” Over 24,000 pregnant women have already subscribed for the service since the launch of the program in December 2012. Mhealth technology used to help mothers in Bangladesh QRCodePress item.
Peter Wilkinson, the self-effacing tech entrepreneur who launched, built and sold technology businesses including Planet Online, Freeserve and Sports Internet has given an inteview to his local newspaper, the Yorkshire Post, about his belief in the digital nature of future healthcare provision. He is an investor in telehealth company inHealthcare. Future’s digital for healthcare, says tech tycoon. The InTechnology company’s profile of Peter Wilkinson.
Perhaps this is more a wish than reality right now, but IBM’s Barry Mason, their VP in charge of global healthcare payers, sees the ‘Wal-Mart moment’ of transparency between insurance companies, hospitals, medical devices and pharma coming up shortly. The four are actually considering sharing data, restructuring their organizations to work more closely together and even going ‘joint’. This sentiment seems to be on display in this week’s World Health Care Congress. The aforementioned ‘Wal-Mart moment’ is when Wal-Mart opened its books on sales data and inventory levels to vendors, creating a superior level of transparency. The ambitious list he proposes includes supply chain data (claims data), complete sharing of clinical data from providers and all consumer data. Amazing potential here…but many rivers to cross, filled with rocks. Again. Healthcare convergence moves beyond the buzzword. But here’s what still needs to happen (MedCityNews)
This news could not be more timely, as Alzheimer’s Disease has become the sixth leading cause of death in the US, and one which has increased by 68 percent between 2000-2010 [TTA 25 March]. The National Institutes on Health (NIH) with the National Institute on Aging and 27 private sector companies and non-profits has started the second phase of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI II). It will continue to track the ADNI subjects from the study that ended in 2010, and enroll additional normal, mildly cognitively impaired, and Alzheimer’s disease patients. Additional plans for ADNI II include PET imaging scans on every new patient enrolled. Foundation for the National Institutes on Health.
The developing nations dubbed BRICS–Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa–have prosperity, uneven as it may be, but their public health is not keeping up. In addition to communicable diseases, obesity and diabetes are exploding. This Atlantic article is insistent on ‘infrastructure’–which is needed–but here are five countries which are wide open for mobile health. High rates of cell phone ownership and the huge job to be done in helping people towards awareness and self-management — means opportunity, as long as it is kept simple and inexpensive. Which health tech systems now at BluePrint Health or StartUp Health will help these people manage food consumption, tracking weight, exercise, blood glucose in a non-QS way? Brazil, China, and India Are Fat, And Getting Fatter
Shattering a few stereotypes on older adults and technology use is this profile of Las Colinas of Westover Rehabilitation, a short and long-term-care (LTC) residence near San Antonio, Texas Technology. Their short and long-term residents–largely in their 70s and 80s–use CogniFit brain training games, videos and Skype-ing on a Kindle Fire and Apple TV for brain stimulation, games, socialization and connectedness with families.The facility is also up to date with the specialized long-term-care EHR PointClickCare. Perhaps not typical in LTC now, but a pointer to where the near future should be. Senior care goes high-tech (San Antonio Express-News)