A Dutch ‘alternate reality village’ for those with dementia

The Hogeway care home near Amsterdam provides an environment for dementia sufferers which is quite unlike what we see in memory care units. It is an eight ‘house’ community built around a large enclosed courtyard where residents are free to walk and sit. Each house is structured like a large family home with eat-in kitchen and a lifestyle theme (e.g. urban) that influences the decor, food and experiences. ‘Alternate reality’ is what it is dubbed in the 1:26 video from BBC News, but what it does is give a resident understandable surroundings with appropriate stimulation and most importantly, socialization that seems to work within their limitations, for some happiness and improved quality of life. Editor Donna would have liked more observation of the residents, but appreciates that even the most discreet film crew would be profoundly disruptive of their everyday routine and potentially upsetting. It should give senior housing people in the US and UK at least a few ideas away from the isolation that tends to pervade many memory care wings. Dementia patients in Dutch village given ‘alternative reality’.

Your holiday weekend ‘short cuts’

In Editor Donna’s ‘in box’:

  • Much hype around Misfit Wearables, which incorporates in its bracelet and pocket clip (necklace to come) a metallic activity/aerobics tracker called the Shine, which is the size of a quarter, uploads on both iPhone 4/5 and most Android devices via Wi-Fi, and will retail in the $79-199 range when released sometime in mid-2013. It’s raised more than $500,000 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo.com, plus developer Sonny Vu is backed by partner John Sculley (remember him a century ago at Apple?), Founders Fund and the ubiquitous Khosla Ventures. Activity-Tracking Tech Moves From Wrist to Neck, With Sculley’s New Shine Necklace (AllThingsD) (This is the only mention where Sculley gets the lead!)
  • Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have successfully developed a prosthetic hand controlled by the thoughts of a quadriplegic patient detected via electrode implants in the motor cortex part of the brain. According to The Scientist, it “rivals the way an unimpaired brain directs limb movement.” Published 16 December in The Lancet. Thoughts control robotic hand (The Scientist)
  • A health texting provider, Televox, claims that 34% of Americans say they are more honest discussing their health problems through automatic calls, email, or text messaging, than in a face to face conversation with a doctor, and a similar percentage felt that receiving emails, texts and voicemails from their doctor increased trust. Despite the relatively large N of the study (over 1,000), the self-reporting online poll recruited via email and the sponsorship by Televox leaves one wondering how honest or objective the study is. Mobihealthnews.

The only long-distance critical care center in the US–possibly the world

The Avera Health Network provides remote telemedicine critical care to a Midwest slice of the 10% of US doctors currently serving the 25% of Americans who live in rural areas. Avera’s services–eConsult, eICU Care, eEmergency, ePharm and eLongTermCare for nursing homes–originate in a Sioux Falls, South Dakota ‘hospital-without-patients’ which utilize telemedicine and telehealth tools. It connects to rural doctors, nurses, clinics and hospitals in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wyoming, and Nebraska where the doctors are few, the distances are far and the population is aging. Avera, according to the article, is the only eICU operation of this kind in the US and possibly the world. This Atlantic article is another good news story in that you see, in relatively few words, how distance care can be truly effective and secure–as of October, they reported an 18% decrease in ambulance and helicopter transfers to major hospitals, equating to $6.6 million saved. Where ER Doctors Work Entirely Via Webcam (Using a dedicated network, not Skype!)

AirStrip licenses Diversinet data security technology

Following on their October heads-up on AirStrip Technologies working with Toronto-based Diversinet on security relating to AirStrip’s use with the US government, the two have formally announced a licensing agreement where Diversinet’s mobiSecure SDK platform will be used for secure messaging in AirStrip’s mHealth application suite. This enables AirStrip military, government and commercial customers to comply with Federal security requirements. Diversinet recently received the FIPS 140-2 validation for their cryptographic technology underpinning their MobiSecure platform which is required for US and Canada government use [TA 18 Oct]. Earlier this month, they announced the mobiHealth Wallet, which allows patients to create unique health profiles and configure/integrate data from compatible apps. Diversinet/AirStrip release mobiHealth Wallet release

Editor Donna’s note: Non-US readers will note the reference in the mobiHealth Wallet release to the Federal ‘Blue Button Initiative’ which, in plain language, simply enables users of personal health records (PHRs) to download their health information as an ASCII text file. Various Federal entities such as the VA, Department of Defense and CMS have all signed on. Our friend The Gimlet Eye is ‘barrel rolling’ at this bit of jargon which is, in certain quarters, being tossed around with insider abandon. And it comes complete with cute logo!

Top data breaches of 2012

The year should not conclude without at least one last look at data breaches. This article from HealthWorks Collective samples three but they are ‘doozys’–in the millions and all hacking. Over at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, if you select only healthcare and tick all breaches save payment card fraud, there are 207–with the most serious belonging to Alere [TA 30 Nov], Gulf Coast Healthcare Services and the California Department of Healthcare Services all with breaches including SSI and over 10,000 records. Not a good leading indicator for 2013.

High-tech aging: improving lives today (video)

Just released by LeadingAge CAST (Center for Aging Services Technologies) is a ‘vision video’ that demonstrates how various technologies interact in the life and medical situation of one 83 year old woman. What is more, every bit of health tech in the story is available right now. Sharp-eyed viewers will see Care Innovations’ QuietCare and Philips LifeLine (but not the Auto-Alert) but the telehealth hub and the EHR are not identified. (List your guesses in Comments.) It was also put together with the assistance of many other organizations, notably Selfhelp Innovations and their Virtual Senior Center. CAST page and videos (downloads available) Heads-up thanks to CAST Executive Director Majd Alwan.

Tele-epilepsy and remote seizure monitoring (Netherlands)

Because epilepsy is such a distressing condition there will surely be a crock of gold waiting for whoever can produce a device that can reliably monitor the brain activity of people with epilepsy when at home, especially when asleep. Here is the latest effort from researchers in The Netherlands which, they say, has a (good) 90% success rate: Tele-Epilepsy and Remote Seizure Monitoring in the Netherlands Shimmer Research. (Whoever coined the term ‘tele-epilepsy’ should be sent to the naughty step until they say sorry!) Heads-up thanks to Toni Bunting.

Chain of Trust Project interim report (EU)

The Chain of Trust Project is a two-year pan-European collaboration between researchers in six countries, Greece, Latvia, The Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal and led by the Norwegian Centre for Integrated Care and Telemedicine. (Website). It began in 2011 with a literature review (PDF), a survey involving patients and professionals, and country-based workshops. Its 45-page interim report Understanding patients’ and health professionals’ perspective on telehealth and building confidence and acceptance (PDF) was published in November. Unfortunately, it is not until Section 3 (page 10) that the authors who, in the previous pages frequently and consistently refer to ‘telehealth’, define the term. “Telehealth refers to the delivery of healthcare across a distance, using information and telecommunications technology and specially adapted equipment. It allows health professionals to diagnose, treat, care, assess and monitor patients without requiring both individuals to be physically in the same location” which, in our book, is mostly ‘telemedicine’. This is confirmed in the footnote to the definition which states “Telehealth is in turn an expansion of the term telemedicine”.

This lack of up-front clarity doesn’t invalidate any of the findings, of course, but it may alienate readers who feel that they have wasted half an hour trying to figure out the particular context when, with a little thought, the definition could have been placed in a box at the beginning. Grrr… [Related TA item from 4 years ago]

EU issues action plan for digital healthcare

The European Commission last week issued a plan of action to address barriers preventing the full use of digital solutions in Europe. Measures covered by the plan include:

  • clarifying areas of legal uncertainty
  • improving interoperability between systems
  • increasing awareness and skills among patients and healthcare professionals
  • putting patients at the centre with initiatives related to personal health management and supporting research into personalised medicine
  • ensuring free legal advice for start-up eHealth businesses [Editor’s emphasis]

The Commission has also pledged to issue a mHealth (Mobile Health) Green Paper by 2014 addressing quality and transparency issues. EU issues action plan for digital healthcare InnovateUK

AMC telemonitoring technologies get FDA approval for MS drug trial (US)

“FDA approval of this innovative study design is a significant milestone. Pharmaceutical companies have been worried that the FDA would not accept telemonitoring in place of costly clinic visits,” said John Holland, senior vice president for research and business development at AMC Health. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Approves Remote Monitoring for Drug Trial. ThirdAge.com (3 pages)

One quarter of Americans trust mHealth apps as much as their doctor

A new survey by Philips reveals that one in four Americans trust mobile health resources as much as their own doctor…one in ten participants believed that without web-based health resources, they might already be dead or severely incapacitated. One in three participants believes that monitoring their health through mobile technology is the key to a long and healthy life…The implications of this information are far-reaching. Patients may not believe that their symptoms are worth the hassle of seeing their physician, and serious conditions may go undiagnosed. One quarter of Americans trust mHealth apps as much as their doctor EHR Intelligence item. Philips press release.

MHRA consultation on proposed changes to the EU medical device directives (UK)

Something other than wine for device suppliers to be mulling over the Christmas holiday season: the MHRA’s consultation about proposed changes to the European medical device directives closes on 21 January 2013. The MHRA “has been engaging with the Commission to influence its proposals as they have been developed over the last four years. We are pleased to see that they include measures that will improve the transparency, traceability, vigilance, and governance of the system, as well as the performance of notified bodies. However there are also areas of concern in the proposed regulations, notably those provisions which place additional burdens on industry and healthcare systems without a credible evidence base of the public health benefit.” For more information start here, then go here.

December Telecare LIN newsletter published (UK)

In addition to its usual roundup of developments and events this month, the December 2012 Telecare LIN Newsletter (PDF) also looks forward: “From April 2013, The NHS Commissioning Board will be taking forwards a number of mandated policy initiatives to start to embed digital technologies into healthcare. This will be vital as the recent Nuffield Trust reports indicate a major financial gap developing in health and social care budgets over the next ten years. In addition, Personal Health Budgets are expected to move ahead and the Department of Health is consulting on a new GP contract which could reimburse telehealth services. The first 34 clinical commissioning groups in England have been authorised.” For the list of over a 1000 news links you need the separate supplement (PDF).

Adding another chef to the government regulation kitchen (US)

The much touted HIMTA (Healthcare Innovation and Marketplace Technologies Act, H.R. Bill 6626) as introduced by Silicon Valley’s Representative Mike Honda, if passed would establish an Office of Wireless Health at the FDA for starters. Then it adds layers, like cake: establish specific mhealth software responsibilities for the Health Information Technology Research Center (new?), ‘Challenge Grants’ and prizes for IT developers, an HHS department supporting mHealth developers on designing in line with privacy regulations, workforce retraining, provider loans and tax incentives. The intent is spelled out in the HealthWorks Collective article–Rep. Honda’s public statement is that it would only seek to clarify current regulations, especially privacy, for mHealth developers and reduce barriers to entry, but read to the bottom which then states the intent is to reshape the mHealth industry. Also see Rep. Honda’s press release.

In Editor Donna’s view, it only serves to add another gaggle of chefs in the mHealth government kitchen, which is already packed with FDA, FCC, HHS and NIH elbowing for burners and oven space.

But…there’s more. The FCC just announced their search for a new Health Care Director to head up their initiatives, involving a lot more than sorting out spectrum policy. There’s delicate maneuvering between more working groups with initials than pumpkin or mince pies at Christmas Eve dinner. There’s doling out the ‘Health Care Connect Fund’ for broadbanding providers including a pilot in SNFs (skilled nursing facilities a/k/a nursing homes), etc. But nothing about better, longer studies that might prove things like ROI and better outcomes necessary to gain adoption in the far bigger, wider private market.

Conclusion: The only companies which will be able to advantageously sort out this tangle are those with batteries of lawyers on call, thus putting paid to Rep. Honda’s stated objective of encouraging startups. The only small saving grace is that H.R. 6626 was introduced in a Congress that is ending in three weeks (thus will die and presumably be reborn next year). And there are far higher ‘cliffs’ that need climbing…out of.

Related: Speaking of cliffs, David Lee Scher, MD approaches the one with the HEALTHCARE sign, looks over the edge, and sees a pile of money tossed over it willy-nilly. The healthcare cliff.

GrandCare Systems wins Frost & Sullivan ‘Best Practices’ award

Telecare, telehealth and socialization system developer GrandCare Systems announced today that they are the recipient of the 2012 Frost & Sullivan Best Practices award for North American Elderly Health and Wellness Customer Value Enhancement. The awards “recognize companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development.” Editor Donna is pleased to see this recognition go to this independent pioneer (and former competitor) in the field! Press release (PR Newswire)