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)

Being amused to death?

This short article in Senior Housing Forum (US) by Steve Moran, formerly a community developer and now in the telehealth field, scores neatly and briefly on what is wrong with the ‘hotel’ model of many senior communities. Basically the extent of ‘care’ is such that a premium is placed on entertaining the residents and not in purposeful activity connected to the outside world that provides psychological reward and literally a reason for living. He says it best here:

While I believe entertainment needs to a part of every community’s activity program, I don’t believe it should be the most important part, I would argue that it should be the least significant part.

Activities programs need to start with the premise that seniors want to learn, to grow, to create and are capable of doing so.

What do you think? Let us entertain you to death (Article continuation/conclusion–don’t forget to read comments on both)

‘Smart steth’ listens in on kidney stones (UK)

smartstethoscope-2A ‘Smart’ and rather modest looking stethoscope may pack a big (figurative) punch. When medication does not break up kidney stones, shock wave lithotripsy is often used, but it is difficult to tell when the fragmentation process is complete. This device monitors the pulses as they echo off the stone, and by changes in sound (‘tock’ vs. ‘tick’) can confirm that the stones are shattered (any reference to Mick’s Group is unintentional but unavoidable). In clinical trials it has reported an accuracy rate of 94.7%, far above any existing tech. The Smart Stethoscope delivers no radiation, and can also be used as an assessment tool for probable response to lithotripsy. Developed by Prof. Tim Leighton (left) at University of Southampton with Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Foundation Trust (GSTT) and UK-based tech firm Precision Acoustics Ltd. which will be developing a commercial version. “Smart stethoscope” keeps an ear on kidney stones (Gizmag) Research study in Proceedings of the Royal Society A. University of Southampton announcement.

Overview of telehealth in the VA (US)

Adam Darkins, M.D., who is Chief Consultant, Care Coordination Services, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), recently presented at the Connected Health Symposium on the efforts–and results–of the VA in what they call Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT=telemedicine), Home Telehealth (combined video and telehealth), store and forward (imaging), telemental health and more. This presentation is undated but is recent because of the Federal FY 2012 statistics cited (ending September). The VA is the largest user of telehealth services in the US with nearly 1.4 million consultations a year, over 900 sites of care and growing at 70% per year. 30% of their patients live in rural areas at long distances from VA facilities. They are also the largest database of outcomes over time, and what Dr. Darkins cites as Home Telehealth Savings is $1,999 per patient per year. Much more in this fact-packed 14 page deck. Telehealth Services in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (PDF) VA telehealth services grow by 70 percent with significant utilization, cost savings (FierceMobileGovernment) Hat tip to Mike Clark.

Related: VA to double telehealth consults to veterans (Government Health IT)

Bio on Dr. Darkins reveals his UK roots as a trained neurosurgeon, early telehealth program director at the King’s Fund and founder member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Telemedicine Forum.

Mindings app wins ‘Dragon’s Den’ competition (UK)

Mindings (which allows family and friends to send personal captioned photos, text messages, calendar reminders, social media content and much more to a digital screen in a family member’s home) had a mixed reception from Telecare Aware readers when we mentioned it (references here) but has gone on to beat Just Checking, CareConnectMe, @UK, and Pintrack to £100,000 investment in a Dragon’s Den (Shark Tank for US readers, other country versions listed in Wikipedia) type session organised by Improvement East, in partnership with NHS Midlands and East. Innovation in Adult Health and Social Care Competition. Heads-up thanks to Toni Bunting.

Microchip gives phones X-ray vision

Beyond the eye-catching headline for this pointer-to-the-future item, there are hints that these new chips being developed at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) could be also used for detecting counterfeit drugs (if the manufacturers provided chemical markers, one assumes). Surely there are telehealth monitoring uses this could be put to? Microchip gives phones X-ray vision PSFK item. Heads-up thanks to Toni Bunting.

Report: Telecare and Telehealth – a game changer for health and social care (UK)

Despite the title (we dislike the ‘game changer’ cliché) and the trendy infographics there are some good things about this free 36-page report produced by Deloitte. For example, their use of the terms telecare and telehealth are clearly defined early on – something many forget to do. The early parts are stuffed full of figures and projections, which may be useful. It is descriptive of the current situation in the UK and does not miss some of subtler aspects, such as the different approaches to telehealth that the four nations of the UK have taken. Parts 3 and 4 move on to describe the challenges to the adoption of telecare and telehealth and presents numerous case examples demonstrating the potential benefits.

In all, because the principal author, Karen Taylor, has pulled together and structured so much information it is a great resource that many people putting together business cases will plunder. However, it seems to this editor (Steve) that it lacks an audience and it lacks the bite of the HaCIRIC report featured earlier this week.

Download the report from the Deloitte UK Centre for Health Solutions web page Telecare and Telehealth.

Tell Ecumen what you think of pendant alarms/medical alarms/PERS

Ecumen is conducting an online survey of people over 55 on behalf of a “group of PERS device companies [who] are looking for your input to design the next generation of this product”. Good grief! To mis-quote one of the UK’s ex-prime ministers, Sir John Major, ‘If the answer is more pendants, we are asking the wrong question!” A Personal Emergency Response System Designed by You (No closing date on the survey, but it is still open for you to tell them what you think.) Heads-up thanks to Toni Bunting.

(Ed. Donna note following Ed. Steve: I had quite a bit of contact with Ecumen during my three years at LIG/QuietCare, as they were our lead customer at the time. They are a faith-based non-profit and have 70 senior communities with a range of in-community and at-home services located in four states headquartered in Minnesota. They pride themselves on being a thought and practice leader in their care and if you look elsewhere on the ‘Changing Aging’ blog you’ll see some examples. So let them know what you think both in the survey and in the comment area!)

Ideal Life chooses Orange Business Services to expand its remote health management offering (Canada)

Toronto-based remote health provider Ideal Life announced that it has chosen Orange Business Services to expand its remote monitoring solutions for wellness and chronic conditions to an international audience. Orange will provide seamless machine to machine (M2M) wireless connectivity for Ideal Life in Europe and Latin America, promoting comprehensive remote care to the home and preventing non-critical re-admissions of patients to hospitals. Press release for more information on both partners.

Africa’s mHealth breakthroughs to pave way for US

The United States will look to Africa to gain knowledge about advances in mobile health technologies…While it’s still the early days of mHealth and the digital revolution, “we will see huge breakthroughs in Africa and South Asia,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, speaking at a Monday afternoon mHealth Summit ‘Super Session’ on global implications for mHealth technologies. Africa’s mHealth breakthroughs to pave way for U.S. GovernmentHealthIT.

Or maybe it won’t… Why Nigeria Needs a National eHealth Strategy AllAfrica.

High-end eHealth centres in shipping containers (India)

Shipping containers are being put to all sorts of uses these days, including for homes and shops. Now, in the Kaithal district of Haryana, India, the first of what is intended to be a series of eHealth (telemedicine? telehealth?) centres has been opened in an unused container. Cloud-connected eHealth Centre in Kaithal. Times of India.

This is not the first time Telecare Aware has reported the use of a shipping container for such a purpose. See Telemedicine and mobile IT mobilized for Haiti relief Jan 2010 and US army uses 80-foot container for mental health telehealth booths March 2011.

Telehealth accelerating transplant patients’ recovery in Italy

The Mediterranean Institute for Transplantation and High Specialisation Therapies (Ismett) is a major transplant centre in Italy and has been running a trial with post-transplant patients in partnership with Intel-GE Care Innovations. “The study is still ongoing but the signs are encouraging. Early results that compare a control group of patients who did not use telehealth with those that had suggest that the technology accelerated patient recovery, allowing for early discharge and reduced readmissions – even for patients with complex clinical conditions. And by encouraging regular monitoring, healthcare staff have felt empowered to act sooner to avoid any lapses in a patient’s convalescence and any consequent re-hospitalisation…In fact there have been no readmissions in the intervention group so far, compared to several in the control group.” Italian organ transplant centre trials telehealth The Guardian.