9 to 5 Mac, the tip sheet for all things Apple, tracked down a patent granted to Apple (via Patently Apple) for computing health measurements using the iPhone. According to Apple in the patent, “electrical measurements may be used to measure heart function, compute an electrocardiogram, compute a galvanic skin response that may be indicative of emotional state and/or other physiological condition, and/or compute other health data such as body fat, or blood pressure.” It would use the front-facing camera, light sensor and proximity sensor to emit light that would be reflected back to the sensors. Additional sensors mounted in the same area would also generate additional health measurements such as body fat and EKG, which is already measured by the Kardia Mobile/Alivecor attachment. The camera and light sensor alone, based on the patent and the article, would measure oxygen saturation, pulse rate, perfusion index and a photoplethysmogram (which can monitor breathing rate and detect circulatory conditions like hypovolemia). Another demonstration of Apple’s keen interest in the health field, but what features will show up on real phones and apps–and when?
Intel, however, is giving up the smartwatch and fitness tracking chase. In 2014 they acquired Basis in a well-publicized move and enlisted hip celebrities like 50 Cent to endorse their products versus the likes of Apple and Fitbit. In November about 80 percent of the group was let go, according to CNBC, and entirely eliminated this month. The New Technologies Group is now focusing on augmented reality. CNBC
There have been sketchy reports of Fitbit’s CEO James Park meeting with the NHS last month to get Fitbits into the ‘big moves’ in wearables and apps promised by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Mr. Park’s interview with the Sunday Times (limited access) indicated that Fitbit’s NHS project, should it happen, would be for exercise and activity monitoring, similar to the partnership with UnitedHealthcare which reduces premiums based on policyholder exercise monitoring. This move towards payers is in line with reports starting last year of Fitbit’s seeking clinical markets and moving away from the fickle B2C market. City AMGiven this week’s leak/reveal and scuttlebutt on the new Fitbit smartwatch, Mr. Park needs to gin up a big payer, quickly. The advance buzz is not positive nor kind. It’s delayed from spring to end of year–in competition with the latest iteration of the Apple Watch. This advance photo of codenamed ‘Higgs’ from Yahoo!Finance indicates a certain clunkiness (and derivation from the panned semi-smartwatch Blaze). It’s pricey, rumored to be priced at around $300. Features include a 1,000nit, built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, contactless payments, Pandora and four days of battery life along with connectivity to new Bluetooth headphones. Yet TechCrunch notes “complaints about design, production delays, antenna issues and software problems.” in what they dub “a giant mess”. Forbes notes problems in waterproofing and GPS signal. There are other Android-based smartwatches that do the same for the same price or less. Will this save Fitbit? To be determined….
Update: CEO Park denies delays in the new smartwatch, saying “all new product introductions are on track”, but then again–it hasn’t been officially announced! On the earnings call Thursday, Fitbit stated that new products are now accounting for 84 percent of 1stQ revenue. The company also reported better-than-expected earnings for the first quarter of 2017, reporting an adjusted loss of 15 cents per share on revenue of $299 million. Full year projected at $1.5 – 1.7 bn. Marketwatch, The Verge
Update: Locky is the suspected culprit in the Prime, Hollywood Presbyterian and Kentucky ransomware attacks. On Monday, Maryland-based MedStar Health reported malware had caused a shutdown of some systems at its hospitals in Baltimore. Separately, Cisco Talos Research is claiming that a number of the attacks are exploiting a vulnerability in a network server called JBoss using a ransomware dubbed SamSam. Perhaps both are creating mischief? Ars Technica, Cisco Talos blog, BBC News, ThreatPost
More and worse attacks north of the 49th Parallel. Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe, Ontario had a ransomware attack this week that spread to computers of staff, patients and families via the external website through the outdated content management system. According to MalwareBytes, “The particular strain of ransomware dropped here is TeslaCrypt which demands $500 to recover your personal files it has encrypted. That payment doubles after a week.” So if you are running old Joomla! or even old WordPress, update now! Neil Versel in MedCityNews
If you’re thinking Mac Prevents Attacks, the first ransomware targeting Apple OS X hit earlier this month. Mac users who downloaded version 2.90 of Transmission, a data transfer program using BitTorrent, were infected. KeRanger appears after three days to demand one bitcoin (about $400) to a specific address to retrieve their files. HealthcareITNews
Finally, there is the Hackermania gift that keeps on giving: Healthcare.gov. (more…)
The WHO has produced an excellent report on the state of eHealth in the European region, including a review of telehealth readiness. Ericsson have produced a very interesting report confirming what I guess anyone will have realised if they’ve traveled by public transport or have children: young people downloading video content are driving a surge in data usage: there’s much detail here though. Both are well worth the read.
Mentioning Ericsson reminds that the Telegraph recently produced a summary of the 20 best-selling mobile phones of all time – takes you back, with the substantial number once produced by Nokia.
The Royal Society of Medicine has it’s fifth annual medical app conference on April 7th – numbers booked have already well exceeded last year’s sellout so they are expecting to fill this year’s much larger conference venue. The focus this year is on the many legislative, regulatory and voluntary measures being introduced that will impact medical apps – there’s still room for old favourites though, such as Richard Brady’s always-topical (more…)
Trying at least temporarily to distract this editor’s attention from his recent unfortunate experience with Jawbone technology, here are some interesting app and wearables snippets received over the summer.
We begin with news of the first CE certified mole checking app, SkinVision which rates moles using a simple traffic light system (using a red, orange or green risk rating). The app lets users store photos in multiple folders so they can track different moles over time. It aims to detect changing moles (color, size, symmetry etc.) that are a clear sign that something is wrong and that the person should visit a doctor immediately.
This contrasts with the findings of a paper published in June examining 46 insulin calculator apps, 45 of which were found to contain material problems, resulting in the conclusion that :”The majority of insulin dose calculator apps provide no protection against, and may actively contribute to, incorrect or inappropriate dose recommendations that put current users at risk of both catastrophic overdose and more subtle harms resulting from suboptimal glucose control.”, which to say the least of matters is worrying. (more…)
And it’s not for sale. The life sciences group within Google X is testing on small groups a wrist-worn device which can sense with high accuracy pulse, heart rhythm, skin temperature and environmental information like light exposure and noise levels. Bloomberg News, which appears to have broken the story, quotes Andy Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google: “Our intended use is for this to become a medical device that’s prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials.” Obviously it will be more accurate both in hardware and in back end algorithms than what’s currently marketed via Android Wear for smartwatches. Perhaps this is meant for the ‘superusers’ of healthcare services at the top 5 percent using 50 percent of spend, the new ‘It Girls’ of healthcare, TTA 28 May)? However, he’s also projecting out 20-30 years, so health systems and researchers, do not hold your breath waiting for this to become reality. (This is also a counter to Apple’s ResearchKit.) Also Yahoo Finance and The Verge, which has a gigantic photo of a smartwatch but no caption attribution. The Verge also mentions their research in MS. Gizmodo also adds that Mr Conrad is directing the Google X Baseline project, which is doing human testing and crunching data to develop a baseline of normal human health.
More about Google X in this video interview on Tested with Astro Teller (for real), ‘captain of moonshots’ for the company, on ‘thinking big and failing quickly’. (24 minutes)
A Day with a Big Exclamation Point for Healthcare Data and Analytics. In a series of press releases late NY time on Monday and a spectacular announcement at HIMSS (photo hat tip to Sandeep Pulim via Twitter), the recently quiet-on-the-healthcare-front IBM Watson has announced multiple major moves that re-position it squarely into the healthcare arena as the 90,000 lb. Elephant.
- IBM Watson Health is now a separate business unit headquartered in Boston. The Watson New York headquarters will be expanded, but that may be for their other businesses: travel, retail, veterinary care, cognitive computing, and IT security and support. IBM claims that Watson Health will be hiring up to 2,000 healthcare consultants, clinicians and researchers, folding in existing units such as Smarter Care and Social Programs.
- The IBM Watson Health Cloud is now their secure, open and HIPAA compliant platform for health-related data: physicians, researchers, insurers and health and wellness companies.
- Three new partnerships were announced, designed to bolster IBM in different aspects of what is to be done with All That Data being generated from health and fitness devices. IBM Watson Health Cloud will be the secure platform, storage and analytics for Apple’s HealthKit and ResearchKit. Johnson & Johnson will be working with Watson on pre/post-operative coaching and education and Medtronic on diabetes management using data from Medtronic devices. (more…)
The Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI) is looking for companies to share the British Pavilion at the CMEF trade show from 15th – 18th May 2015 in Shanghai, China. It is apparently the the leading Healthcare trade show in China and is now the largest Medical Equipment exhibition in the Asia Pacific region attracting over 60,000 visitors. Details here.
Still need to see some more predictions for 2015? – try these 12 for telecoms, which does include the odd interesting nod towards subjects we cover, including interconnection of wearables and connected homes.
Prompted by our mention of V-Connect in our review of our 2014 predictions, MD Adam Hoare has pointed out that his company also won the Medilink ‘partnership with the NHS’ award for their renal project with The Lister Hospital in Stevenage. Congratulations!
As intimated in our review of last year’s predictions, we feel little need to change course significantly, however some are now done & dusted, whereas others have a way to go. The latter include a concern about doctors, especially those in hospitals, continuing to use high-risk uncertified apps where the chance of injury or death of a patient is high if there is an error in them. Uncertified dosage calculators are considered particularly concerning.
Of necessity this is an area where clinicians are unwilling to be quoted, and meetings impose Chatham House rules. Suffice to say therefore that the point has now been well taken, and the MHRA are well aware of general concerns. Our first prediction therefore is that:
One or more Royal College/College will advise or instruct its members only to use CE-certified or otherwise risk-assessed medical apps.
The challenge here of course is that a restriction to CE-certified apps-only would be a disaster as many, if not most, apps used by clinicians do not meet the definition of a Medical Device and so could not justifiably be CE-certified. And apps are now a major source of efficiencies in hospitals – (more…)
Just after this Editor rhapsodized that one of the unrecognized (except here) wins for Apple’s new iPhone 6 in healthcare will be to give the docs what they want–larger screens–is this sobering stat from Forrester. Only 59 percent of healthcare employees use full-disk encryption or file-level encryption on mHealth computing devices used at work. Yes, here is another hole in the data security dike that needs plugging, because Forrester also cites that 80 percent of data breaches relate to lost or stolen devices. (What, not mulch?) Author Chris Sherman also quoted street prices for health records to The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal blog (more…)
A knockout or a catch up? Now that the Hype Dust is settling (along with Apple’s stock price), let’s take a look at what we know today about the new, larger iPhones and the Apple Watch regarding health monitoring.
Where it was a catch up:
- Size and screen in phones. Apple got the message: squinting at tiny type and swiping to enlarge is rapidly becoming yesterday’s pain. As smartphones and larger screens knocked out the Blackberry, Samsung led the way in sizing up and higher resolution–and others followed suit. The awful fact is that the smartphone market is aging, both in users and who’s left in the market to grow it, and we want to see, not squint.
- Finally (drum roll), a sleeker smartwatch with fitness tracking, out sometime next year–and not just a sports model. The basic model is a rubbery Sport watch, the mid-line has a sapphire crystal, stainless steel case and (proprietary) swappable bands. The beauty is the upmarket version in gold with a leather band (left, courtesy re/Code).
- Here Apple is up against multiple in-market competition from Fitbit to Moto to Withings to Samsung Gear–whose pricing is well below the starter Apple Watch at $349 in the $200 and below range.
- The Apple Watch looks seriously great, distinctively thinner and it’ll be a prestige item. But does it track more and better? No. According to reports (updated today) this is what it has: heart rate monitor, pulse, daily activity for which you need the phone. No sleep monitoring. It also has to be charged every night. There may be other features from developers, but they are under wraps for now and will likely require phone tethering. (re/Code) It’s not a comprehensive lifestyle watch–yet.
Where it could be a knockout in healthcare:
- Finally, a compelling reason for health care providers to ditch the old iPhone and not go Android. Healthcare providers in the US are heavily wedded to iOS: (more…)
Adopting or Ditching It? We’re barely into September, yet the first 2015 prediction-of-a-sort is on the record from Center for Connected Health‘s Dr. Joseph Kvedar in The eHealth Blog. Does Apple HealthKit+Samsung‘s SHealth’s iterations+Google Fit+smartwatches everywhere (including LG’s G Watch R) equal $7.2 billion in wearables alone by 2018 as part of a mHealthy $49 billion by 2020? He’s optimistic, yet he hedges his bets with the caveat
“The challenge in health care is that, though we know what patients/consumers need to do to improve their health, most of them don’t want to hear about it.”
Which indicates that Dr. Kvedar has joined our small group of Thinkers puzzling out why health apps haven’t taken off beyond their Quantified Selfer early adopters and what Parks Associates termed ‘Healthy and Engaged’ [TTA 11 Aug]. With 1/3 of the purchasers of activity trackers putting them in the drawer after six months and the unstickiness of apps (80 percent are abandoned after a shocking two weeks), the winning combination isn’t obvious. But is it ‘focus on engagement’ and ‘personal, motivational and ubiquitous’? Certainly key factors, but how do we get the ‘Challenged but Mindful’ with a chronic condition–or two or three–to track and reward their real progress, even on a bad day–which an activity tracker which constantly presses you to exceed your performance has trouble gauging. (more…)
Implications for mobile health abound in the fight for the innovation throne. Kicking off the autumn intro season was Samsung’s big reveal Wednesday at IFA Berlin and NYC of their new phablets (Note 4, the oddly curved/fallaway screen Note Edge), the big ‘n’ curvy almost-phone Gear S smartwatch and the virtual reality headset Gear VR for the Note 4. Clearly Samsung is pushing the boundaries on size and innovation leadership–as well as the sheer number of phones/phablets/wearables in market with something for everyone. Its health developer platform SAMI and the Simband hardware [TTA 30 May] plus joint research with UCSF on ‘novel vital signs’ [TTA 2 June] positions it in the health tech area as the alternative to Apple. ZDNet, Gizmag (Gear S), CNet (Gear VR) which may have some health uses.
Next Tuesday is Apple’s premiere of two new iPhone 6 models with 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch screens to go on sale this month, plus an announcement for a yet-unnamed Apple wearable, but a rumored price of $400 for on-sale next year. Their developments with (more…)
For those covered by corporate health policies, the day is not far away where employee health insurance programs will require wearing a fitness tracker and meeting certain metrics, such as walking a million steps or sleep quality. Already some programs have the employee log food, exercise, blood glucose, heart rate and other vital signs to qualify for a discount. The trajectory is much like BYOD–once unheard of, now it is expected to be the norm in 50 percent of US companies by 2017, with a concomitant loss of personal security and privacy. CVS Caremark and other companies have already made the stick, not the carrot, the norm of employee wellness programs [TTA 12 April 2013]. Writer Adrian Kingsley-Hughes asks: “How much access do we want our employers to have to our medical data? How much access to our daily activities do we want our employers and insurers having?” And what about spoofing those Fitbits and Jawbones? His ZDNet article notes the interest that Apple (plus Samsung and Google, despite Sergey’s and Larry’s vapors–Ed.) has in health, then takes it out a few more yards with Wearables and health insurance: A health bar over everyone’s head (and do check out the comments.)