Mobile Healthcare Communications: Case Studies and Roundtables

Presented by the Business Development Institute (BDI)

New York City, Wednesday 19 Jan 2011

Your reporter is Donna Cusano

The content of this semiannual half-day conference on mobile healthcare was oriented primarily for pharmaceutical marketers and communicators. Thus most of the case studies presented were from the pharmaceutical sector, with an emphasis on patient (primary) and physician information delivered via smartphones. Leavening this was a discussion of texting in an adolescent health program here in NYC. A lively tweetstream, projected on a small screen stage right, kept a running commentary and also outside links to videos and other source material.  It is available at #BDI with a transcript of the day’s activity provided by Bridge 6. (Ed. Donna is @deetelecare) 


Pfizer and health management.
No exception to the cautious approach pharmaceutical companies tend to (or must) take with social media and partnerships, the heart of Kate Bird’s (Director of Digital Communications Policy) presentation centered on four apps, two outside the US: the partnership with Epocrates enabling direct contact with medical professionals to report adverse events; Smidge in Canada, a behavioral modification app to encourage healthier habits; Protonix mobile co-pay and refills, using designated text codes; and in Hong Kong, Pfizer Nutrition and Yahoo!‘s educational app that lets parents create flash cards for children, using preloaded forms.  What’s surprising is that all these apps are for iPhone only, with no plans to add Android and (ex US) Symbian—but 70% of their searches are from Apple devices (one tweet: Android users don’t get sick)
Ms. Bird is forecasting that apps are becoming saturated anyway, with which many in the audience, including this editor, concurred.) Another surprise: despite quadrupling in traffic recently, Pfizer’s website has only just been redone for mobile, which will enable the current 1% of their website impressions to grow and to benefit on what they have found is a lower cost per click cost. (Memo to Pfizer: your patients are not only using Android phones, but many will be buying tablets (and not just iPads.)


Joe Grigsby (Director, Emerging Media) from agency VML presented the case history on Text4Baby, the nearly two year old prenatal health reminder SMS for mothers [TA 8 Nov] which is 6 million texts to date; with 100,000+ users T4B is projecting an eventual 1 million.  Among future professionals, 25% of nursing students use iPhones, 70% of medical students have iPhone/iPod. But his points were strategic, reminding the audience that even though mobile is the ‘new norm’ for a younger age group, it doesn’t change marketing fundamentals and the need to develop a marketing strategy.  If anything, mobile has enhanced consumer control (as long as their information is secure). Smart marketers have to think even more about the end user and their individual goals as shaping the value proposition, not what app to make; what they are doing and how to add value. (Slideshow available at Slideshare)


Helping ACCU-CHECK diabetes monitor users better understand their condition and how to manage it is Roche Diabetes Care’s ‘Glucose Buddies’ iPhone app (again, no mention of Android). This free app also gathers general demographic information for Roche which is a secondary business goal, in addition to patient education. This information sparked a Twitter commentary on tradeoffs on privacy for ‘value’ although the data is ‘de-identified’.  The lack of a Spanish-language version that would be targeted to Hispanics who have, as a population, an above-average incidence of diabetes, also prompted a few choice tweets. Presented by Todd Siesky, PR Manager, Roche Diabetes Care.


Monique Levy’s review of Manhattan Research’s recent mobile-related studies touched on some points already made on Telecare Aware. Key highlights:

Physicians and mobile
* Doctors are abandoning the mainstay BlackBerry for the iPhone, with Android down the list (for now)
* MR projects that currently 72% of physicians have smartphones, projecting that 81% of doctors will have a smartphone by end of year, accelerating their year-ago projection by a year. [TA 3 Mar]   25% will have iPads and/or tablets (note the Dell Streak is targeting healthcare enterprise: TA 15 Sept ).
* Health info outpoints health tools. Visiting websites is as common as using apps like Epocrates, Medscape Mobile and Skyscape—doctors are seeking information (note to pharma companies, publications and references—time to get mobile versions of your websites)
* 65% of physicians use smartphones to check e-mails, but 41% are using mobile Websites and 38% apps.
* The greatest uses of smartphones (@50% in descending order): drug reference databases, clinical/medical references, reading medical journals, treatment guidelines, prescription dosage calculator)
* Remote patient monitoring is underdeveloped at 10%–same as writing medical notes

Consumers and mobile
* Again, health info outpoints health ‘tools’ or apps
* And it won’t come from pharma companies: 71% of those age 35+ are “not interested” in mobile services from a pharma company. (What will pharma do to win them over?)


Leaving the lofty heights of pharma-land for the streets of the South Bronx and East Harlem, Dr. Katherine Malbon of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center (MSAHC) shared how her idea to connect young patients with their ‘health home’ at MSAHC via text messaging and social media turned into a six-month successful program, ‘Text in the City’.  Teens opt-in for information, individual answers to their questions (within 24 hours, birth control reminders (most requested) and weekly ‘HealthBytes’ of advice.  Texting and often unlimited plans are ubiquitous (95%) in this population and age group—an amusing example was a teenaged girl texting non-stop as she received a physical exam! But privacy is a concern—users are reminded to delete their perhaps sensitive texts. Dr. Malbon’s passion is clearly serving teens—trained as a paediatrician and working in several Central London hospitals, she moved to the US as adolescent medicine is not a recognized sub-specialty in the UK.


Rounding out the conference was more on marketing and communications from Porter Novelli’s EVP Social Media, John Havens.  One memorable quote:  “If you want to speak doctor – speak mobile.” With the PwC findings of 56% of Americans liking the idea of remote healthcare and 41% via mobile phone—he focused on the less conventional as ‘pointers to the future’, such as earplugs that gauge your eating and wirelessly report activity (U. of WA), the Kaiser WeightMate app acting like a Chinese mother after you brought home a B, Frontline SMS: Medic (now Medic Mobile) in developing countries and goggles that prompt with speech and images. “Why is mobile so important for healthcare? Because it saves lives.”  Just a reminder why we are in the field…and that mobile technology is changing so quickly that unless we are otherwise funded (non-profit) developers and marketers need to focus on business case, goals and usage/ROI.

Many thanks to Maria Feola and Steve Etzler of BDI and Mario Nacinovich of AXON plus the Journal of Communication in Healthcare.

Robotic roundup at CES 2011

Perhaps overshadowed by ten jillion tablets, 3D TVs and Motorola’s Atrix, robots were also at CES, many of course from Japan and in their own TechZone. Many had something to do with cleaning, but these had applicability to healthcare: Israeli company DreamBots with their WheeMe robotic masseur that won’t fall off your back–at $69 may be next Christmas’ hit item; iRobot’s AVA self-navigating, tablet-controlled droid; Pleo RB, the cuddly dinosaur with a personality that evolves with human interaction and even knows to shiver in a cold room; the Anybot telepresence droid with a laser pointer (keep away from airports); Soft Robots from Quality of Life Technology Center to assist with activities of daily living such as feeding, dressing and transfer; and Autom, the googly-eyed robot diet mentor who tells you if you’ve been dieting or splurging. PARO, our cuddly and vocal harp seal, was also there but wandered off from this roundup. TechRepublic rounds up the robots for you.

Update on Shimmer – with video (Ireland)

It’s a year since we flagged up the Shimmer wearable sensors [TA 29 Jan 2010] and now we learn that research is being conducted at the Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) Centre on them for monitoring high-intensity exercise. Shimmer was originally developed by Intel Research Labs in 2006 and Shimmer Research was established in 2008 following a worldwide licensing agreement.
Shimmer Provides Real-Time Feedback for Intense Physical Exercise Programme.

Is it just me (Ed. Steve), or does anyone else find that phrases like “Kinematic, Bio-Physical, and Ambient modules – paving the way for the next big wave in computing” get in the way of understanding what may be a significant technology? “Better than the Wii Fit” Dr David McKeown says in the video.

CES 2011 telehealth highlights

Rounding up the CES news on telehealth (updated 11 Jan):

  • Mobihealthnews has a preview slideshow of what they rated as the most interesting telehealth-related items at CES.  Our top picks from theirs:
    1. the long-awaited Lifecomm mPERS from Hughes Telematics with minority partners Qualcomm and AMAC. Available end of 2011. Release. Website.
    2. AliveCor’s iPhone ECG: a case for the iPhone 4 that pairs with an app to create a clinical-quality ECG. This is probably a 2012 Game Changer (see below) if it gains FDA and CE approvals–and keeps its pricing around the rumored sub-$100 price point. Check out MedGadget and the Dr. David Albert video.
    3. iHealth Lab’s Blood Pressure Monitoring system for the iPhone (iPad and iPod): a dock and cuff combination, in release shortly
    4. Withings’ latest: the Blood Pressure Monitor cuff with a transmitter at the end that connects to an iPhone, iPad or iPod and feeds information into respective apps. This also made CNN’s top CES devices .
    5. The Ideal Life Health Tablet:  a proprietary device that claims it is ‘the first tablet that automatically synchronizes with data systems used by providers, patients or caregivers.’  Photo not available. Release.
    6. Diabetes monitoring remains hot; perhaps because of this, the devices and apps are beginning to resemble others plus variations. Consumer Cellular, a wireless provider to AARP members, is adding lifestyle apps, including diabetes monitoring. along with a GPS tracker. Release. Telcare displayed its 3GM blood glucose meter, still in prototype and with no FDA approvals, at Qualcomm’s exhibit as it utilizes Qualcomm’s M2M ‘Internet of Everything Module.’ Release.
  • The Digital Health Summit wound up its Friday conference with a panel of ‘The Game Changers of 2011’: PhiloMetron (a biotech incubator most recently known for a smart patch for diet tracking), Proteus Biomedical (smart pills), Healthsense (sensor-based telecare and security) and RSLSteeper’s BeBionic amazing prosthetic hand [TA 24 June].  [Disclosure: Telecare Aware was a media partner of the 2011 Digital Health Summit]
  • Acknowledging that not all older people want or need a high perceived level of tech in the home, Independa launched its phone-based Smart Reminders system. The family member/caregiver calendars events, appointments, activities and medication reminders online–the older person receives telephone reminders that must be confirmed. Free trial offer for six weeks, $19.95/month thereafter. Release.
  • AgeTek–the Aging Technology Alliance–had its own booth in the SilversSummit/Digital Health Summit area, plus its first annual AgeTek member meeting. Peter Radsliff, Presto CEO and AgeTek Chair, reported to this editor [Donna] tremendous interest: AgeTek is up to 47 paid members, including new members AARP, Flipper Remote, Telekin and distribution players Home Controls and HealthTech Marketing Group; 10 additional probable from interested companies. Traffic in the area (North Hall) was high, based on a live video feed I saw on Thursday. Peter also reported ‘fantastic ideas from members for 2011 initiatives’ plus an all new website to launch in a few weeks–now designed as a portal for consumers to find products and services for aging in place from AgeTek members.
  • BBC video report (2min) on the Sonamba device. Previous ZDNet report. [Steve] This table-top ‘wellbeing monitor’ from pomdevices was displayed at the i-Stage TechZone. It is designed for an older person who needs some assistance and social connectivity. It is M2M cellular and combines basicsonamba motion/sound sensors (wellbeing monitoring), med reminders, a PERS, text messaging, games and a digital photo frame (!) with an iPhone app for caregiver monitoring and adjustment. Not inexpensive (‘pure’ unit cost is $549.99 direct from the manufacturer–no retail announced yet) but with plans moderating the actual cost including monthly data charges ranging from $39-$69, it becomes 1) comparable to PERS and other devices and 2) roughly comparable to a higher end cell phone. Company is based in North Carolina, founder ex-Intel and eFusion. [Donna] Updated 11 Jan: Popular Science included Sonamba in their ‘Best of CES 2011: Products of the Future.’ Also included was the Motorola Atrix 4G [TA 7 Jan]