HomeTouch: A brand new service (UK)

Take two clever people and a personal need to co-ordinate care and communications for family members on different continents and you come up with another new service. The launch press release describes HomeTouch’s founders Dr Jamie Wilson and Daniel Mueller as ‘a former NHS physician’ and ‘an electrical engineer’ respectively. However, their About Us web page reveals that description to be extremely modest. The HomeTouch system is a monthly-fee-based software-as-a-service and has three linked components:

  1. a tablet application for older people, with basic services services including messaging, videocall, calendar and photo album
  2. a cross-platform (smartphone, desktop) application with dashboard analytics and services for families and carers
  3. an ‘intelligent’ server that monitors activity and manages communication between the two applications

At the moment they are offering some free trials – contact them through the HomeTouch website.

Let’s hope they have the funding and the nerve to make a success of it. Anyone with a decent product who is aiming at the ‘children of aging parents’ market that has yet to show any signs of taking off in the UK deserves some success. Ed. Steve

UK Government’s £5m fund competition

The Department of Health announced at the beginning of January [Sorry I missed it before. Ed Steve], a competition that may be of interest to some of the smaller telecare/telehealth companies. They are encouraging new products and services that will help improve the experience of people with mental health illnesses and people at the end of their life. The deadline for applications is 28 February 2013. Details here.

Telemedicine and the law (UK-mostly)

This item is an oddity because it is undated and was part of a thesis written for someone’s Master in Laws (LLM) at Cardiff Law School. Although UK- and EU-focused, includes examples from the US and other places and it is a potentially useful reminder of the principles of law relating to the practice of telemedicine and telehealth. It covers topics such as consent, confidentiality and malpractice owing to equipment failure. Most interesting is the final paragraph which points out that once a particular way of working becomes the ‘accepted practice’ then doctors can be negligent if they choose not to use it – and that the adoption of technologies can become widespread quite quickly. Now that has interesting implications for telehealth and its adoption. Emedicine & Telemedicine Law Info.

One big step for iRobot, one small step for doctorkind (US)

It’s always been a gripe of ours that the telepresence/telemedicine carts used in hospitals were person-guided and therefore not ‘really worthy’ of being termed robots. However, according to the GizMag item (with video), iRobot receives FDA approval for physician avatar RP-VITA, iRobot “realized that they should not waste the time of either the physician or the hospital staff in guiding the robot around the hospital[so now] the doctor need only click on the location of the next patient to visit, and RP-VITA signals when it has arrived on site.” Oh, and there is that small matter of FDA approval.

2012 a breakthrough year for health tech investment, no matter who’s counting

We had earlier this month reported on Rock Health’s digital health estimate of $1.4 billion, up 45% vs. 2011 with 20% going towards the five biggest deals of the year [TA 8 Jan]. Now Austin, Texas-based Mercom Capital Group does its own slightly lower count of $1.2 billion in VC investment in what’s termed HIT, but this is 200% higher than their prior year total of $480 million. There’s overlap but difference in their five big companies: Castlight Health (provider comparison), 23andMe (personal genetics), GoHealth (health insurance comparison), Kinnser Software (home health clinical support) and the Practice Fusion EHR. Mercom also details the M&A activity topping $7 billion with McKesson being the most active acquirer. Finally, Mobile Health Market News did its own analysis and came up with $907 million, led by ‘health care IT service’, monitoring and consumer apps (although skewed wildly from Castlight Health in this category). What is also clear is that the pace slowed in 3rd and 4th quarters–and that the pace of 2013 investment very much depends on the US economic climate and the effects of government healthcare policy. Mercom: iHealthBeat (summary), MedCityNews, Healthcare IT News. Mobile Health Market News, mHealthWatch

Telehealth, telemedicine and telecare: Introductory one-day seminar (UK)

London, 28 February 2013

The Royal Society of Medicine’s (RSM) tele- events are always well received by attendees. The next:

  • Will give a good grounding in all aspects of teletechnologies in the health and social care world, including how they can be used in combination
  • Has excellent speakers who are all experts in their fields
  • Is not sponsored and so does not have a commercial agenda to follow: we will tell it how it is
  • Is offered at an extremely low price as the RSM is the UK’s largest health educational charity

Details here.

Swedish research on GPS tracking with people with dementia

As part of the publicly-funded Trygge Spor research project, more than fifty people with dementia have been using GPS for periods from several weeks to up to a year. The results show that “localisation technology helps achieve an increased sense of security, freedom and quality of life, both for sufferers and their next of kin.” The results are being presented now at a major seminar held at Gardermoen, and will be followed throughout 2013 by scientific articles. Dementia sufferers benefit from GPS. SINTEF. It will be interesting to see over the coming months the types of technology they have tested and the different results received as well as their ideas on what a whole service will look like. Mike Burton, Telecare Officer, Hull City Council.

January Telecare LIN newsletter published (UK)

Out now, the January edition of the Telecare LIN newsletter. It contains “news of a new telehealth and telecare strategy from Scotland and aspirations of a paperless NHS from English Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. There are new grant announcements as well as adult social care and public health funding programmes for local authorities…[changes to the NHS]…predictions about telehealth and mhealth for 2013 including some links to the recent Consumer Electronics Show which featured digital health.” There is also a comprehensive list of news links in the separate supplement. PDF download.

Tracking personal health still offline

Despite all the discussion of inexpensive apps turning everyone into ‘quantified selfers’, adoption of tracking technology is still surprisingly slight among those who are already tracking their health indicators and exercise routines. The latest report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project surveying over 3,000 Americans indicates that 69% are already tracking a health condition for themselves or a loved one, but 49% keep the information in their heads (!), 34% use paper and 21% use technology–but that can include Excel and not necessarily an app or device with attached program such as FitBit or a PHR. Among the smartphone users, 19% have downloaded a health app for exercise, diet and weight management. According to Suzannah Fox of Pew, “We’ve been looking at health apps since 2010, and health app uptake has been essentially flat for three years.” and that the low adoption continues to surprise. Most Adults Not Using Technology To Monitor Health (iHealthBeat) Pew Internet release

Telehealth on the e-commerce model

Should virtual patient-doctor visits (termed here telehealth rather than telemedicine) have taken a page from the US e-commerce model to stimulate adoption? That is, to make them popular, provide an economic advantage over in-person visits? (In the US, online sellers such as Amazon initially grew because purchases largely circumvented state sales taxes, costing less.) Dr. David E. Williams proposes that payers now emulate this economic advantage by charging consumers nothing or very reduced co-pays for online visits, and/or incentivize physicians to move in-person visits to online. Aside from the cross-state licensure and medical records access problems, most payers (other than a few such as the adopters of American Well, and of course the VA) have not included or downplayed online visits in their benefits, perhaps fearing a spike in utilization as Dr. Williams mentions. But the good doctor misses a key factor–that this is not a one-way street, and that the consumer demand hasn’t materialized, despite the additional parallels of saving time and travel, which is why his argument seems to be a ‘past tense’ one. Perhaps virtual visits need to be taken outside payers into a concierge care, worksite, pharmacy clinic (enabled through a kiosk such as HealthSpot Station) or single pay model, maximizing convenience at the time of need. And we should find out why the appeal seems to be lacking–much like health app adoption. What Amazon can teach us about telehealth adoption (HealthBusinessBlog)

Ingestible pill monitors firefighter’s vitals to ensure safety (Australia)

Firefighters in Australia are testing a new plastic-coated pill that tracks their vital signs while on duty. The EQ02 LifeMonitor capsule (from UK-based company Equivital) contains a thermometer and a small transmitter. Victoria’s Country Fire Authority health and wellbeing officer Peter Langridge told News.com.au: “…There is no set formula for how long a person can fight a fire before they start suffering from heat stress or dehydration and management is the key to protecting our fire fighters.” Ingestible pill monitors firefighter’s vitals to ensure safety. PSFK item. Heads-up thanks to Toni Bunting.

Cometh the hour, cometh the video (UK)

Just now, as telehealth proponents circle the waggons to stand firm against the onslaughts of telehealth opponents, what is needed is a GP to sit down and have a relaxed consulting room chat explaining from his experience of telehealth vital signs monitoring just where the benefits are for GPs, what the learning curve was, and why they should consider using it.

And here is South Gloucestershire GP Dr Richard Berkley, doing just that…

[This video is no longer available on this site but may be findable via an internet search]

The 16 minute video could be tightened up a little but any GP who takes the time to sit through it is surely likely to be a lot less resistant by the end. The mystery is why a Tunstall-produced and branded video put on YouTube by Gloucestershire PCT has had so few views – 133 to date since it was posted 15 months ago in October 2011. Maybe the time was not right before the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) programme results and the subsequent kerfuffle but it seems much more relevant today.

Perhaps, with the blessing of Tunstall’s CEO Gil Baldwin, who is the 3ML Working Group’s vice-chair, 3ML could get one of its other contributing companies to edit out the Tunstall references, re-brand the video as 3ML and put it on their home page.


Apple patent application tips ‘smart shoe’

There are indications, with a patent application by Apple for a shoe that uses an embedded sensor to monitor wear [hmm!] that it is thinking about wearable tech for the future – which will inevitably mean at least a foray into health monitoring. Apple Patent Application Tips ‘Smart Shoe’ from PC Magazine.

Thinking about wearable sensors and health starts us down the ‘Quantified Self‘ train of thought. Editor Steve only twigged recently [duh!] that this is an extremely geeky play on words referring not only to measuring one’s activity, but that ‘quantifying’ is something done by ‘quants‘ – “experts in mathematics, physics and computer science who brought sophisticated quantitative approaches to the world of Wall Street”.