Amazon’s new wearables ‘store’ needs a location guide

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]Amazon’s flashy ‘wearable technology store’ which debuted today (29 April) is touted by a company representative as “…an exciting category with rapid innovation and our customers are increasingly coming to Amazon to shop and learn about these devices.” It features all the trendiest fitness bands too: Misfit Shine, the new Jawbone Up24 sleep tracker, smartwatches, wearable cameras, healthcare devices and even an Editor’s Corner with Advice for the Wearable-Lorn. The store is well stocked for fitness/wellness devices and smartwatches, but the shelves are bare for healthcare devices: the 12 listed include sleep tracker Lark, Withings and BodyMedia along with the exceedingly pricey HeartMath and iHealth telehealth products. The unfortunate problem is for those without the direct link to find the store. A search will divert you to a list of products. It isn’t listed under Electronics, nor if you search ‘wearable technology’, not listed under Departments or the show results for category bar (both at left). It’ll be fixed, being Amazon, and it does point to the now high profile of wearables. Amazon release, Silicon Republic (which features Amazon as a tech employer) Hat tip to Contributing Editor Toni Bunting, who reminded this Editor today that none of this appears on!

Ear implant crossed with gene therapy for auditory repair (AU)

A hopeful Pointer to the Future for those with hearing loss–or, in fact, with nerve damage of other types–is the research out of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) on their developing a DNA-based genetic treatment, delivered by a cochlear implant, to restore hearing in deafened guinea pigs. The recombinant DNA enters the cochlear cells to produce neurotrophins, proteins that cause auditory nerve endings to regenerate, improving pitch perception and tonal range. Unfortunately the effect lasted only a few months, so that further work is required before the treatment even nears human trials. Study co-author Gary Housley also cited other implant-extending usages, such as deep brain stimulation used in Parkinson’s disease treatment and retinal implants. Published this month in Science Translational Medicine (abstract only, subscription required for full access.) The Verge, Engadget (short UNSW video included)

The ‘grey’ market is where it’s at for ‘quantified selfing’

Surprisingly in the tech-addicted (and young-skewing, based on subject matter) Gigaom is this short piece on how health tech companies are missing the boat by targeting the young, healthy fitness addict or plain addicted-to-the-data Quantified Self (QS) market, rather than those over 50 and their families. ‘Simple’ and unobtrusive are the keywords, especially for what the late and much missed MetLife Mature Market Institute termed the ‘old-old’–those over 80. Mentioned are home activity monitoring systems such as Lively, BeClose and GrandCare Systems supplanting the PERS pendant (Lifeline) and the additional alert capabilities offered by GreatCall/Jitterbug. (This Editor will also mention a new telecare system entering the European and Americas markets, Essence Care@Home, which premiered at Mobile World Congress 2014. More on this in the next few days.) What’s notable about the article is the emphasis on the market size (via expert Laurie Orlov): $2 billion now, ten times that in 2020. What’s incomplete about the article is no ‘look-ahead’ to how devices like smartwatches (and watch-like forms such as AFrame), sensor-based wearables which connect to smartphones–and sensor-equipped smartphones, tablets and even Glass-type devices with simple apps which can help with self-or group-monitoring, prompts for those with cognitive difficulties, and more. Worldwide, we are also running out of carers [TTA 24 April]. Who will crack the code on tech for seniors?

Welsh Government to develop new eHealth and Care Strategy

The Government of Wales has announced that it is to develop a new eHealth and care strategy in [grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]conjunction with health boards, NHS trusts and local authorities in Wales. The strategy will focus on using technology such as video conferencing, remote monitoring and better use of health records.

In a written statement issued last week while the Welsh Assembly is on its break, the minister for health and social services states that consultation will take place with health and social care professionals and users and the strategy will be in place by the end of the year.

“This will help us achieve our aim of ensuring there are more services, care and support available for patients in their homes or in their local communities” says the statement from Mark Drakeford.

“Technology has a key role to play. This could include the use of video conferencing to allow patients and health professionals to talk to each other; to aid diagnosis and decision making and remote monitoring for people with particular health conditions. Technology can also help improve access to services by bringing them closer to people’s homes, for example by providing mobile services in rural areas.

“With an increasing ageing population it is essential we enable people to live independently for as long as possible. Without this, the health and well-being of individuals will be adversely affected.

“We will expect our information to be accessible to professionals where and when it is needed whether in health or in social care. We already have the Individual Health Record, with appropriate security and governance in place. Any potential wider access to people’s data would only be with their consent.”

The full statement is available on the Welsh Government website here.

Telehealth Center establishes multi-state advisory council (US)

We reported way back in 2006 that the US was to set up an Office for the Advancement of Telehealth [grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /](OAT) within the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) (TTA Jan 23 2006). The same year the OAT initiated a regional Telehealth Resource Center (TRC) grant program to provide support and guidance to telehealth programs. The OAT promotes the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery, education and health information services. The office is part of the Office of Rural Health Policy, located within the HRSA at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HRSA’s mission is to assure quality health care for underserved, vulnerable and special needs populations.

Fast-forward 8 years to Arkansas and the South Central Telehealth Resource Center (SCTRC) which serves Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. The SCTRC focuses on telehealth education and peer interactions online.  The SCTRC also conducts hands-on training in its training center or on-site and operates primarily out of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Last year HRSA renewed grant funding of $975k for the center for 3 years and the center has recently set up a cross-state advisory board.  Telehealth projects in these states should contact advisory board members to discuss what SCTRC can offer them. For details see the SCTRC website.

‘Sticky sensor’ research at USAF Research Lab

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]Sticky biosensor patches are seemingly all the rage in wearables, but in very preliminary stages. The US Department of Defense (DOD) research labs are no exception. Here’s one from the USAF Research Lab that is intriguing because of its less-than-chunky profile (pictured) compared to the University of Illinois research prototypes [TTA 10 April]. The concept is basically to measure biometrics through vital sign measurement and body chemicals through perspiration (a/k/a sweat) that would be sent to a (hold the fanfare) smartphone. It’s advanced enough to be beta tested on runners in the September Air Force Marathon. The key researcher, Josh Hagen PhD., also notes it’s being developed not only for military use, but also for commercialization.  Armed With Science

WLSA announces global adoption theme for Convergence Summit

The Wireless Life Science Alliance’s Ninth Annual Convergence Summit, 14-16 May at beautiful San Diego’s Omni Hotel, will be themed around greater global adoption of technology-enabled healthcare. This marks a change from the technology-heavy early days (your Editors have been covering since at least 2010) to worldwide institutional adoption (too slow), outcomes (public health still deteriorating) and consumer engagement (limited). The Wednesday sessions are for members only, the following two days are general sessions and exhibits. Featured speakers include Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD and now CEO of Sharecare; Dr. Leroy Hood of the Institute for Systems Biology; Ralph Simon, CEO of Mobilium Global Limited which is active in Africa; from the UK, Dale Athey, PhD, CEO & Founder of OJ-Bio Ltd. Another feature of the Summit is the announcement of the TripleTree iAwards for Connected Health winners. Twelve finalists were announced earlier this month. More information and registration.

Number of older people to outstrip family carers by 2017 (UK)

The number of people requiring care in the UK is expected to outstrip the number of adult children [grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]and family members able to provide that care sometime in 2017 according to a new report released today.

Generation Strain: collective solutions to care in an aging societyis the result of research by the respected Institute of Public Policy Research. The authors note that most care for older people in the UK is provided by family at a value estimated to be £55 billion.  But with the changing demographics the number of adult children able to care for aging parents is diminishing and is expected to reach a break point in the UK in three years, meaning more dependency on already stretched state and private agencies and more people, specially women,  having to give up work to look after their parents.

The central message of the report is the need to transform the understanding of what social care is in order to help people live decent lives in their old age. With insufficient adult children to provide care for parents and more older people themselves becoming carers, the needs of the carers needs to be taken very seriously – social isolation and loneliness, need for transport  and shopping, for example.

The report proposes new neighbourhood networks to help people stay active and healthy and help busy families balance work and care.

These are social problems which can be mitigated, if not solved, by some of the trendy new technologies that we use daily with hardly a second thought but are often not seen as a high priority for the well being of the older person.

Other recommendations are replacement of the current case management process provided by local council adult social services, giving the older people, their families and carers direct access to some of the budget and changing employment rights so more people can continue to work and care.

A highly recommended read. The full report can be downloaded as a pdf from the link above.

Another alliance to promote connected health

The formation of the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA) by the Continua Health Alliance, mHealth Summit and HIMSS solidifies what has been a close working relationship into what will “represent the consumer voice in personal connected health.” With the three organizations having worked together for some years particularly in relation to the mHealth Summit, the PCHA will now be the Summit’s formal presenter with Continua, HIMSS and the Foundation for the NIH as partners. Clint McClellan, Qualcomm’s Senior Director of Business Development and Continua’s board chair, is the acting chair and the PCHA will be located in Arlington, Virginia. According to Rich Scarfo, Vice President of the PCHA and the developer of the mHealth Summit,“The Personal Connected Health Alliance, in cooperation with the mHealth Summit and Continua, will continue driving the industry forward by generating a new knowledge base around the personal connected health space, providing a strong and united voice on policy, regulatory issues and government relations, and advancing education and awareness for the widespread adoption of personal connected health technologies.” Continua, after a few uncertain years while it shifted from a sole mission of interoperability standards and certification to combining that with advocating personal telehealth, now enjoys a membership of roughly 200 companies and has largely shed its ‘subsidiary of Intel’ reputation. The mHealth Summit has undergone its own shifts from a focus on governmental and NGO wireless health to a much wider scope (and major expansion) courtesy of HIMSS. Certainly PCHA’s activities will bear watching with this tripartite backing. Release on HIT Consultant (hat tip to publisher Fred Pennic), mHealthNews, YouTube video

One can only speculate on PCHA’s mission overlap with another DC advocacy group, the Alliance for Connected Care. The latter, a thinly veiled lobbying group [TTA 13 Feb], has been strangely quiet, with the news section of its glossy website not updated since early March. (Lobbying is best done quietly?)

Redesigning PERS artistically in Glasgow: the winners

Following up on our 28 March story of Chubb Community Care sponsoring a competition at the Glasgow School of Arts to redesign the traditional telecare medical alarm (PERS), the five winning entrants and teams were announced today (23 April). They are:

Element: Craig Meakin, Kayleigh Nelson, Eilidh Gibson and Ramsay Black
Pebbl: Gordon Ritchie, Francesca Stephens, Jordan Smith, Erin Wallace and Heather Walker
Bodyguard: Steven McCauley, Harry Hutton, Kim Stendahl, Matias Rinne and Andrew Robertson
Lumeo: Nadia Bassiri, Robert Turner, Harry Opoku Agyeman, Helen Campbell and Jonathan Thomson
Suit: Michael Tougher, Hannah Kirkbride, Euan Spalding and Tristan Stoner

The winning teams will share a £2,500 cash prize, and their designs were publicly presented at Municipal Buildings in Forres, Moray in the north of Scotland. The Glasgow Arts teams worked with Moray residents who currently use PERS and their carers to determine design and functionality factors. According to the release, Chubb is using the designs to complement the work of its own engineering teams, and thus at this point the concepts are still under wraps. We hope these concepts gain wider exposure. Release link to come.

Getting ‘Better’ with a personal health assistant

Is Better going to where better healthcare should be?

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]Making its formal debut last week was Better, an iPhone app (Android to come) developed in conjunction with and backed by the Mayo Clinic. The aim of Better is to deliver information and care no matter where people are located. The analogy co-founder/CEO Geoff Clapp uses is ‘AAA (RAC or AA=UK) for healthcare’ but it seems to be a bit more developed than emergency tows and TripTiks. In its free version, it provides complete access to Mayo Clinic educational content tailored to the user’s interests and provides access to a personal health record (PHR) for the family. In the $49/month premium version, Mayo provides 24/7 national access to a personal health assistant available by phone and video. The PHAs can coordinate your and your family’s providers, help navigate your insurance and billing and coordinate follow up care. If needed, the PHA can connect the user with a Mayo Clinic nurse who can explain symptoms, potential causes and recommend next steps. The paid version also provides a symptom checker, built with algorithms and using the Mayo database.

According to Mr Clapp (interviewed in Mobihealthnews), Better is ‘early’ and trying to define a market. He is encouraged by remarks such as “I’m not sure I totally get it and not sure the world is ready for this” which is similar to what he heard when co-founding Health Hero (now Bosch Health Buddy) in 1998 (among the most Grizzled of Grizzled Pioneers). Also in this interview, he cites a focus on underserved disease groups such as Crohn’s Disease and cystic fibrosis where help is not generally available; eventually they will also move toward telemedicine. Since the sale. he has been mentoring companies at Rock Health. Better has raised $5 million to date between Mayo and Social+Capital Partnership and is located in Palo Alto, California. It’s an interesting spin on concierge medicine–can it be considered ‘concierge healthcare for the masses?’ Given the pedigree and the partners, we expect to hear bigger, better things from Better in the next few months. Also MedCityNews,  the PSFK Labs blog and FastCompany. Video (YouTube)  Hat tips to Bob Pyke, Editor Toni Bunting

Data breaches may cost healthcare organizations $5.6 bn annually: Ponemon (US)

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]The PHI threat is within for HIT staff and CIOs, with no end in sight: Ponemon Institute and IS Decisions

The Ponemon Institute’s fourth annual benchmark report on patient privacy and data security was released last week and with a few exceptions, the news is worse than last year. Eight highlights in the study of 91 responding organizations (Ponemon admits results are skewed to larger sized respondents) for 2013 are:

  1. The average cost of data breaches in the study group was approximately $2 million over a two-year period. Extrapolated to the over 5,700 hospitals in the US, the annual cost is $5.6 billion, down from $7 billion in 2012.
  2. The number of data breaches decreased slightly. 38 percent report more than five in the 2013 report compared to 45 percent in 2012. The number of organizations reporting at least one data breach in the past two years was 90 percent versus 94 percent in 2012.
  3. Healthcare organizations improve ability to control data breach costs. The economic impact of data breaches for the healthcare organizations represented in this study over the past two years is $2.0 million–but it is 17 percent (nearly $400,000) less than 2012.
  4. ACA increases risk to patient privacy and information security. No surprises here for readers with insecure exchange of information between healthcare providers and government (75 percent ), patient data on insecure databases (65 percent) and patient registration on insecure websites (63 percent) leading the way. (more…)

Big data and mHealth combine to track & test ‘flu (UK event)

What looks to be a really fascinating event is being held on Thursday 26th  June 2014 in The Council Room, The Institute of Materials, 1 Carlton House  Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB entitled “New Frontiers in Digital  Technologies for Influenza:  Big data and Mobile-­‐Phone  Connected Diagnostic Tests“. Entry is £70 for delegates, less for students.

This event brings together leading experts in the field of big data and mobile diagnostics to discuss the latest technologies to track and test influenza. This includes recent developments in mobile connected tests such as microfluidic chips, advanced nano materials and optics and surface-acoustic wave devices and the use of online sources (e.g. Google search engine queries, Twitter) to identify disease outbreaks much earlier than current healthcare systems.

Pandemic influenza is rated as one of the top threats to global health on the UK Government National Risk Register. Early detection and vigilant monitoring of serious flu epidemics is crucial to controlling outbreaks and supporting effective follow-up care. Researchers across the globe have turned to innovative digital technologies to address this global challenge. A successful early warning system using big data and mobile-phone connected tests could predict a pandemic even before people attend clinics or in parts of the world that lack the resources for traditional public health surveillance.

A cornucopia of appy items!

Abilitynet’s top ten apps

When so many items that present themselves for publication are in one way or another pushing a commercial angle, it is so nice to be able to highlight a completely altruistic listing of apps aimed specifically at helping disabled people.

It would clearly be wrong to deprive Abilitynet’s website of the traffic, so rather than list the apps, we will merely comment that they seem very well chosen to cover as wide a range of disabilities as possible. The presence on the list of a number of widely used apps underlines the oft-made observation that if you design something with disabilities in mind, it is easier for everyone to use.

Distimo app analytics

For those wanting to explore the success of their apps and what works in terms of promotion, or who are interested in app download ranking, Distimo has a hugely impressive website, well worth exploring as everything is free.

The absence of much info on health and wellbeing apps is notable though, perhaps because (more…)

Playing games, using apps, promoting wellbeing – RSM event summary (UK)

This is a brief summary of the main points made at an event on medical apps held at the Royal Society of Medicine on 10th April 2014.

First up was Prof Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre of Public Health at NICE who spoke about how apps could change behaviour. He described what he called “system 1”, the rational reflective system that he associated with Apollo, and “system” 2 the impulsive automatic system that he associated with Dionysus. System 1 is most often targeted by behaviour change, however most people find thinking hard so spend most of their time in system 2 mode, so it is  much more effective to “nudge” the automatic system 2, if you can.

Humans are relational creatures, not billiard balls, so (more…)

An architect’s POV on transforming rural health

‘Wellness districts’ and restructuring beyond walls and payments

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”175″ /]Healthcare building architect Doug Elting cannot be accused of thinking small. The Transformation of Rural Health starts with reimagining healthcare facilities serving rural areas into facilitators of population health: “…the  local healthcare center as the source of health and vitality….focus(ing) on the provision of services that will maintain health, enhance public participation and redefine the scope of care.” (Not difficult imagining when you see an attractive wellness/rehab center like Butler County Health Care Center in Nebraska, left.) Like Clayton Christensen, Mr Elting envisions decentralized care that incorporates telehealth, care coordination, PHRs, fitness and social support. He then moves to an organizing principle called Wellness Districts:

Rural community, county and critical access hospitals will become components of Wellness Districts composed of Life Enhancement Centers coupled with physicians and physicians groups. These Life Enhancement Centers (LEC) are flexible and agile facilities containing a variety of services meeting the needs of the population. The LECs could contain: patient-centered medical home physicians’ offices, wellness and rehabilitation centers, specialty clinics, diagnostic centers, wound care centers, nutrition and cooking classes, outpatient treatment centers and urgent care facilities. LECs may include related services including dental offices, eye care specialists and retail functions including: durable medical equipment, opticians, retail pharmacies, food services etc. (more…)