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Jul 15

The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s annual survey results of cell phone and wireless internet access has just been released. It shows dramatic year over year growth in the use of wireless access; now 59% of adults now access the Internet using a laptop or cell phone.

What do people do with their mobile phones?

  • Take pictures-76% now do this, up from 66% in April 2009
  • Send or receive text messages-72% vs. 65%
  • Access the internet-38% vs. 25%Play games-34% vs. 27%
  • Send or receive email-34% vs. 25%
  • Record a video-34% vs. 19%
  • Play music-33% vs. 21%
  • Send or receive instant messages-30% vs. 20%

To get the full report click here.

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Jul 13

A few days ago I got this text message: “Protect your back! Bend your knees when lifting weight (or lifting your toddler) & avoid lifting more than 25 pounds in the 3rd trimester.” Good advice for me - right up until the 3rd trimester part - since well, I’m a guy.

I signed up for Text4Baby, using this year’s e-Patient Connections 2010 conference as my due date. Every few days I receive helpful prenatal advice by text message. The messages are aligned with my due date, so I get timely updates about my health, the baby’s health, things I should be thinking about as an expectant mother, and warning signs I should look out for. The message prompts me to call my doctor if I have any of the symptoms listed.

I’ve just entered the 3rd trimester, which means I’ll start seeing my OB/GYN more frequently - or in my case, starting those weekly conference calls with the conference staffers.

An educational program provided by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, it is designed to promote the health of mother and child. The program is free to end users and it’s been wildly successful so far. Text4Baby launched in February 2010 and in just 5 months, is reaching over 50,000 expectant parents.

After just 5 months, Text4Baby already reaches over 50,000 expectant parents.

In addition to successfully signing up users, Text4Baby has also amassed an amazing number of partners - including corporate entities, academic institutions, government agencies, professional associations, and non-profit organizations. Sponsors include Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, WellPoint, and BlueCross BlueShield. The program runs on Voxiva’s mobile health platform and free messaging services are provided by participating wireless service providers.

The sheer number of partners and people becoming involved is truly amazing, with hundreds of partners listed on the website and more being added each week. There’s a Text4Baby Partner Portal Community, which runs on the Ning platform, as well as a weekly newsletter called Text4Baby Tuesday. The newsletter highlights organizational news, partner news, and other information. The big story in recent weeks comes from Hillary Clinton about a partnership between the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and the Healthy Russia Foundation to bring text4baby to Russia. To learn more about Text4Baby going international, click here.

With all the things expectant parents have to worry about, Text4Baby provides an important service by providing support and gentle reminders in digestible chunks. It makes remembering to drink enough water or take your prenatal vitamins easy. Text4Baby is great example of how to encourage healthy behaviors in an easy, fast, and targeted way that actually fits into the whirlwind of daily life. They say it takes a village to raise a child; Text4Baby is proving that we’d like to find that village even before the baby’s born.

To sign up all you need to do is visit the Text4Baby website and click the button that says “click to register” or text the word BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411.

Arlene Remick, Director of Text4Baby, will present their latest results and mobile health insights at e-Patient Connections 2010 (September 28-29, Philadelphia).

Jun 24

HEALTHeME, a new mobile health and wellness company co-founded by Sloan Rachmuth and Guy Rachmuth, is helping primary care physicians manage their overweight patients outside the clinic walls. “Primary care physicians are on the front lines of diagnosing and treating obesity, but they are having hard time bending the curve,” explains Guy. “The reason obesity is so difficult to treat is because it truly requires a multidisciplinary approach of nutrition, exercise, and behavior therapy, but providers are not reimbursed by third-party payors for devoting that extra time.  Our goal was to lower the barrier to these experts.”

HEALTHeME uses a mix of phone texting and web messaging systems. Sloan explains their approach, “”Health messaging is a science in and of itself, and requires understanding of psychology of the person receiving the message. We really took the time to understand and master that and designed advanced algorithms to target our patients with content that they would relate to.”

The HEALTHeME system makes treatment a truly participatory endeavor for both patients and physicians. They start by having the physicians literally write a simple script for HEALTHeME, indicating the diet type, exercise plan, and other health parameters the provider wants the patient to monitor. A personalized plan is created by leveraging web and mobile technologies to proactively communicate with patients on a daily basis, sending them relevant and personal coaching tips on ways to modify their behavior. To ensure accountability, the physicians receive a report from HEALTHeME every several weeks, which then allows them to hone in on particular problems.

HEALTHeME, which just launched in April, is already generating revenue and reports that physicians are eagerly adopting their new platform.

Sloan Rachmuth will demonstrate the HEALTHeME system and share their results at e-Patient Connections 2010 in Philadelphia on September 28-29th.

Jun 16

r_intensiveThis is another great example of how technology, in this case the iPhone, is democratizing the creation of health solutions as well as enabling their use by a broader range of people.

A new company, Smarty Ears, has released a dozen iPhone applications designed to make speech and language therapy fun for students and affordable for parents and others. It was founded by Barbara Fernandes, a young and innovative speech and language pathologist. The apps cover probes for articulation, intense practice for the /r sound, which is a common practice area for children, and even bilingual practice apps.

Previously, parents had limited access to professional speech and language materials, because they can be expensive to purchase and are promoted only to professional speech pathologists. Smarty Ears, with their iphone apps, gives empowered parents the ability to offer their children additional practice at home.

May 10

The California Healthcare Foundation has released a new whitepaper, How Smartphones Are Changing Health Care for Consumers and Providers, authored by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn. Key findings include:

  • Two thirds of physicians used a smart phone in 2009
  • 6% of physicians were using an electronic medical records system
  • 42% of Americans use smartphones
  • Top uses of smartphones for consumers include: medication adherence, home monitoring, fitness apps, managing chronic conditions

Best quote in the report comes from Stanford’s B.J. Fogg, who is critical of the current design of many apps. His advice is that to change behaviors we need to “Put hot triggers in the path of a motivated person.”

Click here to read full paper.

Dec 17

MobiHealthNews editor Brian Dolan summarizes with:

FDA may regulate smartphone apps. LifeComm closes. Best Buy stocks connected health devices. Apple invites LifeScan on-stage. The West Wireless Health Institute is founded. CardioNet’s reimbursement rate cut. Consumers want wireless health. Three-quarters of Americans are interested.

Click here to download their Wireless Health: Year End Report 2009 (PDF).

Dec 06

food-log3You’ve overslept by fifteen minutes, and you have a killer headache. A couple of Aspirins take care of that. Grapefruit and yogurt for breakfast, a 20 minute jog, and then off to work. You’ve just gotten a promotion and a new office with a gorgeous view, so you’re feeling pretty good about your career. At the end of the day you catch an hour of T.V., hop on the bathroom scale, and hit the hay.

This is the raw data of your life, the cold hard facts of diet, exercise, and attitude that determine your wellbeing, and TheCarrot is dedicated to measuring it. TheCarrot is an online and mobile collection of trackers that collect and calculate data pertaining to a wide range of health concerns. If you’re looking to lose a little weight, plug in what you eat at each meal or log your workout routine. Feeling stressed? You can log and rate your general mood, your quality of sleep, even your job satisfaction. For users with more specialized concerns, there are specific trackers for diabetes, menopause, hypertension, and a sort of WebMD-lite which tracks various individual symptoms.

What distinguishes TheCarrot from similar sites is the focus on mobility and, perhaps more importantly, on a full integration of all the above-mentioned aspects into a gestalt look at wellbeing. The platform’s Iphone app allows users to log in their meals and activities as they happen, even inviting users to upload snapshots of their food into a database. While a seemingly small point to tout, entering the contents of a meal is much easier and salient on the subway ride home than it is hours later, racking your brains for if you had the risotto or the orzo.

The platform’s integration of every tracker into your daily report is similarly based on small, intuitive touches. How many times have you patted yourself on the back for jogging two miles, and rewarded yourself with an ice-cream sundae, or offset a diet with an afternoon sitting around on the couch? TheCarrot, by collecting up all of your lifestyle trackers into one collated chart, stresses the importance of all-around health and wellness.

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As Douglas Trauner, CEO of TheCarrot’s parent company, Healthcare Analytic Services, puts it, “until now there wasn’t a mobile, one-stop option for all areas of [health] interest.” This all-in-one, integrated method is what really sets TheCarrot apart.

picture-38However, this emphasis on breadth of content may come at the expense of depth in any one area. While the nutrition tracker is admirably well fleshed-out, with a nice range of customization regarding what information shows up on your reports (ranging from a simple calorie count to detailed data on sodium, protein, and more) and a stocked pantry of over 20,000 pre-selectable food entries, other trackers are less comprehensive. It’s great to be able to hold your exercise regimen up side-by-side to your daily diet, but without even giving a broad estimate of the amount of calories burnt by each activity at various durations, the actual functionality is sadly limited.

Other areas of the platform are similarly bare-bones, sometimes in surprisingly fundamental ways. Some, such as Energy Level, Sex, and Job Satisfaction, are merely sliding scales ranging from Low Satisfaction/Energy/Libido to high-a totally subjective criteria that fails to offer much meaningful data. Sleep is structured similarly, with an entirely separate tracker set up for wake-up time. The result is a jumble of trackers ranging from comprehensive and useful, to somewhat confusing, to the useless and/or redundant.

The site and its Iphone companion have undergone a general upgrade since August of 2009, adding numerous features and trackers to its original configuration. While the platform as it is today is far from perfect, TheCarrot’s ambitious scope and convenient, mobile-friendly approach make it a fascinating experiment and a worthy (if flawed) eFitness contender.

Dec 02

The analysts at Gartner gazed into their crystal ball and list the Top 10 Consumer Mobile Apps for 2012. Coming in at number 5 is “Mobile Health Monitoring.” I think their use of “monitoring” as a qualifier is a bit narrow:

Mobile health monitoring is the use of IT and mobile telecommunications to monitor patients remotely, and could help governments, care delivery organizations (CDOs) and healthcare payers reduce costs related to chronic diseases and improve the quality of life of their patients.

Yes, health monitoring will be huge. But what about health search? Health education? Personal data trackers that don’t ping your physician or family unless you want them to? Apps for health and fitness? All of these mobile health apps will certainly be as big or bigger than the “monitoring” category itself.

Nike Plus is frequently mentioned as a model for the new hybrid of personal tracking device, data, and community. What other mobile health apps do you think show us a glimpse of the future?