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Four Unique Healthcare Apps

Four Unique Healthcare Apps | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

The last seven years has seen the rise of the smartphone and tablet as personal technology devices utilized by almost all professions in some capacity or another. The healthcare industry is no different and the veritable volume of applications or "apps" that have been developed and utilized by physicians and patients in the last few years has skyrocketed. Inevitably, the large volume of apps makes it difficult for individuals looking to make an impact to stand out in the crowd, as certain conventions become standard. Having a unique "hook" definitely helps to boost such apps into the spotlight, but it also serves to help physicians and patients look at new ways to utilize software (and the devices they run on).


CARROT Fit


Sometimes, "unconventional" is as simple as looking at something in a different or even humorous way. For example, CARROT Fit is an app developed by Brian Mueller that provides you with a sarcastic and merciless "fitness overlord" (modeled after his mother, sister, and wife) who motivates you through such innovative techniques as referring to you as "meatbag" and threatening you with "squirrel attacks" (yes, you read that right) when you fail to exercise. Mueller started out by writing alarm clock and to-do apps and received such a positive response about the personality of the Carrot A.I. (artificial intelligence) that a workout app seemed like the next logical step.


'"The CARROT series of apps are all about taking things that people hate doing … and making them fun and rewarding," said Mueller. "I think most people feel upset when they step on a scale … but CARROT's humor turns that around and makes it a positive experience they can laugh about — and because they connect with the character so much, they're actually motivated to do better the next day."


Bowel Mover Pro and Autism Tracker Pro


Another way to stand out in a field of "me too" health apps is to focus on areas of health that may be less common or more challenging to discuss. Case in point is developer Uwe Heiss. His company, Track & Share, developed Bowel Mover Pro and Autism Tracker Pro to empower patients with self-tracking tools that would make the patient-care team encounter more effective.


Any physician who has ever had to discuss bowel habits with an IBS patient knows how frustrating it can be to get vague feedback on patient symptoms. "All of my apps are designed to help people to spot trends, patterns, and how things might be related to each other," said Heiss. "For example, 'Does stress appear to aggravate my IBS symptoms?' 'Since I started Yoga, did my daily average stress level go down?' 'Was I able to avoid peak stress …?'"


Heiss stresses that three things which guided the design of his apps were the ability to highly customize what patients tracked, to provide powerful graphing options to identify patterns over time, and the ability to share data via external tools such as Excel, increasing the physician's ability to use the data in a meaningful way.


Symple


Developer Natasha Gajewski echoes some of these thoughts and developed her symptom-tracking app around one basic concept that also gave the app its name, "Symple." "I developed this app when I became a patient … one of my most important duties was to deliver an accurate symptom history between doctor visits," she said. "I had limited use of my hands and fingers … so I designed the touch interactions to be as simple as possible. We also worked hard to keep the cognitive load to a minimum."


One thing is certain. Regardless of the reason for defying convention, all developers believe the future of medicine will involve more integration of such apps and more active user interaction in an effort to enhance the patient-doctor encounter. At the end of the day, if visionaries succeed in this lofty endeavor, it will be because of the conventions they chose to modify or ignore in an effort to stand out and stand up for a better healthcare experience.

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Apple's New Plan For Healthcare: The Doctor Will Track You Now

Apple's New Plan For Healthcare: The Doctor Will Track You Now | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

An Apple relay will keep your doctor’s fears allayed.

That’s the plan, at least, behind the company’s growing health care strategy: To use the Apple HealthKit platform to collect real-time data from iPhones, the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch, and other devices — and connect it to hospitals, doctors, and your electronic medical records.

More than a dozen top hospitals already are piloting Apple’s HealthKit software, Christina Farr reported Thursday in an exclusive for Reuters.

This isn’t a surprise. Five months ago, details leaked that Mayo Clinic had teamed up to test several health care applications for the iPhone, such as a service to alert patients when their Apple apps detected abnormal health results, and help schedule them for follow-up visits.


And at the September debut for the iPhone 6, Apple officials said that they’d struck partnerships with a number of other top hospitals, like Stanford University Hospital and Duke University.

The two medical centers last year began helping Apple test whether chronically ill patients could use HealthKit to remotely track and manage their symptoms.

A similar trial is now underway at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, where providers are seeing if HealthKit can help several hundred patients control their blood pressure. The patients use sensors and other devices to remotely measure their blood pressure and other clinical indicators, and send the data to Apple phones and tablets through HealthKit.


Apple plans to use its new Watch as part of its strategy to move into the U.S. health care market.

Ochsner also has launched what it’s calling the “O Bar” — the hospital’s version of Apple’s Genius Bar — to help patients pick between different health and fitness apps for their iPhones, and teach them how to use them.

Are Apple’s Rivals Playing Catch-Up?

What is surprising is how far ahead Apple is compared to purported rivals, Google and Samsung.

According to Farr, Google has developers working on applications for its Google Fit service, but hasn’t appeared to make major inroads among the top hospitals yet. Samsung’s own health care platform also has lagged Apple HealthKit on both hype and deal-making.

The market potential for these companies is significant, to say the least: The U.S. spends about $3 trillion each year on health care, and all the incentives are pushing hospitals and doctors to get better at remotely managing patients’ symptoms.

Being able to see real-time data for chronically ill Americans could offer significant financial and clinical benefits. For instance, tracking their health and fitness could encourage positive behaviors that reduce the cost of doctor visits and other treatments. And doctors could use the data to be proactive when a person’s health appears to be taking a turn for the worse.

There are several major hurdles before realizing that vision, however.

For example, Apple appears to have pinned some of its health care-hopes on the Apple Watch, which launches in April. But early indications suggest that the device’s initial applications for health care may be limited; based on current reports, there’s very little chance that the Watch will come with a breakthrough technology, like a built-in glucose monitor.

(However, the Watch may display updates from a separate glucose monitor, per this demonstration last month.)

If Apple Watch can’t add much unique health care value, it may face a practical problem: Regardless of how cool the technology is, most Americans end up abandoning their wristbands and other smart-tech wearables.


And simply introducing new data streams isn’t so simple in health care. Hospitals already are juggling the pressure of protecting patients’ medical information, with hackers constantly trying to penetrate their systems, while trying to identify and organize the data that they do need.

“This is a whole new data source that we don’t understand the integrity of yet,” according to William Hanson, chief medical information officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

So unlike the launch of the iPad — where Apple essentially redefined the tablet computer market overnight — the company will almost certainly need months or years to fully realize its health care strategy.

“There are unrealistic expectations for when and how mobile health is going to come together,” Patty Mechael, former executive director of the mHealth Alliance, told the MIT Technology Review last summer. “We are somewhere between the peak of the hype cycle and the trough of disillusionment,” she added.

Of course, Apple may defy the odds. For one, it’s Apple — the company can create buzz by simply posting a job opening. More than 600 developers are already integrating HealthKit into their health and fitness apps, helping ensure that Apple’s new software is already becoming an industry standard.

That kind of scale and momentum is the key reason why Apple stands apart.

John Halamka, the chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an informal adviser to Apple, told Reuters that many patients at his hospital already use Jawbone trackers and other devices to collect personal health and fitness data.

“Can I interface to every possible device that every patient uses?” Halamka asked ruefully. “No.”

“But Apple can.”

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Use smartphone applications to diagnose and monitor patients

Use smartphone applications to diagnose and monitor patients | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

In this Rock Center segment Dr. Eric Topol demonstrates how smartphone applications are being used as medical diagnostic devices such as echo cardiograms (ECG), ultrasound and glucose diagnostic devices.  Dr. Topol reported that these application devices do not get in the way of doctor-patient interaction and relationship.  It can be asserted that since these diagnostic devices, are in fact smartphone applications, the patient’s comfort with these devices is greater than their comfort with a traditional diagnostic ECG, ultrasound, etc. device.  Dr. Topol also states that he is at times prescribing smartphone applications in place of medications and extensive diagnostic testing.

At HIMSS this year I came across another innovative and cool technology smartphone application.  MedSnap is a new, cool and great solution that hits on all the proper buttons for Healthcare IT!  MedSnap is patient centric.  It fills a need by documenting patients’ current medications.  It’s smart as it identifies something like 3000 medications.  It saves time.  It is accurate.  It has broad application ranging from acute care providers, to ambulatory providers, to home healthcare organizations.  MedSnap is a perfect example of why I love coming to HIMSS and subjecting my feet to hours upon hours of walking, stopping, standing, talking, etc.  See my HIMSS-13 Cool Stuff blog.

There is tremendous strategic partnership opportunity among Healthcare IT vendors for the integration of smartphone applications with EMR/EHR solutions.  Technology is the future of medicine and we continue to witness this in greater complexity and volume.  Healthcare IT is sick… which means cool!


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Evaluating what leads to positive user ratings in medical apps

Evaluating what leads to positive user ratings in medical apps | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

With the growing number of mobile health related apps, there needs to be an objective understanding about what features of an app make the consumer, or user, more likely to use a particular app. There have been studies done in the past that have evaluated medical apps looking at characteristics that can help change a user’s behavior.


These are important for medical apps, as many are targeted to change the user’s behavior for a healthier outcome. However, the characteristics that will make a user more satisfied and more likely to continue using an app long-term, are not the same.


A recent study looked at which specific features within medical apps result in greater user ratings. The study looked at 234 apps and reviews that were found in the Apple iTunes store and Google Play store in the medical, health and fitness categories, and were also associated with reputable health organizations.


The apps that were found to meet the inclusion criteria were then analyzed to see if they included the following features and were rated on a binary scale:


  • Ability to export data
  • Gamification
  • General education
  • Plans and orders
  • Reminder
  • Community forum
  • Social media connection
  • Addresses symptoms
  • Tailored education
  • Tracker
  • Cost
  • Usability


The results of the data from this study showed that 9.3% of a user’s rating of a particular medical app can be explained by 5 features, including plans and orders, ability to export data, usability, cost, and having a tracker. All but one of these features resulted in a more positive user rating. Apps with a tracker, which allow the user to track specific data, such as daily compliance with medications, daily caloric intake, etc, correlated with a more negative rating. When the data was further analyzed, the results showed that the tracker feature has a positive influence on a user’s rating if the app also has the ability to export the data. This makes sense from a user interface aspect, as a tracker can be useful if the data can be shared with the user’s doctor or other healthcare provider. The tracker option, without the ability to export data, may result in too much information, which the user may not be able to properly interpret.


This shows that if you do include the ability to track information within an app, it’s important to makes sure that information can be exported.

The results of the study also show that users preferred a simple and intuitive app over a complicated one. These are apps that easily provide the user the ability to control their interaction with the app, such as saving and logging data, have a minimal design and not cluttered with extra information or multimedia, and easily allow the user to recover from errors. These all make sense since a user would want be using an app on a smartphone to help complete tasks faster and with ease.


Also as expected, the user is also more likely to rate an app more positively if the app provides a more efficient solution to current methods. Examples of these types of apps are those that provide information about a specific disease, which saves the user time from looking up and understanding that information themselves. Another example is an app with the exporting data feature mentioned above, as exporting existing data from an app is much faster than manually inputting the data in a notebook or emailing a healthcare provider from scratch.


The results of this study are important to consider when developing new medical apps. With over 10,000 apps in the marketplace, knowing what features are most important to the users of medical apps is crucial in creating a successful app that will lead to long-term use and as a result, have tangible positive outcomes in the user’s health.

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Dexcom teases Apple Watch for diabetes monitoring at CES

Dexcom teases Apple Watch for diabetes monitoring at CES | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

As digital health continues to extend into the mainstream, continuous glucose monitor (CGM) manufacturer Dexcom took advantage of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to unveil a simulated Apple Watch displaying live demo glucose readings from a Dexcom CGM.


As pictured on the right, the Apple Watch display is fairly similar to the current Dexcom receiver’s. It displays the current blood sugar reading, a graph of recent blood sugars, and  a trend arrow (telling the user whether their glucose trend is sharply upwards, upwards, flat, downwards, or sharply downwards). From the demo, there is no indication if the Apple Watch app will have any other features such as alarms, calibration, etc.

I believe this is the first time any diabetes device manufacturer has publicly shown any demonstration of continuous glucose data being transmitted wirelessly to a smartwatch.  The closest demonstration would be Medtronic live streaming glucose readings from their CGM to an iPhone display this past Fall.

Currently, there are no official solutions that stream glucose data to smart watches.  For the tech-savvy, a NightScout community exists that helps users “hack” their CGM’s into streaming glucose data to the cloud. In comparison, out-of-the-box synchronization to mobile devices would be a huge step for continuous glucose monitors, and the recent demos by Dexcom and Medtronic suggest that the FDA approval landscape for diabetes technology is loosening.


In a CES Digital Health session titled “Winning the War on Diabetes”, Dexcom’s Steve Pacelli (pictured second to left), Executive Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development, announced that “[Dexcom's] 5th generation system will transfer data from the sensor to the phone.”

This would represent a significant upgrade over current G4 solutions that require a separate product (the recently approved Dexcom Share) to serve as an intermediary device between the smartphone and Dexcom receiver. Dexcom’s 5th gen release would eliminate the need for a Share-like receiver and could potentially even eliminate the receiver.

With respect to the Dexcom booth’s Apple Watch demo, it was unclear if the Apple Watch integration is coming for the Dexcom Share (and therefore current G4 systems) or for the future G5 release. However, it’s worth noting that the demo was running inside Apple’s developer kit, which means that the display was running actual software code and not just a mockup.

Furthermore, unlike Medtronic which has officially gone on record stating that Apple HealthKit integration is not part of initial plans for their upcoming smartphone systems, Dexcom’s booth prominently featured Apple Watch and Apple HealthKit in their signage.


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