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The 3 S’s of Smartphone Shopping.

The 3 S’s of Smartphone Shopping. | Healthcare and Technology news |

What a difference a few years makes. It wasn’t long ago that healthcare CIOs declared they would never use smartphones for caregiver communication. Now, with smartphones proliferating throughout the nation’s hospitals as an effective clinical communication solution, many vendors are adding smartphone options to their product lines. If you’re attending HIMSS15in Chicago next week, you will undoubtedly see traditional communication vendors touting the benefits of their brand-new smartphone offerings.

The good news: It’s fairly easy to build a smartphone app using current development technologies. The bad news: It’s not so easy to build a solid smartphone platform that’s reliable in the healthcare environment and scalable enterprise-wide.

While vendors may present their smartphone solutions as tried and true, many have only a portion of their advertised functionality deployed in a real healthcare environment. And many of those deployments are small, one-unit pilot projects that haven’t been tested site-wide. As you assess the mobile communication solutions presented at HIMSS, take the time to ask probing questions to determine which vendor, products and services are right for your facility.

When it comes to a smartphone solution, ask if it’s scalable, sustainable and substantiated:

Is it scalable? A simple texting application is easy to demonstrate and simple to sell with a nicely designed PowerPoint presentation, but if it can’t scale to your needs, it’s not worth your time or financial investment. Ask vendors to refer you to major healthcare organizations that are successfully using the solution enterprise-wide.

According to a Forbes article, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles implemented a mobile communication solution unit by unit over the course of about three years. Today, smartphones have scaled to cover the entire the facility, with more than 4,500 caregivers and other staff sending hundreds of thousands of text messages via Voalte One every month.

2. Is it sustainable? The healthcare industry changes quickly. A communication solution that only answers today’s challenges and doesn’t build a solid foundation for a complete mobile communication platform may soon become obsolete. As you explore your options at HIMSS, be careful you don’t bank on a vendor who can handle only one of your overall communication needs, with promises to tackle the others later.

When Boulder Community Health in Colorado replaced legacy phones with smartphones last year, CIO Linda Minghella said text messaging was a big benefit to the staff, but made clear the ability to integrate with other technologies was an even bigger advantage. The hospital tied in the new smartphone solution to the nurse call system, for example, and according to a recent article, hopes to make the electronic medical record available via smartphones in the future.

When meeting with mobile communication vendors, ask if their smartphones can integrate with alert notifications from nurse call, patient monitoring or electronic medical record systems. Be sure these alerts are being delivered successfully to smartphones, rather than tying in with traditional legacy phones.

Also ask how they plan to support their smartphone solutions before and after go-live. Deploying and maintaining applications is time-intensive, and mobile device management requires a precise process to ensure your solution is secure. Be sure you sign up with a partner that can commit to a long-term relationship rather than a “one go-live stand.”

  1. Is it substantiated? With new solutions entering the market quickly, watch out for “vaporware” that’s in development, but not yet ready for prime time. Before entering into an agreement, ask for five or ten reference sites, and check them out thoroughly to ensure the smartphone solution fits your specific needs.

Your hospital is unique, and you need a smartphone solution that can be customized accordingly. By investigating the process other healthcare organizations used to implement smartphones, you can get a sense of the vendor’s expertise in those various areas.


You have some difficult choices to make when exploring mobile healthcare technologies. While an influx of companies and solutions will push the mHealth industry forward, it will also make it more challenging to decide how and where to spend your technology dollars. Come to HIMSS15 next week armed with some tough questions, stay focused on your goals, and don’t get blinded by the bright lights and displays that may be more flash than substance.

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A $34 Smartphone Gadget That Can Detect HIV in 15 Minutes

A $34 Smartphone Gadget That Can Detect HIV in 15 Minutes | Healthcare and Technology news |

Tiffany Guo and Tassaneewan Laksanasopin are using smartphones to slow the spread of AIDS.

Together with other biomedical engineering researchers at Columbia University, Guo and Laksanasopin have built a tiny smartphone accessory that can detect HIV with a finger prick. It costs just $34 to make. It delivers results in 15 minutes. And according to the researchers, it’s on par with the most accurate of HIV tests.

Because it can so inexpensively and so quickly identify HIV, the researchers believe, the device can make a significant impact on AIDS in Africa and other parts of the developing world. Early detection helps stem the spread of HIV, and this can be particularly important among pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control, women who detect HIV early—and take antiretroviral medication as recommended—can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their offspring to less than 1 percent.

As revealed in a study published last week, Guo and Laksanasopin tested the device with a small clinical trial in Kigali, Rwanda, and the results were promising. Over the span of two weeks, 96 patients from three health clinics participated, and researchers say the device performed about as well as commercially available diagnostic tools now used to run tests in the field. The hope is that the device eventually will receive regulatory approval from the World Health Organization and be used in needy areas the world over.

The effort is part of a growing movement to reduce the cost of medicine and medical diagnosis using the latest in mobile technology. A wide range of startups and researchers are building portable devices that can screen for particular diseases, and in many cases, can screen for multiple diseases simultaneously. The device, which so far doesn’t have a name, developed by Guo and Laksanasopin can identify syphilis as well as HIV.

The smartphone difference

The project dates to 2007 but really took off in 2013, when the researchers realized they could significantly reduce the cost by piggy-backing on smartphones. If they handled power and data collection on the phone, they could whittle their device down to the basic equipment needed to perform the blood tests, or assays.

“We saw that the smartphone as this ubiquitous device that already had a lot of the components that we wanted,” Guo says. “So we stripped our dongle down to the essentials of what we needed for our assay—very simple optics and very simple fluid control.”

Their dongle, about the size of your palm, plugs into ordinary iPhones and Android phones through the audio jack, which it uses to draw power and transfer data. To use the device, you prick your finger and drop a small blood sample into a cassette holding what’s called a microfluidic chip, and then you insert the cassette into the device. By pressing a bulb on the device, you can push the blood through the chip, which can test the sample, and after about 15 minutes, the results will appear on an app loaded on the phone.

There are other inexpensive ways of testing for HIV and syphilis, including paper-based options similar to home pregnancy tests. But according to the researchers, these tests can be less reliable, and users don’t always know how to make sense of the faint strip of color on the paper.

By the millions

The question is whether they can get this device in people’s hands. According to Karen Lightman, executive director of MEMS Industry Group, a trade association that works to push microelectromechanical systems and sensors into the global market, it’s an unanswered question.

“They’ve demonstrated it, but can they deliver millions of these?” she asks. One of the main issues, she says, is ensuring that the data is keep secure, so that it can’t be readily lifted from phones. But she believes that reproducing such devices in larger numbers is easier than it once was.

“The industry is maturing, the technology is maturing, and the market is there,” she says. “As we get more standards into place and reduce testing costs, all that is going to mean faster time to market.”

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