Quick takes on mobile health efficacy, regulation, and funding

By Brian Dolan
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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsLast month the medical journal of Diabetes Science and Technology published the results of a small efficacy study conducted at George Washington University Medical Center that used Vocel's PillPhone application. MobiHealthNews covered the results of the study in-depth back in early 2011 when they were first made public, but last month's medical journal was the first to officially publish the results.

It's tempting to make a connection between the many years between this study's completion and its publication -- especially since Vocel went out of business in the meantime -- but one of the study's authors noted that the publication of the study's results was more happenstance than hard fought:

"Dr. [Samir] Patel and I did not have any special reason for the publication to finally be submitted," Dr, Richard Katz told me in an email. "We recognized the limitations of the design (which was limited by the grant amount and the time availability of the Pill Phone product) and the fact that the Pill Phone was a first generation 'unidirectional' reminder system which would only have mild impact on med adherence behavior change. It has been our experience that mHealth as a simple reminder, without additional human interaction from the healthcare team, will have low and short term success. When this special edition of the J Diabetes and Technology became available we dusted off our data and improved the data analysis for submission."

Notably, Vocel was the first mobile health company with a patient-facing application to get a greenlight from the FDA.

Speaking of the FDA, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), whose district covers much of Silicon Valley, just re-introduced a near carbon copy of his 2012 Healthcare Innovation and Marketplace Technologies Act (HIMTA), which he first offered up in December of last year. The 2013 version of the bill is the same word-for-word save for its dates and deadlines -- now pushed up a year. The bill calls for the creation of an Office of Wireless Health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); a HIPAA-focused developer support program at HHS; an X Prize-like prize program in addition to small “innovator challenges” to “stimulate new approaches”; a low interest loan program for small physician practices and clinics that want to purchase “non-EHR” health care technology; and two year grants that assist medical care providers in retraining employees on how to use health IT.

The bill's prospects are low, but some of its ideas may find traction.

In other news, we've seen it published elsewhere that Boston-based Healthrageous had raised $6 million in its first round of financing this month, but that is, of course, a mis-reading of the company's June 2010 funding announcement, which for some reason has no date listed. Since then the company has raised a total of at least $15 million. A quick scan of the company's site shows Healthrageous CTO and Co-founder Doug McClure, formerly of Partners HealthCare, is now just listed as the company's co-founder. McClure did not respond to a request for comment before deadline. The title change appears to have occurred some time in the past few weeks.

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