Top 10 mHealth stories 2013

From the mHealthNews archive
By Tom Sullivan

This was the year that the FDA handed down its final guidance on mobile medical apps to perhaps more questions than it answered.

The omnibus HIPAA Final Rule on Privacy & Security officially kicked in, as data breaches triggered by lost or stolen mobile devices continued, including one involving a cloud service. And telemedicine gained purchase in the so called "Wild West."

Those are among the top stories, judged by how many people read them. The complete list:

1. FDA OKs Verizon's first home health monitoring platform. This marks the first time the company has sought FDA approval for a healthcare solution, and places it in the midst of a fast-growing home healthcare industry. Company officials say the Converged Health Management platform will synch with devices developed by Toronto-based IDEAL LIFE, including a blood glucose monitor, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, scale and the company's newly developed Ideal Life Pod communication hub. Additional products in the IDEAL LIFE pipeline, expected to be announced soon, include devices for weight management, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

2. Latest hospital data breach involves cloud services. A transgression at the Oregon Health & Science University has added a new area of data breach concern: Unsecured cloud platforms. The university discovered in May that residents and physicians-in-training in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery were using cloud services to maintain a spreadsheet of patients, which included names, ID numbers, ages, provider names, diagnoses, dates of service and, in some cases, addresses. The intent, officials said, was to make it easier to share accurate information about patients admitted to those involved in each patient's care.

3. FDA issues final guidance on mobile medical apps. The FDA will exercise “enforcement discretion,” under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, for the majority of mobile apps “as they pose minimal risk to consumers,” the agency said in a media release. Among those are apps helping patients self-manage their disease or conditions “without providing specific treatment or treatment suggestions,” such as for tracking exercise and diet, automating health tasks or communicating with providers via EMRs. Instead, the FDA will focus “on a subset of mobile medical apps that present a greater risk to patients if they do not work as intended,” such as apps designed to detect melanoma.

4. Verizon works to bring mHealth to the masses. Children, women, seniors and the underserved all face issues with healthcare access that many feel can be addressed by mHealth. With this in mind, the Verizon Foundation has launched an ambitious program aimed at providing mHealth access and services to hundreds of thousands of the nation's neediest residents. And they're starting with the children. The foundation announced a partnership with the Children's Health Fund to equip 15 mobile health clinics with mHealth technology and deploy them to serve an estimated 15,000 children in Miami, San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, New York and Detroit. The first mobile unit was rolled out in Miami.

5. In doctor-patient communications, paper is out and apps are in. To Missy Krasner, today's healthcare landscape is still mired in paper. Doctors think they can't communicate properly with their patients unless they get everything down on paper and send it home. And patients don't take their diagnoses and instructions seriously unless they're printed out on handouts. Krasner, managing director of healthcare and life sciences for Box, a Los Altos, Calif.-based developer of digital communications tools, wants to push doctors and patients into the digital age.

6. Infographic: Is Mobile Healthcare the Future? Mobile health, loosely defined as the practice of medicine and public health and supported by mobile devices, is projected to be a $26 billion industry by 2017. With more than 97,000 health and fitness related mobile apps currently on Google Play and Apple App Store, and 4 million downloads per day, it's difficult to deny the rising popularity of the industry. Read on to find out more interesting stats on the mobile healthcare industry.

7. An angel on your wrist? A two-year-old startup is looking to bridge the gap between fitness and healthcare by creating a wristband that can monitor any number of vital signs through an open source platform. The Angel, designed to be worn around the clock, is equipped with integrated optical and acoustical sensors that measure activity, pulse, temperature and blood oxygen level, automatically relaying that information in real time to apps on a smartphone, PC or other mobile device. "We want to go beyond tracking," said Eugene Jorov, one of the founders of Seraphim Sense.

8. Debunking the most common myths about HIPAA. mHealth News blooger Zachary Landman, MD, has been getting a lot of questions as to what the HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule means for developers, users and patients interacting with mobile technology. First and foremost, he says, it’s important to understand the scope of HIPAA and its specific terminology, since both are often misunderstood, making it difficult to understand the various provisions within the HIPAA Omnibus rule. Hopefully, by addressing a few common concerns or questions that arise, Landman says he can help lay the groundwork for ensuring that your institution, application, or clinic is adequately prepared.

9. Mostashari to step down. Farzad Mostashari spent four years with the ONC, first as a deputy national coordinator, then taking over as the National Coordinator in 2011. "During his tenure, ONC has been at the forefront of designing and implementing a number of initiatives to promote the adoption of health IT among healthcare providers," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a memo. "Farzad has seen through the successful design and implementation of ONC's HITECH programs.”

10. Telemedicine comes to the American frontier. For the residents of an isolated Native American community perched on 112,870 acres of grassland and desert along the border of Nevada and Utah, healthcare will soon be available at the click of an icon. The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation – a couple hundred descendants of the Shoshone-Goship people, who settled the area long before Columbus set foot on American soil – are the latest recipients of telehealth services being arranged by TruClinic, a Salt Lake City-based company that's piloting the service in several locations across the West.