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mHealth Shows its Maturity at HIMSS16

Last week's conference saw no blockbuster deals or earth-shattering announcements, perhaps proving that telemedicine is here to stay.

By Eric Wicklund

- The 2016 HIMSS Conference and Exhibition may well be remembered for what didn’t happen than what did happen. After a week’s worth of keynotes, education sessions, crowded exhibit halls, cocktail parties and Elvis impersonators, it became clear that we weren’t going to get that one big blockbuster bit of news that would make everyone sit up and take notice.

Heck, we couldn’t even get Peyton Manning to announce his retirement.

That’s not to say HIMSS16 was inconsequential. Far from it. For the 41,000 attendees taking time out of their busy healthcare duties to visit Vegas, there was value far beyond the lucky gaming tables. They saw an industry coming to grips with its future, and an understanding that progress doesn’t have to be measured in grand pronouncements or gestures.

In mHealth, that progress was seen in education sessions that featured health systems talking about what they’re doing, not what they’re going to do sometime soon. Among the dozens, if not hundreds, of press releases issued during the show, the focus was on integration – partnerships that build on existing programs and enhancements to platforms already in use.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the announcements that stood out.

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AT&T moved into the wearables market with the news that it’s providing connectivity for UnaliWear’s Kanega watch, a smartwatch designed for “vulnerable populations.” The voice-controlled watch includes embedded sensors for gait measurement and fall detection, medication reminders, location-based assistance and emergency call features.

Wearables had already gotten a jump on the HIMSS16 news cycle with Philips’ announcement just before the conference that it was launching its own wrist-borne monitor. The medical-grade biosensor targets hospitals and health systems looking for a reliable device to track patient vital signs in real time in low-acuity hospital settings.

Philips followed that with news that it has achieved FDA 510(k) compliance for Care Orchestrator, a cloud-based clinical management application designed to connect sleep and respiratory care devices, EMRs, and other care management tools in its HealthSuite home care platform.

Qualcomm Life announced a partnership with UnitedHealthcare to launch UnitedHealthcare Motion, a wellness program that provides members with fitness trackers that measure the number, frequency and intensity of steps. Data is collected through an app and synched with Qualcomm Life’s 2net medical grade connectivity platform. Available initially to companies of 100-300 employees with high-deductible health plans in several states, the program enables employees to earn money by meeting step goals and employers to earn premium savings based on employee results.

Medisafe, which so far had made its mark in consumer-facing mobile medication reminder platforms, turned its attention to providers with the launch of Medisafe Providers. The online platform enables healthcare providers – including physicians, care teams and pharmacists – to view a patient’s self-reported medication management plan and track that against other biometric data taken from mobile devices through an app.

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TigerText helped revive the tired “pagers are dying out” conversation with a number of announcements. The provider of real-time messaging solutions announced integrations with Salesforce, to include TigerText messaging in that company’s Health Cloud portals, and Box, to enable the sharing of DICOM images through the TigerText mobile interface. The company also opened its platform to new partners, including Medisafe, WinguMD and AccountedCare, through the TigerConnect platform, and unveiled expanded tools through its partnerships with Nuance and Scrypt.

AMC Health announced enhancements to its telemedicine platform for smartphones and tablets. The company has expanded its laptop-and-desktop-based platform to enable voice and video interaction with remote clinical assessments and biometric measurements on mobile devices. Through the CareConsole Mobile platform, clinicians monitoring a patient can now connect with that patient through an eVisit, checking up on a care plan, pushing out reminders or scheduling additional check-ups or an office visit.

Ekahau, the Finland-based developer of Wi-Fi solutions with a significant stake in healthcare, was acquired by AiRISTA Flow, a Maryland-based company with RFID, RTLS and sensor platforms used in patient and asset tracking, hygiene compliance monitoring, patient flow and personal management, supply chain management and wandering management and senior living services. The acquisition points to the increasing interest in location-sensing technologies from mHealth companies.

Sonitor Technologies, meanwhile, announced expansions to its ultrasound-based RTLS platform, adding SmartZoning, SenseAlert, SenseSafe and Temperature SmartTag solutions to its product line for health systems.

IBM’s Watson Health made perhaps the biggest splash at HIMSS16 with its announcement that Watson would be put to use on a sleep health study conducted through Apple’s ResearchKit platform. The project, a partnership with the American Sleep Apnea Association, invites consumers to download the SleepHealth app for their iPhone or Apple Watch and chart their sleep data for the SleepHealth Mobile Study.

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That wasn’t the only ResearchKit news, either. Sage Bionetworks released the dataset from some 9.500 participants in its mPower study on Parkinson’s Disease, one of the largest mHealth-enabled clinical studies to go public with its results to date; and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and LifeMap Solutions expanded their ResearchKit-based Asthma Health study to the UK and Ireland.

Telehealth provider American Well announced just before HIMSS16 that it had launched a mobile software development kit (SDK) for its Amwell platform, enabling health providers to add online visits to their own native apps. The company followed that with the launch of AW9, a video platform that enables multiple participants – including specialists, other caregivers, health coaches, family members and even translators – to take part in the video consult.

Finally, one of the more aggressive developers of mobile EHR and practice management platforms, drchrono, announced that its platform now allows for electronic photo capture and storage of patient insurance cards and credit cards. The capability not only enables physicians and office personnel to take a photo of an insurance card or credit card and move it into the EHR, but allows consumers outside the office to do the same thing with their iPhone. 


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