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Will The Fitbit Care Program Break New Ground?

Posted on September 21, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Wearables vendor Fitbit has launched a connected health program designed to help payers, employers and health systems prevent disease, improve wellness and manage diseases. The program is based on the technology Fitbit acquired when it acquired Twine Health.

As you’ll see, the program overview makes it sound as the Fitbit program is the greatest thing since sliced bread for health coaching and care management, I’m not so convinced, but judge for yourself.

Fitbit Care includes a mix of standard wearable features and coaching. Perhaps the most predictable option is built on standard Fitbit functions, which allow users to gather activity, sleep and heart rate data. However, unlike with individual use, users have the option to let the program harvest their health data and share it with care teams, which permits them to make personalized care recommendations.

Another option Fitbit Care offers is health coaching, in which the program offers participants personalized care plans and walks them through health challenges. Coaches communicate with them via in-communications, phone calls, and in-person meetings, targeting concerns like weight management, tobacco cessation, and management of chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and depression. It also supports care for complex conditions such as COPD or congestive heart failure.

In addition, the program uses social tools such as private social groups and guided workouts. The idea here is to help participants make behavioral changes that support their health goals.

All this is supported by the new Fitbit Plus app, which improves patients’ communication capabilities and beefs up the device’s measurement capabilities. The Fitbit app allows users to integrate advanced health metrics such as blood glucose, blood pressure or medication adherence alongside data from Fitbit and other connected health devices.

The first customer to sign up for the program, Fitbit Care, is Humana, which will offer it as a coaching option to its employer group. This puts Fitbit Care at the fingertips of more than 5 million Humana members.

I have no doubt that employers and health systems would join Humana experimenting with wearables-enhanced programs like the one Fitbit is pitching. At least, in theory, the array of services sounds good.

On the other hand, to me, it’s notable that the description of Fitbit Care is light on the details when it comes to leveraging the patient-generated health data it captures. Yes, it’s definitely possible to get something out of continuous health data collection, but at least from the initial program description, the wearables maker isn’t doing anything terribly new.

Oh well. I guess Fitbit doesn’t have to do anything radical to offer something valuable to payers, employers and health plans. They continue to search for behavioral interventions that actually have an impact on disease management and wellness, but to my knowledge, they haven’t found any magic bullet. And while some of this sounds interesting, I see nothing to suggest that the Fitbit Care program can offer dramatic results either.

 

A Missed Opportunity For Telemedicine Vendors

Posted on June 29, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Today, most direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies operate on a very simple model.

You pay for a visit up front. You talk to the doctor via video, the doctor issues as a prescription if needed and you sign off. Thanks to the availability of e-prescribing options, it’s likely your medication will be waiting for you when you get to the pharmacy.

In my experience, the whole process often takes 45 minutes or less. This beats the heck out of having to wait in line at an urgent care center or worse, the emergency department.

But what about caring for chronic illnesses that can’t be managed by a drive-by virtual visit? Can telemedicine vendors play a role here? Maybe so.

We already know that combining telemedicine with remote monitoring devices can be very effective. In fact, some health systems have gone all-in on virtual chronic care management.

One fascinating example is the $54 million Mercy Virtual Care Center, which describes itself as a “hospital without beds.” The Center, which has a few hundred employees, monitors more than 3,800 remote patients; sponsors a telehealth stroke program offering neurology services to EDs nationwide; manages a team of virtual hospitalists caring for patient around-the-clock using virtual visit tools; and runs Mercy SafeWatch, which the Center says is the largest single-hub electronic intensive care unit in the U.S.

Another example of such hospital-based programs is Intermountain Healthcare’s ConnectCare Pro, which brings together 35 telehealth programs and more than 500 clinicians. Its purpose is to supplement existing staffers and offer specialized services in rural communities where some of the services aren’t available.

Given the success of programs that maintain complex patients remotely, I think a private telemedicine company managing chronic care services might work as well. While hospitals have financial reasons to keep such care in-house, I believe an outside vendor could profit in other ways. That’s especially the case given the emergence of wearable trackers and smartwatches, which are far cheaper than the specialized tools needed in the past.

One likely buyer for this service would be health plans.

I’ve heard some complain publicly that in essence, telemedicine coverage just encourages patients to access care more often, which defeats the purpose of using it to lower healthcare costs. However, if an outside vendor offered to manage patients with chronic illnesses, it might be a more attractive proposition.

After all, health plans are understandably wringing their hands over the staggering cost of maintaining the health of millions of diabetics. In 2017, for example, the average medical expense for people diagnosed with diabetes was about $16,750 per year, with $9,600 due to diabetes. If health plans could lay the cost off to a specialized telemedicine vendor, some real savings might be possible.

Of course, being a telemedicine-based chronic care management company would be far different than offering direct-to-consumer telemedicine services on an occasional basis. The vendor would have to have comprehensive health data management tools, an army of case managers, tight relationships with clinicians and a boatload of remote monitoring devices on hand. None of this would come cheaply.

Still, while I haven’t fully run the numbers, my guess is that this could be a sustainable business model. It’s worth a try.

Airstrip’s Apple Watch Implementation of Sense4Baby

Posted on September 10, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Everyone in healthcare has been watching the Apple Watch and Apple just announced the next generation of their watch. As part of the Apple Watch announcement, Dr. Cameron Powell, CMO and Co-Founder of Airstrip was on stage demonstrating the Apple Watch implementation of Sense4Baby (which Airstrip acquired). Rather than try to explain the implementation, it’s much better to see it in action:

Scan What’s In Your Food – TellSpec

Posted on November 6, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently came across an IndieGogo campaign for a product called TellSpec. They describe TellSpec as “A revolutionary hand-held device that tells you the allergens, chemicals, nutrients, calories, and ingredients in your food.”

The concept is really interesting and they’ve already raised $116,826 from 650 people, surpassing their goal of raising $100,000 and they still have 24 days left for their campaign. Given those numbers, I guess many others are interested in this as well.

While I think the concept is beautiful, I’m a little skeptical of how good it will actually work. I’m interested to see if it really can produce the results that they describe. If it can, then no doubt there will be many interested in using such a product.

I do wish that it would identify both the chemicals and the portion sizes. If it could do both, then it would take food tracking to a much higher level of tracking. Maybe this will be an opportunity for TellSpec to partner with another company that has portion identification using something like a picture. The combined functions would make TellSpec interesting for a much larger market than just those interested in identifying chemicals in their food.

Another major challenge with what they’ve created is that it’s a separate device. One day this or something like it will be built into our cell phones. I don’t have to explain why people don’t want to carry two devices. Once it’s integrated with the smart phone I can already see the pre-meal ritual being to scan your food so that what you’re eating is captured and tracked.

I once heard someone say that one of the biggest factors influencing our health is the food we put in our body. Maybe TellSpec combined with other mobile health applications will get us closer to understanding the relationship between the foods we eat and are health.

Study Shows Mobile Devices Increase Patient Engagement

Posted on July 15, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

I’ve heard many people ask the question of whether or not mobile health care helps or hurts patient engagement. The latest study says it definitely improves it.

A study conducted by the Center for Connected Health, published in 2013, found that when a patient used a wireless device to track data, they were found to track their blood pressure more often than those who else a telephone modem device.  In this study, the median age was 61.7 years old. Here are some of the other findings:

  • Those using wireless devices recorded and engaged more frequently 
  • The number of uploads per day were higher with those using a wireless device.

Personally, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. If I had the option of tracking health data on a mobile device, or on a regular telephone, I would definitely choose the mobile device. It’s so much more convenient, and easier to remember. I don’t know if this was an option in the study, but I know with many mobile devices, you can set up push alerts. If a person gets an alert, reminding them to record certain information, I feel like it would help as well.

What I thought was most interesting was the median age — 61.7. I don’t think it would come as any surprise that someone quite a bit younger (myself) would think that mobile healthcare would help with patient engagement, especially with the younger generation. However, the fact that the participants in this study are older, I think that is what makes this study a little more monumental.  At least with the people I know that are around that age, mobile devices can be intimidating. But if they are set up with their device, shown how it works, and understand it, I think that people of all ages will start to benefit from mobile devices.

Pain Squad App Helps Adolescent Cancer Patients

Posted on June 26, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

I can’t even imagine what a scary experience it would be to have cancer, let along as a child. One of the ways to treat the symptoms of cancer is to understand the pain level, and what the patient is feeling. However, that can be difficult to get a full grasp on, especially in children. If they aren’t tracking it daily, then information collected can be flawed.

Last year, an app was released in beta testing at a Canadian hospital in Toronto to help doctors understand more fully what their younger patients were feeling as they underwent cancer treatment. The app, called Pain Squad, was developed using the feedback from children and teenagers who had cancer. It involves pain surveys that have to be filled out twice daily, but involves the child and engages them.

The app features videos of celebrities from popular law enforcement shows, Rookie Blue and Flashpoint, giving motivation to kids as they do a certain amount of journals in a row, and they can be promoted to different ranks. This video does a great job of explaining the app, and shows some of the videos. They are so motivating!

I really liked this quote, from the parents of a little girl named Olivia, who was a study participant:

Filling out a paper pain journal was like homework. The Pain Squad app is interactive and the more Olivia used it, the more rewards she got. It only takes a few minutes to complete but it gave Olivia a better understanding of and more control over her pain.”

Last year, this was in some of the final stages of testing, and because of it’s success, it was set to be released in other areas in Canada, as well as outside of Canada. I’m not sure if it’s officially been released since then, but I love the idea of this. There’s only so much you can determine from asking someone to point at a smiley face on a poster board to describe their pain level (I personally never really know what to say when I’m confronted with that sign!)

This app is designed for the iPhone.

“The Kaiser Way” – Kaiser Permanente’s Approach to Mobile Healthcare

Posted on June 24, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Kaiser Permanente is the healthcare provider I went to since the time I was born, until I went to college. Imagine my surprise when I headed off to school and discover that it didn’t even exist in the state I moved to. In my limited scope of knowledge, I think I thought Kaiser was the only healthcare provider out there!

Even though I’ve come to realize there is definitely more than one healthcare provider out there, I think I’ll always like Kaiser. My husband and I are back in Colorado, and are currently working to get a plan covered by Kaiser. As I’ve heard my parents talk about them, and seen some of the services offered, I’ve been impressed with what they have to offer, and how it seems like they’ve been very involved in mobile healthcare. So I wasn’t too surprised when I saw this article that talks about how Kaiser has made it possible for their patient’s to connect with their doctors via email.

In the article, Bernard J. Tyson, Kaiser Permanente’s Incoming Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said of this mobile app that “It’s something our members wanted, they have it and they love it.” I think that this goes to show that Kaiser is really trying to be intune with the changing healthcare world, and what their patients wnat. Since being launched, there have been 14 million e-visits, Tyson said, and members can access these visits through a free mobile app.

Patients are able to connect with their doctor through the app by emailing them questions, making appointments, and accessing lab results. It allows patients to decide whether or not they actually need to make an appointment, as well as build a stronger relationship with their physician. Kaiser has worked hard to ensure the safety of the patients using this app, as that is definitely a big concern across the board when it comes to mHealth.

Personally, I love the idea about being able to email your physician. Back in Utah, I was overall impressed with the patient portals that were available to me, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t easier to connect with my doctors. In fact, there was one instance where I tried to get in contact with a physician for over a month, just getting the run around from her assistants, and I eventually just gave up. The doctor seemed very on top of things, but her staff was not, and I always wished I had been able to just contact her quickly and easily through a method like the one that Kaiser has in place.

I won’t go over everything that is talked about in this article, but I highly recommend reading it. It sounds like Kaiser has a lot in store for the future. Tyson mentioned that the obvious next “natural progression” is for telehealth. I really found this article to be really excited, and I can’t wait to see what Kaiser has in store. Hopefully other healthcare systems will take note and follow in their suite.

Discover The Best Health Apps With AppRx by Health Tap

Posted on June 3, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Well, Health Tap has once again come out with a new and useful way to help people find legitimate healthcare information. In an effort to help people sift through the 40,000 health and exercise apps available, AppRx was created.

AppRx is a directory of apps that have been recommended and reviewed by some of the world’s leading physicians. If you’ve ever tried looking through apps, it can be hard to figure out which ones should be trusted. Because, not all health apps should be regarded as so.

It’s a simple idea, but one that I think is long overdue. I just checked it out, and it looks like it is very easy to navigate. You can search for specific apps, or select from a variety of categories. There are 23 different categories, that cover everything from ab workouts to mental health to pregnancy. You can even set it to show just iOS compatible apps or Android compatible apps. To be honest, I think that’s one of my favorite features! Back when I only had an Android device, I got so frustrated when I was searching for a certain kind of app, and only iOS apps would show up.

You can also sign up for a newsletter, which sends you an app of the week — this weekly publication highlights a certain app that comes highly recommended from physicians. So if you want to try out new apps that already have the seal of approval from a physician, this might be a good newsletter to subscribe to!

I am excited to use this website — not only for my personal use, but to help find apps to write about on here! There are already some app certification programs in the works, such as Happtique, but until apps start getting the mark of approval from that, AppRx is a great alternative. I use Health Tap a decent amount, and I do trust that information I get from there, so it will be nice to have this additional resource.

iChemoDiary Helps Cancer Patients Track Symptoms

Posted on May 29, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

In Friday afternoon’s #HITsm Chat, the following Tweet caught my eye:

Although I don’t have cancer, and hope never to, many people that I know have been diagnosed with some kind of cancer. Because of this, I was interested in learning more about this app and see what it had to offer.

When you have cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy, it’s important to pay close attention to any symptoms or side effects that you may experience, as well stay on track with treatment. iChemoDiary makes that process a little bit easier, by giving several options to users for tracking this information. You can track your schedule, medicines that are being taken, and access your treatment plan easily.

In addition, the app allows you to track which symptoms you should be watching out for, and take notes throughout the day. Reports can be created concerning anything that you recorded in the app.

This app seems like an easy way to track chemotherapy treatment, and easily share the information with doctors and nurses. It’s free to download, and looks pretty easy to use. I think it would be nice to have an app dedicated to keeping track of this information, rather than having to worry about remembering the details, or carrying around a notebook everywhere you go. Similar to using a  food diary, sometimes it’s just easier to have something that is easily accessible and created solely for this puprose.

Are there any other apps available for people that are undergoing chemotherapy, or who have been diagnosed with cancer?

Download here for iOS devices.

Stay Hydrated With The Jomi Band

Posted on May 8, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Drinking water can be the solution to a lot of health problems — it aids in weight loss, it helps the major organs of the body function better, and well, it’s just not good to be dehydrated! But many people, myself included, don’t drink enough water on a regular basis! I know for me personally, I just get so distracted throughout the day, it doesn’t even dawn on me that I didn’t drink water until 6 PM hits, and I’m totally out of it. At that point, my husband asks if I drank anything, and as I think about it…I realize I didn’t! Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a reminder.

If you follow CNN on Facebook, you may have recently read this article. It talks about an Estonian start-up called Jomi Interactive. Several of their prototypes were released last week, and one of the most interesting is the Jomi Band and Sleeve. It’s basically a device that you can attach to your water bottle, and it tracks how much you drink. If it feels that you haven’t had enough fluids, it will let you know with flashing LED lights. The device will be created to link up to a mobile device, if that’s appealing to you for some reason. 

There’s another product already on the market called Hydracoach. It’s a water bottle that has the tracking device built in. So the only main difference I can find is that the Jomi Band can be used on multiple water bottles.

It seems like an interesting idea, especially for anyone who isn’t particularly good at keeping track of how much (or little) they drink. It may seem like an easy thing to do, but when sometimes…life gets busy. This could be very helpful for anyone that needs, or even just wants, to make sure they are drinking enough water. Granted, if the bottle is filled with something other than water, it may not be as helpful.

The Jomi Band is only in the developmental stages, but if you want to be informed of it making it’s big debut, go sign up over here. If it’s not too expensive, I might just get one myself.