Category Archives: Health Technology

Virtual Health Care May Be Better Than In-Office Visits

Doctor's hand reaching out of computer holding a stethoscopeA five-year study of HIV patients found a telehealth system, including a virtual pharmacy and community forums, to be as effective as in-office visits to the doctor. The study could mean increased virtual health care and cheaper medical costs around the world, especially for high-maintenance chronic illnesses such as HIV.

From autonomous robotic surgeries to advanced computerized diagnoses, many recent technological breakthroughs have benefited the medical industry and the patients it serves. Now, results from a five-year study have revealed an exciting conclusion: Virtual check-ups can be just as effective as, if not more than, in-office visits to the doctor.

In the study, a group of Barcelona-based physicians successfully treated 200 HIV patients via an online home care system called “Virtual Hospital.” The technology covers all aspects of managing the health of chronic HIV-infected patients, who require frequent and careful care. This month, PLoS One published the results, which found telehealth to be as effective as in-office visits.

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How Doctors Can Monitor Fitness From Afar

Computer with hands holding stethoscope emerging from screen
"Cough and double click, please.

By Brian Mossop Email Author

Whether they need to simply shed a few pounds, or are recovering from a near-miss heart attack, many people are under their doctor’s strict orders to get more exercise. Physical activity prescriptions have become a de facto medical intervention, a structured counterattack to the sedentary American lifestyle and fat-fueled diet.

And now, doctors may be able to keep tabs on how well their patients have heeded their advice, even when they’re miles apart, thanks to a new remote monitoring device from Alive Technologies.

There’s no clearer example of the divide between our intentions and actions than the case of a person starting a mandated exercise routine. Today’s scheduled gym time easily becomes tomorrow’s prolonged procrastination when our minds unjustly rationalize that our daily choices have little effect on our long-term health.

For dire conditions, like those involving the heart where the exercise prescription is crucial, hospitals and health clinics may provide cardiac rehabilitation — an outpatient service much like physical therapy, where physicians or licensed exercise physiologists design a custom activity program and monitor the patient’s progress.

But people much prefer to get their exercise at home. After all, who wants to have to drive to the clinic just to have someone watch you march along on the treadmill?

Doctors are sometime reluctant to allow patients to exercise on their own, in case something goes awry, like a potentially life-threatening irregular heartbeat. Alive Technologies, a company based in Queensland, Australia, is addressing these concerns with their new Heart and Activity Monitor, which may jointly satisfy the rigor that physicians need, as well as the freedom that patients desire.

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Laser Wand Scans Molecules for Melanoma Within Seconds

Melanoma laser wand
Captain's Log: Stardate 2011

Detecting potential skin cancer cells is an inexact process that depends on a doctor identifying a suspicious mole before waiting a few weeks for the biopsy results to come back from a lab.

But according to Technology Review, scientists at the British Columbia Cancer Agency (BBCA) have developed a handheld wand that could help doctors instantly identify melanoma by scanning the molecular makeup of a mole. Dubbed the Verisante Aura, the device uses Raman spectroscopy to scan for molecules that are characteristic of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

The doctor holds the wand over the suspicious mole, and the Aura blasts laser light onto the molecules, thus changing their vibrational state. The light is then reflected back at different angles and magnitudes depending on the molecules. Within seconds, the device compares the scan to a database of skin cancer molecules. The results help doctors more accurately determine whether or not a biopsy is necessary.

by Caleb Johnson on February 2, 2011 at 07:30 AM

ECG Coming to an Android Phone Near You

ECG appon Anroid phone
A heart to heart talk?

App vendor AliveCor is about to roll out a version of its popular ECG smartphone app for Android phones, capturing the two biggest platforms in just the past few months. AliveCor debuted an iPhone version of its ECG Heart Monitor technology at last year’s CES expo.

The product is a single-lead wireless cardiac recorder that its creators insist is clinical quality, although not on par with 12-lead full ECG machine. The app displays the heartbeats using the phone screen as a monitor. Patients can press the case against their chests or into their hands to obtain a reading.

The product essentially is a skin placed on the phone, and then held up to the patient. That’s a step up from other ECG products, like Imec’s wearable ECG, which requires a lead and strap to connect to the ECG plugin.

Android phones already sport apps for streaming samples of “bad” ECG rhythms for diagnostic purposes, plus a look-up reference for clinicians on ECG interpretation.

To learn more:
– read this Medical Smartphones article

The Health Technology Boom(er)

iPod showing mobile medical app
Paging Doctor App

Report: Boomers will shape m-health technology efforts

By Dan Bowman

Already top consumers of healthcare technology, baby boomers, ages 46 to 64, are poised to not only continue that trend, but to shape it–particularly in the field of mobile healthcare, a new report from the MIT Enterprise Forum Northwest says. The report was created for an MIT Enterprise Forum to be held in Seattle next week.

“Boomers view tech-enabled health products as a way to foster control and ongoing independence for themselves, especially in light of the rise in incidence in chronic disease with aging, and their desire to reduce costs,” the report reads. “Nearly 56 percent of boomers show a high willingness to use in-home health monitoring devices in tandem with the care of their primary physician.”
The report’s authors point to the increased use of health apps for smartphones–200 million worldwide–and the aforementioned desire for more personal monitoring as an indication of where things are headed. They also note that technology enablers, like the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to bring high-speed web access to underserved areas in the U.S., will make the transition even easier.

“[W]ith medical personnel and senior care facility bed shortages as well as Alzheimer-afflicted patients staying at home longer along with solutions targeting wellness management, the monitoring and tracking opportunity is ripe for more focus in this area,” the authors write. “Given the current low barriers to entry for smartphone applications, the door is open for entrepreneurs with mobile, open source, and social networking expertise.”

To learn more:?- here’s the report (.pdf)

Five Apps to Help Prevent Illness This Flu Season

Flu season mightscreenshot of smartphone app called Outbreaks be upon us, but that doesn’t mean you have to get sick. Here are five apps to fight off the flu.
As temperatures continue to drop during the autumn season, a familiar sound fills the air: the drone of people coughing and sneezing in offices, homes and public transportation. Although your smartphone might be covered with disease-carrying bacteria, it can also contain many useful tools to help prevent illness. Here are our favorite apps to survive flu season:

Outbreaks Near Me
Hygienic practices such as hand washing are always a good starting place for disease prevention. But knowing that the flu virus is going around in your community might encourage you to practice even better habits.

HealthMap’s Outbreaks Near Me app, available for both Android and iPhone, tracks real-time disease outbreak information throughout the world. Outbreaks Near Me tracks local cases of a wide range of dangerous diseases.

The tool will alert you when contagious illnesses have been found in your community, and even lets you post about your own diagnosis. The app tracks both human and animal diseases—everything from swine flu to chickenpox to West Nile virus.

The Swine Flu App
During last year’s swine flu epidemic, researchers from Harvard Medical School released this comprehensive, reliable app equipped with everything you need to know about the dangerous disease, including diagnostic tests and prevention tips. It also provides location-based hotlines and emergency telephone numbers.

Harvard’s app is particularly useful to businesses. It has an entire section devoted to helping employers educate employees about flu prevention, and learn how to create a pandemic business plan.

Medslogscreenshot of smartphone app called "Home Remedies"
If you catch a bacterial infection or have a high fever, your doctor is likely to prescribe medications to help you get well. But certain drugs, especially antibiotics, require frequent and long-term dosages. The Medslog app helps you track all of your medications and reminds you when to take them. Users can simply enter items like prescription drugs or eye drops, as well as the dose and time. The app also lets users input data such as blood pressure and blood sugar. Users can even choose to e-mail their data to a doctor.

One of the simplest ways to prevent getting the flu this year is to get an annual flu shot. But during times of high demand, shot locations can be hard to find, especially in rural areas. The FluShotter app makes getting a flu shot easy. FluShotter contains information about thousands of locations where users can receive flu shots. The app tracks your shot history and can contain the records for multiple users—ensuring that the whole family is equipped to fight the flu this year.

101 Home Remedies
Luckily, there are even apps for the thousands of people who do end up getting sick this flu season. One of our favorites is 101 Home Remedies, which provides quick, natural remedies for many common ailments.

In addition to containing soothing treatments for the flu, the app has information about how to lessen its symptoms, like coughs and muscle cramps. 101 Home Remedies contains quick and natural remedies for everything from asthma to unexpected weight loss.

All I Want for Christmas is a Chemical Hazards Pocket Guide?

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazard disc image
Stay safe; take this "pocket" guide for a spin

Anything that will help you and your employees have a safe and healthy New Year!

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG) is intended as a source of general industrial hygiene information on several hundred chemicals/classes for workers, employers, and occupational health professionals. The NPG does not contain an analysis of all pertinent data, rather it presents key information and data in abbreviated or tabular form for chemicals or substance groupings (e.g. cyanides, fluorides, manganese compounds) that are found in the work environment. The information found in the NPG should help users recognize and control occupational chemical hazards. Instructions for Downloading: Download the NPG CD-Rom as a ISO image file and create a disc with CD-ROM authoring software. The NPG ZIP file contains a condensed version of the NPG. All non-Pocket Guide links were removed so that this set of files acts as a “stand-alone” database. These files can be used with a standard web browser or on some mobile devices.

  • (245 MB) (requires WinZip or other unzipping software)
  • 2010-168c.exe(181 MB) (Self-extracting zip file for Windows)
  • 2010-168c.isoNIOSH publication number 2010-168c (ISO Requires CD-Rom Authoring Software)

Help, I’ve Fallen for a Tiffany Medical Alert Bracelet!

photo of high tech medical alert bracelets
Alerts, plus your medical history

Medical-alert jewelry lets high-risk patients access critical data in emergencies

September 7, 2010 — 4:42am ET | By Neil Versel

Call it smart jewelry.

We tend to ignore most stories about personal health records because, despite the hype, PHRs haven’t exactly caught on with the public. But when Tiffany & Co. comes up with a $2,250 gold medical-alert bracelet, it’s newsworthy. When the story hits home for the reporter, as it does for Wall Street Journal health correspondent Laura Landro, we tend to pay more attention, too.

The Tiffany offering is perhaps the poshest example of a new generation of medical jewelry that does more than just carry an engraved name of a particular condition. As Landro reports, there’s a whole collection of bracelets, pendants, necklaces and watches hitting the market that direct first responders to a toll-free number or a website, or even send a text message to retrieve critical patient data in an emergency.

“As the recipient of a bone-marrow transplant for leukemia 18 years ago and three related procedures since then, I recently learned the hard way that I should be wearing a medical-identification bracelet myself. One morning in May I ended up in the emergency room after an internal injury resulted in heavy blood loss. When I was told I was going to need a blood transfusion, fortunately I was alert enough that a red flag went up in my head,” Landro writes. She needed blood that had been irradiated to prevent a potentially fatal reaction.

“During an annual checkup last month at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where I received my original transplant, I informed my doctors about my emergency transfusion and they suggested wearing a bracelet in the future. Though transplant patients are told after discharge that they should receive only irradiated blood, the center is now formulating a policy to also advise them to wear a medical-alert bracelet.” Landro explains.

Many of today’s medical bracelets are backed by a subscription service that provides first responders and emergency caregivers with access to potentially lifesaving data. For those not big on the bling, Kaiser Permanente offers a $5, password-protected USB drive for patients in Northern California to carry their personal health records around. We note this because Kaiser already has an extensive EMR to output data to the external record. PHRs not “tethered” to a particular health system–like several products Landro mentions–aren’t really worth a mention here. Blame a FierceMobileHealthcare editor who wants to see some proof of widespread acceptance. None exists.

For more: – read this Wall Street Journal story

Read more: Medical-alert jewelry lets high-risk patients access critical data in emergencies – FierceMobileHealthcare

iHeart my iPhone

When Peter Bentley wrote the ‘iStethoscope’ app for the iPhone, it was meant, we think, to be entertainment. The $0.99 app has some surprisingly powerful features for recording and measuring heart beats, but the tiny iPhone microphone makes it quite difficult to use and a tad unreliable. In the U.S., the app hasn’t seen much success, but, overseas, it’s gained traction since Bentley introduced a free version last week.

With over 500 downloads per day, ‘iStethoscope’ has clearly piqued some people’s interest. The question is, are any of them doctors? The iPhone’s potential in the healthcare field is no secret, but thus far such uses have been confined to the likes of blood sugar meters and non-smoking apps. Is it possible for a medical professional to simply place her phone against your chest, and listen to and record your heart? Will doctors use their iPhones to perform ultrasounds, or to perform on-the-spot blood analysis? Maybe, but we won’t lie: If our doctor came to the examination room and started pressing his beat-up 3G against our chest, he’d only hear a heart attack.