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Health eVillages and mobile health in the developing world

I’m in New York today for a Health eVillages board meeting. It’s a program that provides mobile health tools to help extend the reach and knowledge of health workers in remote and underserved parts of the world — including in rural Southern Louisiana. The meeting opened with this powerful video that explains the power of this program.

I can’t say anything more about Health eVillages now, but there is some big news coming this summer.

April 30, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Dr. Eric Topol on NBC’s ‘Rock Center’

Digital health’s rock star, Dr. Eric Topol, appeared Thursday night on “Rock Center with Brian Williams” to discuss the potential of wireless and mobile health technology with NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman. I have a full recap in MobiHealthNews that will appear Friday morning, but I also have the full video of the segment right here:


I have a feeling it will open some eyes among those in the general public who think the status quo in medicine is acceptable and really the best we can do. Obviously, we can do better. We should do better. We must do better.

UPDATE: Here’s the MobiHealthNews story I wrote.

January 25, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Technology changes faster than you think

How much do things change in seven-plus years? Perhaps more than you think.

According to Wikipedia, the following happened in April 2005:

  • Google doubles the storage space of its Gmail service to two gigabytes.
  • Pope John Paul II passes away at the age of 84.
  • A group of at least 40 Iraqi insurgents attacks Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, using car bombs, grenades, and small arms. At least 20 American soldiers and 12 Iraqi prisoners are injured, but the US Army says it has put down the assault.
  • American newscaster Peter Jennings states that he has lung cancer and will begin chemotherapy.
  • Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams appeals to the IRA to stop violence.
  • Eric Rudolph agrees to plead guilty to four bombings including the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in exchange for four life sentences.
  • Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles
  • Adobe Systems buys Macromedia for $3.4 billion.
  • Victims and families observe 168 seconds of silence on the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • YouTube is founded and launched.
  • Pope Benedict XVI is formally installed as pope of the Catholic Church in an inaugural mass.
  • Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez ends military cooperation with USA, claiming that US Army training officers in the country have been agitating unrest against him.
  • The new Airbus A380 performs its maiden flight, in Toulouse, France.

And smartphones were not exactly common in healthcare. How do I know this? I just unearthed the following program from AMIA’s 2005 Spring Congress:

Yes, indeed, that’s a Pocket PC, a personal digital assistant without a phone. Microsoft dropped the name in 2006 in favor of Windows Mobile. A year after that, Apple introduced the iPhone, and the rest is history.

I’m about to go on a long-overdue vacation for the rest of the year, including a week of staycation to catch up on everything I’ve neglected at home in this difficult year. You probably will see my byline in MobiHealthNews and InformationWeek Healthcare next week, but I won’t be on the job. I have a couple of pieces of multimedia I’ve put off for months, and I may get around to processing and posting them before the end of 2012. If not, I’ll see you in January.

December 13, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Social and mobile continue to converge in healthcare

I’ve been somewhat off the grid for yet another family health crisis lately, but I thought I’d at least surface to update this blog with something quick and easy. Healthcare Web and software designer Geonetric has recently come out with an infographic about how healthcare consumers engage online. It’s long been believed that the majority of Internet users will search online for health information, and Geonetric cites data showing that some 80 percent actually do so.

The real surprising numbers are in the realms of social media and mobility, two areas that are increasingly overlapping. While it’s not shocking to hear that 20 percent of health consumers use mobile devices to search for health information, take a look at how many people now have mobile phones: an estimated 4.8 billion worldwide, according to Geonetric. By comparison, the chart says only 4.2 billion people own toothbrushes.

And despite all the worries in the provider community that patient will write bad things about them on rating sites like Yelp, Geonetric says just 5 percent of mentions of companies and organizations on social media are negative. It’s not clear if that figure pertains only to healthcare, but if you’ve ever seen what so many trolls post as comments on YouTube, Facebook and news sites across the Internet, you might find that hard to believe. I sure did.

Note also that the graphic says 23 percent of people follow health experiences of friends on social media. That I believe, because I’ve been sending out updates to friends and family the last several days on Facebook, and I’ve gotten updates the same way for a friend in another state who has multiple sclerosis. I’ve written most of the updates from my phone.

November 26, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Urgent news from Health 2.0

SAN FRANCISCO — The Health 2.0 Conference stopped in its tracks late Monday with this stunning news: fictional EHR vendor Extormity has agreed to acquire every one of the hot, buzzworthy, break-the-mold, think-outside-the-box, too-cool-for-school (and smarter than you because they live in Silicon Valley, went to MIT and/or once knew a guy who worked at Google) app developers showcasing their “solutions”* and explaining why a killer UX in a 99-cent app is the key to all that ails the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry.

From the horse’s mouth:

Extormity announces plans to acquire every application developer at Health 2.0

The Health 2.0 conference currently under way in San Francisco features hundreds of developers, health IT firms and device companies demonstrating innovative applications designed to improve clinical outcomes, reduce medical costs and revolutionize healthcare delivery.

“It would take a dedicated team of talented professionals months to sift through all these disruptive innovators to determine who has the next killer app capable of interrupting the significant revenues we realize from maintaining the status quo,” said Extormity CEO Brantley Whittington from his yacht moored in the San Francisco Bay. “It’s more expedient for us to simply acquire every start-up, playing the role of angel investor sent to answer the capital formation prayers of each young entrepreneur wearing premium denim and a sport coat.”

“Acquired organizations become part of our strategic portfolio and are assigned to our innovations business unit, the division where new ideas fester,” added Whittington. “Developers from digested companies are housed in a bullpen where they engage in a never-ending code-a-thon that breeds fierce competition, resentment and angst – as you might imagine, turnover is epidemic.”

“Meanwhile, the principals who come on board join the Extormity think tank where they are paid handsomely as they wait for their options to vest.”

Extormity personnel will be stationed in each breakout session room with agreements and checks.


About Extormity

Extormity is an electronic health records mega-corporation dedicated to offering highly proprietary, difficult to customize and prohibitively expensive healthcare IT solutions. Our flagship product, the Extormity EMR Software Suite, was recently voted “Most Complex” by readers of a leading healthcare industry publication. Learn more at


Enjoy your new-found wealth!

* Marketingspeak for “vaporware.”

October 9, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Colbert lampoons Proteus digital pill

Last week, I was the first to have the story that Proteus Digital Health, formerly known as Proteus Biomedical, got de novo FDA 510(k) clearance for its ingestible “chip on a pill,” intended to promote medication adherence. National media have since picked up on the groundbreaking news.

Last night, the product became the subject of parody, courtesy of Stephen Colbert.


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Cheating Death – Sensor-Enabled Pills & Facelift Bungee Cords
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

At least Colbert’s version featured a wireless tablet computer.

August 9, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Podcast: Carrie Handley on patient empowerment with an iPad

Did you happen to catch my story in MobiHealthNews on Thursday about Carrie Handley, the IT consultant-turned-cancer patient? She got frustrated with first a misdiagnosis and then the hassle of lugging around a binder full of paper records that she had to go to multiple sites to collect to assure continuity of care during her treatment and surgeries. So Handley digitized all her records.

Initially, she transported the information on a USB drive, but that got lost in a doctor’s lab coat. Then, her son brought over an iPad. The tablet provided the right balance of portability and shareability. In this interview, Handley, a resident of Waterloo, Ontario (you know, the home of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion), describes the process and shares her thoughts in general on mobility in healthcare.

We wouldn’t have connected if she hadn’t read my tribute to my dad last month. After reading Handley’s story in the e-mail she sent me, I knew we had to do this podcast to help spread the idea that communication can help foster the kind of patient-centric care that eluded my dad, that initially eluded her and that probably eludes millions of people every year.

This Sunday is Father’s Day. I miss my dad terribly. But I take comfort in knowing that I’m doing a small part to raise awareness of multiple system atrophy (MSA) — the rare neurodegenerative disease that killed him — and perhaps advancing the cause of patient safety ever so slightly.

Podcast details: Interview with health IT consultant and cancer survivor Carrie Handley about mobility in healthcare. MP3, mono, 128 kbps, 26.7 MB. Running time 29:13.

June 14, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Podcast: HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber previews HIMSS12

I’m about to head to the airport for my flight to Las Vegas and HIMSS12. As has become customary before each year’s HIMSS conference, I sat down with H. Stephen Lieber, CEO of HIMSS, this past week to discuss the state of health IT and what to expect at the big event.

The timing of this interview was interesting. We spoke Wednesday morning at the new HIMSS office in downtown Chicago, one day after CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told a gathering of American Medical Association leaders that federal officials were re-examining the Oct. 1, 2013, deadline for adopting ICD-10 coding, and one day before HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made it official that there would be a delay.

Also one day after this interview, HIMSS announced that it has taken over the mHealth Summit from the Foundation of the National Institutes of Health. While Lieber talked extensively about mobile healthcare, he gave no hint that this news was coming.

Meanwhile, the whole health IT universe had been expecting HHS to release its proposed rules for Stage 2 of “meaningful use” of electronic health records this past week. That didn’t happen. Monday is a federal holiday, so I don’t think we will hear anything until at least Tuesday, which, coincidentally, happens to be the first day of the HIMSS conference. As if we don’t have enough to keep us occupied in the next few days.

The recording is a little fuzzy. I’m not really sure what created the echo and the background noise, since we were in a dedicated interview room, one of the nice features at the new HIMSS digs. Radio interference perhaps? That happened to me a couple years ago in the old HIMSS office on East Ohio Street. Just pretend you’re listening on AM radio or something.

Podcast details: Interview with HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber, February 15, 2012. MP3, stereo, 128 kbps, 31.9 MB, running time 34:51.

1:00 Logistics of HIMSS12 in Las Vegas after the venue change
2:00 Why the Venetian-Palazzo-Sands might work better than the Las Vegas Convention Center
2:55 Why the conference starts on Tuesday this year
3:25 Massive scale of the conference
5:25 Return of Cerner and Meditech and some first-time exhibitors
7:45 mHIMSS and HIT X.0
10:15 Twitter co-founder Biz Stone keynoting and the state of social media in healthcare
12:00 Accountable care and realignment of incentives
14:15 What might be in proposed rule for Stage 2 of meaningful use
17:20 Preview of HIMSS survey of hospital readiness for meaningful use
20:30 ICD-10 readiness
25:00 Greater public awareness of health IT but continuing difficulties in communicating the finer points of healthcare reform
27:50 Mobile healthcare
31:25 The growing importance of clinical analytics

February 18, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

New technology for the 90-plus set

Meet my grandmother.

She is less than two weeks away from her 93rd birthday. She lives alone, in the same apartment she and my grandfather retired to in 1984 (my grandfather died in 2001). Her closest relative is 100 miles away. Her children and her grandchildren all live more than 1,400 miles away.

Her bones are brittle from osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. She is losing her hearing. Her vision has been bad for as long as I’ve known her. She lives on the second floor of a walk-up building, with no elevator.

Last weekend, she had to be hospitalized for a fall she took when the car she was getting out of moved slightly while she was removing something from the back seat. She had had another fall in her home less than two months earlier. She is out of the hospital now, in a rehab facility, where she is supposed to stay for as long as three weeks while she gets physical therapy so she can stand and walk without pain. But what happens after that?

In the past, she has flat-out refused to move to be closer to one of her children because she doesn’t want to deal with winter weather anymore, and, as she says, “This is my home.” She has also said she does not want to go into assisted living or nursing home because she has always been stubbornly independent.

I know this story is not unique to my family. I’m sure many of you have faced similar dilemmas with elderly relatives.

My mom and my aunt have both suggested that my grandma get some sort of “panic button,” more formally known as a personal emergency response system. They were thinking of the old “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” variety, which requires the user to push the button to summon help. Of course, that does no good if the wearer is unconscious or is disoriented.

I explained, based on my coverage of health IT and wireless health technologies, that there are some new types of personal emergency response devices that are passive, i.e., they can automatically detect a fall and call for help, no matter what condition the user is in. Some more comprehensive systems monitor vital signs and movement.

Most of my family did not know about these options.

When I visited back in December, I showed my grandma videos of a few technologies. She wasn’t interested in anything that looks like a computer or a touch-screen tablet because, frankly, new technology is confusing. I mean, she doesn’t even know how to use her DVD player, and has no interest in learning. Caller ID was a big step for her.

She also did not seem too interested in wearing a vitals monitor, even something as simple as a chest strap. Her heart is fine. While she did survive cancer twice in the past 15 years (!), I am not aware of any chronic ailments other than the arthritis and osteoporosis. There is no Internet access in her home, and she does not have a cell phone. She begrudgingly said that she would be OK with wearing a sort of panic button. I have a feeling she would also agree to have a motion sensor installed in the apartment, but only if the landlord would allow it. (I’m pretty sure the landlord would, and that she was just making excuses.)

So, what would you suggest? Vendors, whatcha got?

I’m not looking for any handouts or freebies here by virtue of the fact that I have this public forum. My family would be willing to pay the regular price for your products and services. But I am going to use my soapbox to do the right thing for my grandma.

January 26, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Podcast: Intel’s Eric Dishman on connected care management

Did you miss Eric Dishman’s keynote address Tuesday at the Medical Group Management Association‘s annual conference in Las Vegas? That’s OK, because I secured a few minutes with Dishman, director of health innovation and policy at Intel, immediately after his talk, and the results are right here.

This podcast, recorded in the somewhat noisy press room at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is a companion piece of sorts to my coverage in MobiHealthNews on Thursday, so I hope you have a chance to check out both.

Podcast details: Intel’s Eric Dishman on connected care management, recorded Oct. 26, 2011, at MGMA annual conference in Las Vegas. MP3, mono, 64 kbps, 5.2 MB. Running time 11:08.

0:30 Virtual care coordination in nontraditional settings
1:05 Overlap/collaboration with Care Innovations joint venture
2:10 Prototype device for monitoring symptoms of Parkinson’s patients
4:00 Home monitoring of “classic” chronic diseases
4:55 Tracking behavioral changes for prevention and early detection
6:05 Realizing the potential of mobile health
6:55 Care coordination and health reform
8:30 ACOs and payment for quality
9:35 Intel’s future providing “strategic blueprints” for healthcare
10:20 How to share ideas with him

October 26, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.