Posts Tagged 'healthcare'

SXSW Interactive 2012: Health-related start-up roundup.

In 2012 at SXSW, health and healthcare put on a good showing in terms of the panels, talks and companies present and promoting themselves. This document provides a short roundup of start-ups that I saw presenting during the “start-up accelerator” portion of the conference. Here are some thoughts on some of these companies.

Medify

Medify claim to be a better way for patients to discover medical research, using an interactive layer over data from clinical trials and making the result interactive and approachable. Medify claim to enable the average consumer to make sense of big data in health, but I wonder how robust the dataset is and how they compare datasets from different trials and avoid data bias. Medify could be seen as a competitor to Medline Plus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus), which already has great consumer search outputs. Medify provides an added social layer to the data that Medline Plus doesn’t have by integration of Facebook, which is interesting, but may amplify the issues with data.

Jiff

Jiff claims to be the “Facebook of Health”, but reminds me more of the “Google+ of health” with its “Circle of Health”. This is essentially a private social network for health and medicine and is currently in private beta. Jiff claim to be addressing the future of health collaboration, but it will fail or succeed on adoption by healthcare professionals and there is little evidence it will be of value to them. The question that springs to mind is why wouldn’t I just use Facebook or Google+ to connect with my family about my health? Personally, I just don’t understand Jiff’s value proposition. That being said, Jiff is HIPAA-compliant (see http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/) and was a finalist at TechCrunch Disrupt, so does have some backing.

CellScope

CellScope make smartphone attachments for home use. The attachments produce high-quality images for physicians to use for remote diagnosis of ear infections and skin problems. This is a nice solution to avoid the need to take a child to see a physician. More and more we are seeing attachments to smartphones that make them viable as diagnostic instruments. The company claims that the costs of the attachments are “very low” and the trade-off between the cost of the attachment and the need to make a physician appointment means that this is a very viable option.

Bodimojo

BodiMojo claims to be a healthy social network for teen girls to promote healthy choices. They want to build a ‘tribe’ for young girls and promote positive body image through social story and rewards. I think BodiMojo will be successful only if they can get the incentive right for their target demographic and I wonder if an education or advice component would add greater value. One main query would be the approach of a complete platform – why not build out an app within Facebook?

Ginger.io

Another “Big Data” start-up that has been getting quite a bit of traction. Ginger.io provides a mobile app for patients to track their health – much like a patient diary. In addition, they can converse with physicians through the app and end alerts to their care team. On the physician side, the platform claims to allow “effortless” monitoring of the patient and identification of high-risk patients. In addition, Ginger.io has a dashboard for researchers that collate data both from patient-reported outcomes and “passive” data from mobile sensors. It’s quite a compelling offer and they are clear that the patient owns their own data and that all shared data is aggregated and anonymised.

Simplee

Simplee is a way to manage your health bills and save money (if you are US-based). For me, it seems to be a Mint (www.mint.com) for medical finance. Simplee tracks healthcare expenses and suggest possible health plans to suit patients. I don’t really have much knowledge of this area, so can’t really comment further.

Rx Apps

Could you be popping into your local GP sometime soon and receiving a prescription for an app on your smartphone?

Mobile

Image courtesy boostmobile, Flickr creative commons

Yesterday, the UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley opined:

“So many people use apps every day to keep up with their friends, with the news, find out when the next bus will turn up or which train to catch. I want to make using apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.”

“Information about your health is a service – just like the GP surgeries, Walk-in Centres and hospitals that millions of people access every week. With more information at their fingertips, patients can truly be in the driving seat.”

“Innovation and technology can revolutionise the health service, and we are looking at how the NHS can use these apps for the benefit of patients, including how GPs could offer them for free.”

It’s nice to see the government acknowledging the ubiquity of mHealth, and a nice move to encourage both the technorati, health firms, startups and Pharma to start producing good quality, helpful native (and mobile web) apps to benefit patients. I expect we have a way to go before the high-quality information becomes the norm, but I applaud the health secretary for his stance.

Source: http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/02/apps/

I Tweet Your Weight

The nature of communication today means that we are almost always connected to each other in some form or other, whether wired or wireless. We use a variety of methods to communicate about our ‘status’ to our circles, be it through Facebook, Twitter or even good old voice calling. When it comes to communicating about our health, this has traditionally been very personal and private, but increasingly as the barriers to privacy erode through social media, we find companies such as Microsoft and Google want to help us store our health information online (although, interestingly, Google recently halted their Google Health service due to lack of uptake).

So what’s next? Companies are starting to manufacture connected devices that can communicate our health status automatically. I recently saw a demo of bathroom scales that tweeted the user’s weight every day, and a blood pressure cuff that connected to iPhone and transmitted a daily reading over the internet. Of course, we can debate whether people want others to know if they have grown ‘vacation handles’ (or if they trust companies like Microsoft with their personal health information), but this at least illustrates that we need to consider the interfaces and devices with which we share information, and understand that it’s not just our fingers that do the talking when it comes to health status updates.

SXSW feature: The secret life of behaviour change

I was fortunate enough to attend the South By SouthWest Interactive conference (colloquially ‘Southby’ or SXSW), which benefited from a health ‘track’ that focused on innovation and digital in healthcare.

At the event, I attended a number of panels and I would like to share my notes on some of the panels here. So, I want to talk about a solo piece from
Aza Raskin (@azaaza), founder of the startup Massive Health, who talked about how consideration of feedback loops can help change patient behaviour with regards to lifestyle choices and disease self-management.

Feedback loops
Raskin maintains that the secret to changing behaviour is to examine and change these feedback loops associated with health behaviour. For example, a morbidly obese person is likely to be very aware that their condition will have a serious negative impact on their health, and so dieting and exercise to reduce weight/BMI/waist circumference is very important to avoid stroke or myocardial infarction or all the diseases that obesity is a risk factor for. However, we all know that dieting and exercise are very difficult to start and even more difficult to maintain on a long-term basis.

Cake
He uses cake as a good example of a feedback loop in action:
A person sees one piece of cake and knows that they shouldn’t eat it, however if they do eat it, there is no immediate consequence (possibly other than guilt or sticky fingers). This demonstrates that people do not consider the cumulative negative effect on health that the cake contributes to, and therefore this cake is part of a long-term feedback loop with consequences way off in the future. The same with cigarettes – smokers know that a cigarette will essentially shorten their life, but those consequences are at the end of the life, not at that moment.

So, it is clear that long feedback loops do not encourage ‘good’ behaviour and, therefore, there is a need to find a way to make it easier for people to adhere to good behaviours for the duration of that feedback loop, either by creating shorter feedback loops (giving often or instant feedback to people on how well they are doing) and/or rewarding people for modifying their behaviour.

Marshmallows
To illustrate the idea of rewards for behaviour modification, Raskin described an experiment where young children were presented with a marshmallow. The children were told that they could eat the marshmallow now, however if they waited without eating the marshmallow, they would get a second marshmallow on the researcher’s return (thus the promise of two marshmallows – an exciting prospect for a 4-year-old!). Although the original study was investigating the effect of age on the development of delayed gratification, the point Raskin was making was that the children who waited rather than eating their marshmallow modified their behaviour in order to gain a benefit/reward.

Amusing video of something similar that Raskin showed:

Oh, The Temptation from Steve V on Vimeo.

I think this gives food for thought (possibly not marshmallows), as if we can apply this rhetorical theory into the programmes that we produce and find a way to make it work, this could have a great positive impact on patients lives.

Motorola Xooms itself in the foot?

I was pretty excited about the announcements before and during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. Android was the star of the show, with many many manufacturers showing off hardware that uses the operating system. Forefront in the hype was the tablet-specific iteration, called Honeycomb that will be available on many of the new tablets, a couple that are creating buzz are:

LG Optimus Pad (formerly called G-Slate):

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (10-inch version of the existing Tab)

These tablets will be available for consumer and enterprise use later in 2011, however, more imminent is the Motorola Xoom, which will be the first tablet running Honeycomb available.

It looks fantastic, and represents a viable alternative to the iPad for both detailing duties and for use in a hospital environment. In fact Android, being an “open” platform, means that you don’t have someone like Apple meddling in the types of app that can be produced for the tablet, making it simpler to manage, produce and approve specific apps for specific tasks. In addition, pharma companies and hospitals can have control over how the user interface looks and feels.

The problem with the Xoom is twofold: No Flash integration at launch. Admittedly, this is a minor problem, as Flash is promised for a few months’ time. However, the major problem is the cost of the thing. Even assuming the retail price of $799 can be beaten by bulk purchase, this still leaves the Xoom on a par with its (currently) only rival in the 10-inch category, the iPad – a very well known and trusted device, and I expect that, given the choice based on cost, 90% would go for the iPad.

It also gets worse, rumour has it that iPad 2 announcement will be days away (March 2 anyone?), and if the iPad 2 is launched soon, you can bet that the price of new original iPads will drop significantly, as we saw with the iPhone 3Gs when the iPhone 4 was launched. This leaves Motorola in the position of having an untested device, with a completely new and unfamiliar operating system at a higher price than the iPad. Which will be a problem.

Aside from this, Pharma companies and institutions looking to leverage tablet devices should maybe think about waiting for the choice of devices, as I thought you would also like to see what else is out there too in terms of tablets:

HTC Flyer – a 7-inch tablet that controversially uses a smartphone version of Android and has a stylus

RIM PlayBook (BlackBerry) that runs on a new operating system and is intended to link up with the BlackBerry

HP TouchPad – uses WebOS, developed by Palm (remember them!)

Balloon animals

A quick apology to readers of this blog. I really enjoy writing here, but the past month has thrown up a number of challenges.

One of these challenges is actually finding something interesting and, importantly, new, to write about. There are so many bloggers out there that I feel I would be doing you a disservice if I wrote basically the same stuff that others have already covered.

Social media is no longer new and exciting, and in the pharmaceutical sector at least, little has changed with regards to its use, other than the fact that pharma companies know more about it than before. Especially in Europe, where regulatory guidance is a long way off; don’t get me wrong, there have been excellent examples of innovative use of social media, however all the signs show that we are ‘over the hump’ of social media hype and are now, quite rightly, looking at it as a channel to be considered and utilised in an appropriate manner as part of an integrated plan. Not so much a bursting of the social media bubble, more a slight deflation so that we can make balloon animals (to overextend my mixed metaphor for appropriate consideration and usage of social media). Essentially in 2011, it is necessary for Pharma to bring social media into the Venn diagram and start using it appropriately.

What about the rise and rise of mobile and tablet healthcare with native apps (and in my opinion this is also something that is still overhyped and not rationally used as a tactic in an integrated plan, but I expect that to continue for the moment). I think Android will play a much larger part in healthcare as a platform with some major players bringing out Androidbased tablets in 2011 (with implications in terms of enterprise, cost and accessibility).

Let’s not forget the possibilities of near-field communications (NFCs), especially now that mobile handsets are starting to integrate this technology (notably Google’s upcoming Nexus S made by Samsung, which also inexplicably has no LED indicator or SD card expansion slot). This is something that will gain momentum in 2011, with possibly some good use coming of it either late in 2011 or more likely in 2012.

Now to a topic I’ve also been banging on in this blog about recently: integration, and I think actually this will be a key theme for the focus of my commentary in 2011 – integration of digital into overall healthcare strategy. We need to be savvy that digital must fit within our offerings in an integrated manner, and that we shouldn’t get overexcited about ‘the shiny’ (be it platforms or gadgets). I expect 2011 to be the year where the ‘bedding in’ of digital occurs, where we all go back from being ‘digital strategists’ to just ‘communication strategists’, because this is where the benefits for patients, HCPs and Industry lie.

I’m excited by the prospect of 2011 in digital. Happy holidays to you all.

Paul

Social media sharing for pharma

I probably don’t need to tell you that there has been buzz recently about the new FDA guidance on social media that is predicted to appear in this year Indeed, John Mack predicted that the guidance would be issued in sections, and he puts forward a theory that guidance on short-format or space-limited communications will be published first. Whether Mack is right or not, this issue will be discussed within FDA guidance, as it has a huge effect on how we currently communicate and share information about pharmaceuticals.

I’d like to examine the current situation from the social sharing widget/link point-of-view. For those who are unaware, social sharing widgets (such as ShareThis allow users to post up snippets of content from your website on to their social media space, for example share with a status update or wall post on Facebook. This will display a small snippet of information and this has implications because invariably these snippets use metadata from your site, which is not part of the content that the user reads – it’s hidden within the code for that page.

The problem? Illustrated by the widely-cited warning letter to Novartis on their use of a Facebook sharing tool. Metadata can be very short and therefore it would make creating this snippit with fair balance very difficult. So with this in mind, how are pharma companies using sharing tools on their sites? My experience when discussing this with clients is that they are not willing to risk being in breach of regulations, and the concept of social sharing tools on pharma websites, even non-promotional ones are quashed very early by regulatory departments, even if the metdata is crafted to remove any claims and can be approved in their own right.

Of course, enterprising companies are rushing to try to give pharma companies more control over their sharing options. For example, there is the Share, Send, Save widget from Intouch Solutions and the competing tool from Bridge Worldwide and ShareThis. Currently I can’t say I have seen these tools being used on pharma-backed sites at all, but at least these give options to allow users to share content with others whilst keeping more control over the information that is provided through these tools.

So the question is, will the new FDA guidance pave the way for additional social sharing tools, will there be enough guidance for Pharma to be confident about using this functionality, and will Pharma take the plunge into social sharing in a big way?

Let’s see what the guidelines say.


About me

Hi, my name is Paul Jacobs and I write the Medigital blog, as well as being the Director, Digital Strategy at Sonic Boom, a digital and social agency. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts about the digital domain in pharma and medical communications/education.
Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are my very own and do not necessarily reflect those my employer, family or pets. Twitter: @PJ_Medigital
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