Mobile health apps not meeting expectations

I read with great interest a recent piece at FierceHealthcare. According to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, health apps aren’t living up to the hype. To me, the entire field has been overblown from the beginning.

“A new UC San Francisco study … revealed nearly every participant who used health apps could not get to a productive point. The respondents also were able to complete just 51 percent of data entry tasks and just 43 percent of them could access data from the tools.”

Most of the problem stemmed from usability, or rather a lack thereof. This should come as a surprise to no one. Most of the health apps that I’ve tried haven’t been very good. In fact, I have yet to find a single health app that I consider anything more than a waste of time.

All this on the heels of other studies showing similar results. “A study released in mid-June noted very few apps providing high-quality heart failure symptom monitoring. Research earlier this month evaluated 40 fertility and pregnancy apps and found just six recorded a perfect score for accuracy.”

While I understand the desire for mHealth to be a success, at this point I believe it’s nothing more than over-hyped mediocrity. The worst part is the number of app developers and “researchers” taking advantage of the situation to further their own career, or in some cases their agenda. The mHealth movement is full of snake oil salesmen taking advantage of a population desperate for help.   As a healthcare provider myself, I find it hard to believe that other healthcare providers are putting so much stock in so little actionable information. Does that mean that all mHealth applications are useless? Probably not, but I think it’s time to step back and take a long, hard look at the entire ecosystem. The first thing we should be asking is whether or not the information being collecting provides any value to the patient or their provider. If not, I think it’s fair to question whether or not the application should even be available.

As a healthcare provider myself, I find it hard to believe that other healthcare providers are putting so much stock in so little actionable information. Does that mean that all mHealth applications are useless? Probably not, but I think it’s time to step back and take a long, hard look at the entire ecosystem. The first thing we should be asking is whether or not the information being collecting provides any value to the patient or the provider. If not, I think it’s fair to question whether or not the application should even be available.

Now I’ll sit back and wait for the onslaught of people telling me how wrong I am. Obviously I “just don’t get it”. Well, remember this, even homeopathy has supporters. Just sayin’.

The yin and yang of mobile healthcare

My “swag bag” from the unSUMMIT contained an issue of Specialty Pharmacy Continuum, a throw-away pharmacy journal focused on specialty pharmacy practice. Like most throw-away pharmacy journals I read these days, I found the content timely and interesting.

One of the articles – Get Appy! New Tech a Bridge to Patient Care – discusses how Avella Specialty Pharmacy is using mobile technology to connect with their patients. Apparently Avella is pretty forward thinking.
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Thoughts on the current state of mobile computing

The phrase “mobile computing” has been around for a long time. Remember the “Ultra-Mobile PC” (UMPC) movement back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s? That was an exciting time for mobile computing. Unfortunately the excitement was limited to a very small circle. Back then, the technology simply wasn’t ready for widespread consumer adoption. The machines were cool, but clunky, slow, and insanely expensive. People were not ready to embrace something that required more than a cursory knowledge of technology. Even though the technology was not anywhere near what it is today, I firmly believe that many of the concepts floating around during the UMPC days were fundamentally better than much of what we have on the market today. We’ve progressed forward in many ways, but slid backward in others. It’s unfortunate that society wasn’t ready for the concepts back then. Imagine where we would be today if we would have continued to develop the UMPC concepts and ideas from the 90’s.

OQO2
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Cool Pharmacy App – MediSafe Medication Reminder [#android]

MediSafeI came across this app the other day and thought it was pretty interesting. The app, MediSafe Medication Minder, is part of the MediSafe Project. The website isn’t very informative, but it’s worth checking out.

What’s the MediSafe app all about? Well, this pretty much sums it up: “It’s simple. When it’s time for you to take your medication, the app will remind you. You can also update your app manually. Your caretaker is notified if you don’t check in, so they can remind you only if needed.” The application also supports barcode scanning. Pretty cool stuff.

I’m not convinced that these apps work for everyone when it comes to improving medication adherence, but I think they have their place and should be an option for those that are comfortable using mobile technology.

You can grab it for free on Google Play. I think I’ll download it and give it a whirl.

Initial impression: Samsung Chromebook

New ChromebookI am the proud owner of a brand new Samsung Chromebook that my wife so generously left for me under the Christmas tree. Clearly I’m a lucky man, for more than one reason.

There’s no shortage of Chromebook reviews on the internet, and you’re likely to get more out of them than you will by reading this, but I thought I’d put my initial thoughts on paper nonetheless.

The Samsung Chromebook is an attractive little machine. I didn’t know what to expect, but it surprisingly small and light. It has a nice 11.6-inch LED HD screen, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of drive storage. That’s not a lot of physical storage, but it has an SD card slot and comes with 100 GB of free Google Drive storage for 2 years. What’d you expect, it is a cloud based device after all.

My new Chromebook was stupid easy to setup. I simply turned it on and logged into my Google account. When I opened the browser – which is the entire computing experience in this case – all my familiar extensions, bookmarks, etc were all exactly where they should be an ready for use. I’ve been an avid Google user for quite some time so everything feels pretty natural. Browsing the internet, interacting with social media, and so on is exactly the same as it is on any other computer.

I’ve already had people ask me about using a “cloud-based computer” and what happens when you lose connectivity. Well, it’s a lot like using any other laptop when you don’t have WiFi connectivity. Google has done a good job of making certain functionality available when you’re offline. I’m able to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentation while offline. I’m also able to manage my email and calendar. As soon as I’m able to hop back online everything syncs up as it should. In addition there is a section of the Google Web Store that contains applications for use when offline.

Battery life is as advertised, i.e. it’s great. Not exactly scientific but I started using the Chromebook on and off around 11:00am on Christmas Eve morning, December 24 and didn’t need to recharge it until this morning about 9:00am. So I got a couple of good days use on a single charge. Not continuous use mind you, but my typical couch surfing, emailing, social media type sessions. In comparison my work laptop would require three charges over the same period of time with equivalent usage.

The keyboard is solid on the Chromebook. I’m composing this post on it and haven’t had any problems. Spacing is good and there’s no flex when I type. Overall, it’s a good experience. I will say that I find it odd that the keyboard is missing some keys that I use quite often: home, delete, page up and page down. That will take some time to get used to.

The only major complaint that I have is regarding the touchpad. I hate it. I prefer physical buttons on my touchpads. I like to rest the fingers on my left hand on the buttons and drive with my right. The Chromebook has a multi-touch touchpad, which means that it registers my hands as multi-touch. Go figure. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but so far I’ve found it quite irritating.

That’s it, my initial thoughts on the Chromebook. I’ll be using it as my daily driver while I’m on vacation so I should have more to report in another week.

Mobile computing at its finest, the Golden-i Headset

Not to be confused with the Golden-Showers Headset (post for another time), the Golden-i Headset is a mobile computer worn by paramedics made by Ikanos Consulting, a Nottinghamshire, UK firm. The headset itself is butt ugly, but the functionality is cool. The headset can be controlled by both voice and head gestures.

How many use cases can you think of for something like this in pharmacy? Several, I’m sure.

Medgadget: “The headset has a camera and microphone for interacting with applications and to communicate with hospital physicians. The Paramedic Pro software performs voice recognition and allows patient data lookup and entry through voice alone. Remote physicians can see and hear through the headset, allowing them to guide paramedics in stabilizing their patients and starting treatment in difficult cases.”

Motion takes the wrapper off new F5t and C5t rugged tablet PCs

Motion has is a familiar name in the healthcare industry. Their C5 tablet PC used to be fairly popular among hospitals implementing BCMA. Not so much anymore.

Regardless of their current popularity, Motion has announced an update to a couple of their rugged tablet PCs, namely the F5t and C5t. I’m not a big fan of either as I prefer their J3500, but they’re still pretty slick machines.
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Microsoft Surface RT tablet for $199? Too good to be true

I’ve been reading reports at various tech blogs that the new Microsoft Surface RT tablet due out in late October is going to be priced at $199. While I’d like to believe it, I simply think it’s too good to be true. At $199 the Windows RT version of the Surface tablet would be a no-brainer for anyone looking for a nice tablet with enterprise potential. Let’s face it, at that price I wouldn’t hesitate to grab one site unseen.


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Time to revisit the ultra-mobile personal computing platform

Remember when ultra-mobile personal computing (UMPC) was all the rage? I do, but it’s been a while. That was back in the day when you had machines like the HTC Shift or the OQO Microcomputer (Models 1-3).

You could argue that smartphones have become the new UMPC platform, or even perhaps the host of new iOS and Android tablets, but they’re really not the same thing. The UMPC movement involved computers that were designed, in concept at least, to give you the desktop experience on a machine that you could fit in your pocket. This included using an operating system similar to the desktop as well as a physical keyboard and the ability to dock the device and use peripherals like a mouse.

A perfect example of a UMPC device was the OQO Microcomputer. The OQO was a 5-inch computer with physical keyboard that ran Microsoft Windows. I wanted one so bad I could taste it. Unfortunately the OQO was a $2000 luxury that I simply couldn’t justify at the time. I did however get my hands on one for about a week. The experience was cool, but it definitely left me feeling like the device would be difficult to use as a true desktop replacement.
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