Raymond D. Aller, MD
Michael Weilert, MD
Dialing for vital signs: the latest application for cell phones
The premise that cell phones may be hazardous to your health seems a bit incongruous with efforts now underway to develop and market cell phones and other wireless devices that can track your health.
Several medical device manufacturers, software developers, and telecommunication companies are developing cell phone and other wireless applications to monitor indicators such as glucose, weight, blood pressure, and other data on patients going about their normal routine in a home environment. The devices automatically transmit that information back to the health care provider. These applications could help improve the quality of life for people with chronic diseases and potentially reduce the cost of care, according to HealthPia America, a vendor of mobile health care management products. HealthPia’s diabetes phone can read glucose strips, manage meal plans, provide medication management, and transmit this information to a physician or the patient’s guardian for further follow up.
Similarly, Motorola and Partners Telemedicine are collaborating on MotoHealth, which monitors chronically ill patients as they go about their daily lives. MotoHealth uses Motorola cell phones and small wireless sensors attached to the skin like a nicotine patch to collect and send to physicians such information as weight, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, temperature, and eventually even electrocardiograms. The body sensors communicate information to the cell phone via short-range wireless technology. This allows doctors to manage the frequency with which a patient’s vital signs are sampled as well as obtain automatic alerts for potential problems, according to the companies.
Another vendor, RTX Healthcare, has FDA 510(k) clearance for its RTX3320 PSTN Wireless Telehealth Gateway, a wireless Bluetooth-to-public switched telephone network gateway to seamlessly and securely transmit data from vital sign-monitoring devices like blood pressure monitors, personal weight scales, and peak flow monitors to an HTTP server on the Internet via a standard residential telephone line. The wireless Telehealth Gateway serves as the remote communications link between standard wireless patient monitors and health care providers.
Also getting into the act is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The CMS recently issued a request for information about the technical resources
and mechanisms available to support the agency in sending messages to physicians
and other health care providers that can be received using a handheld device,
such as a personal digital assistant (PDA) or cell phone. The CMS estimates
that it would send one or two messages per month to a targeted provider audience
through such a device. The messages could include Medicare news or information
on the Medicare drug benefit.
Portal brings competitors together for common good
Tweaking the phrase "competitive advantage," St. John’s Hospital and Memorial Medical Center, both in Springfield, Ill., are developing a portal on their respective Web sites that will allow medical staff to access the clinical information systems of the two competing hospitals.
Though the institutions are competitors, the portal idea made sense because the hospitals, which are only three blocks apart, share medical staff, says Gordon Lashmett, director of information systems at St. John’s, a 700+-bed hospital that is part of the Hospital Sisters Health System. The portal at St. John’s has been up and running for about 18 months, Lashmett says. Meanwhile, Memorial Medical Center, which is licensed for 562 beds and is part of the Memorial Health System, is still developing the link on its Web site.
Employees from both institutions worked together to standardize the user names of about 700 medical staff between the two hospitals. Physicians and other medical staff can also opt for the same password to log onto the information systems at both hospitals, he says. The password rules have been standardized to require the same amount of characters and letter/ number scheme for entry into the system. "It mitigates the number of variables an already burdened and very busy physician deals with in terms of accessing these systems," Lashmett says. There’s now also a single sign-on, he adds, rather than having a separate password to access, for example, medical records or lab results.
The portal idea surfaced about three years ago, explains Lashmett, when doctors noted how much easier their lives would be if the hospitals’ information systems were the same. While doing that would have been too complicated, standardizing the means of accessing those systems was a workable alternative.
As St. John’s continues to move more clinical data online, Lashmett says, the user-friendly portal should entice computer-shy doctors to move into the digital age. "You spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on these advanced IT systems, but where this community collaboration comes in is kind of the last mile of enticing physicians and getting them connected," he says.
By late last year, Lashmett adds, more than 400 doctors had logged onto the system.
Axolotl releases EMR technology
Axolotl Corp. has released technology to seamlessly populate physician electronic medical records with hospital and reference lab data. Using its new second-generation technology, e2, Axolotl has integrated this capability into its results distribution system, automating delivery to third-party EMR products.
Trestle announces plans to acquire Interscope Technologies
Trestle Holdings has entered into a letter of intent to acquire the assets of Interscope Technologies in exchange for Trestle stock. The acquisition is subject to the execution of definitive agreements and other conditions.
Interscope’s product suite includes integrated slide imaging, case flow, and clinical data-management applications. Trestle markets digital imaging and telemedicine applications to the life sciences markets.
In a separate announcement, Trestle reported that the Children’s Hospital, Denver, has installed its MedMicro Internet-accessible microscopy system
Creative Computer Applications to merge with PACS provider
Creative Computer Applications, a provider of clinical information systems, has entered into a letter of intent to merge with StorComm, a provider of picture archive communication systems and clinical image-management systems for the medical imaging market.
CCA will be the surviving entity, and StorComm shareholders will own half of the merged entity. The merger is expected to be completed this spring.
New chart-based order entry and results delivery system
Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, or LabCorp, and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions have introduced FirstChart, a chart-based laboratory order entry and results delivery system.
FirstChart integrates LabCorp’s laboratory processing abilities with Allscripts’ electronic medical record technology, patient chart viewing, and workflow capabilities. The product is designed to help LabCorp customers migrate toward use of an electronic medical record and other technology workflow solutions, such as e-prescribing and document imaging.
Wyndgate Technologies, a division of Global Med Technologies, has signed an agreement with Hospital Partners of America to install its SafeTrace Tx advanced transfusion management system at Twelve Oaks Medical Center, Houston.
Dr. Aller is director of bioterrorism preparedness and response for Los
Angeles County Public Health Acute Communicable Diseases. He can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hal Weiner is president
of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Dr. Weilert is director of laboratories, Community Hospitals of Central California,
Fresno. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.