Healthy Trends for Digital Health

health info on ipadDoctors and patients are increasingly tapping, zooming, and clicking in a flurry of connectivity.  According to Fred Pennic author of HIT Consultant’s Mind Blowing HIT Stats and Trends:

  • 85% of US Physicians own or use any smartphone professionally
  • 62% of US physicians own a tablet
  • 81% of physicians own an iPad
  • 50% of tablet owning physicians have used their device at the point of care
  • 39% of US physicians communicate online with patients via email, secure messaging, instant messaging, or online video conferencing
  • Two-thirds of physicians use online video to learn and keep up to date with clinical information
  • 88% of physicians would like patients to be able to track or monitor their health at home

Physicians spend an average of 11 hours online for professional purposes per week. And those with three screens (tablets, smartphones, and desktops/laptops) spend more time online on each device and go online more often during the workday than physicians with one or two screens.

wireless doctorsIn addition to communicating with patients, most doctors say they wish they could wirelessly access electronic medical records, prescribe, monitor both in- and out-patients and track patient referrals.

And it’s not just doctors. Patients and consumers are at it too!  Health related Google searches are up 47% from last year, and:

  • 20% of patients would like to monitor their fitness & wellbeing
  • 18% would like to allow a physician to remotely monitor a condition
  • 80% of Internet users look online for health information
  • 20% search for health related content on mobile devices
  • 23% use social media to follow health experiences of friends

Even more mind-blowing…in 2012 consumers were willing to spend $14 Billion on digital health products. This included $700 Million on mobile health applications, $4 Billion on health related video games and $8.9 Billion on resources rating doctors & hospitals.

No word from Fred on how much of their health information people are getting from blogs such as Word on Health. But with thousands of views each day, and increase in readership of >100% versus 2011, we certainly seem to be part of this upwards digital healthcare trend.

Where do you get your healthcare information? We’d love to hear from you.

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OMG! Smartphone Sex Risk for Teens

Teenagers and their phones!  As any parent or indeed observer of human life knows, the mobile phone has become the most important adolescent accessoryTexting has even taken over from talking as their preferred form of communication. 72% of all teens and 88% of teen cell phone users text-message at least once a day.

And while they may not all rival world record texter, Fred Lidgren, who sent 566,607 text messages during a one month period, I know several who are not far behind. And for those of you still doing the math, yes that’s a staggering 18,887 texts per day or 787 per hour or 13 texts each minute. LOL!

Not only does smartphone use kill the art of conversation, it has a decidedly most sinister side-effect.  According to new research just presented at the American Public Health Association meeting, smartphone use among teens is associated with an increased likelihood of being solicited for sex and having sex with an internet-met partner.

According to a 2011 survey among almost two thousand Los Angeles high school students, young people with smartphones are one and a half times as likely to report being sexually active, almost two times as likely to have been approached online for sex, and more than twice as likely to engage in sex with an Internet-met partner compared with those who do not access the internet on their cell phones.

Additionally, those being solicited online for sex are also found to be engaging in unprotected sex. Five percent of the participants reported using the Internet to seek sex partners and 17% of the participants reported being approached online for sex by someone they did not know.

We, parents, health educators, physicians, must recognize that cell phones are yet another new way for adolescents to meet sex partners,” said researcher Hailey Winetrobe, MPH. “Parents and school health professionals should talk to their teens about being safe in meeting people online and in using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.”

While we’re not suggesting that parents take their teenagers cell phones away, maybe it’s time to put those smartphones to good use and create apps and websites for adolescent-targeted sexual health programs.

What do you think?

i-Nhaler i-Mprovement?

Asthma is one of the world’s most common chronic diseases, affecting some 300 million people and almost 5 percent of the world’s population. It’s also the 5th most costly condition in the US  – an estimated at $56 billion annually. But as we’ve reported here previously, a significant number of people with asthma either don’t use their asthma medications or use them incorrectly.

Improving asthma control is known to reduce the cost of treating asthma by eliminating unnecessary hospitalizations, ED visits, and office visits. The additional cost of an uncontrolled asthma patient compared to a controlled asthma patient is estimated at $3,000-$4,000  per patient annually.

So, we were interested to learn last week that the FDA approved a sensorized asthma inhaler that can track usage and transmit the data to a smartphone and the web. The manufacturer – Asthmapolis will begin to market the asthma sensor and both English and Spanish language versions of the companion software in the US very soon.

Our mission is to make it easier for patients and their physicians to do a better job of managing asthma with less effort than traditionally required.” said David Van Sickle, co-founder and CEO of Asthmapolis.

The small and lightweight device attaches to the end of most inhalers, and the app tracks the time and location of each medication discharge and reminds patients to use it if they forget.

In clinical studies of the Asthmapolis system, uncontrolled asthma declined by 50%, and more than 70% of patients improved their level of control.  In addition it can identify trends in a patients asthma triggers and symptoms over time and provide patients with personalized education on how to improve their asthma.

Not only will the device talk directly to the patients, physicians and other health care providers will be able to identify, in near-real-time, patients with uncontrolled disease and attend to them before they suffer a severe exacerbation.

Despite all we know about asthma and how to treat it, the majority of patients still do not have the disease under control, and traditional approaches to self-management have been time-consuming and complicated,” said Inger Couture, chief regulatory officer of Asthmapolis. “The Asthmapolis technology makes it much easier to track symptoms and use of metered dose inhalers, allowing patients, their families and their doctors to gain a valuable new perspective on the disease.”

And that can only be a good thing.

Pharma – Cracking Down on Crime

It’s rare in the pharmaceutical industry when a drop in numbers is a sign of good news. Unless it’s fewer side effects, most industry insiders cringe when they hear that this year’s figures are lower than last.

However, SRxA’s Word on Health brings you news of a downward trend that should please all but the most criminal elements of society.

A new report from Freightwatch International shows that the number of thefts of pharmaceuticals significantly declined over the past 12 months.  Not only were there fewer incidents, the average value of each theft was lower.  In total, there were 36 thefts involving shipments during 2011, compared to 49 in 2010. And the average value of lost shipments was $585,000, down dramatically from $3.78 million the year before. Trailer thefts accounted for approximately 90% of the heists. Deceptive pickups and burglaries from warehouses made up the remainder.

This was the first year on record that the pharmaceutical industry did not have the highest value per theft incident. That distinction went to the electronics industry, where the most targeted items were televisions, consumer electronics and cell phones.

Significantly, there were just two pharmaceutical thefts valued at more than $1 million last year. In previous years, the average loss per pharmaceutical theft averaged between $3.5 million and $4 million. Two years ago, medicines worth up to $75 million were stolen from an Eli Lilly distribution center in Connecticut after robbers broke in by cutting a hole in the roof.  That incident resulted in national headlines and prompted the drugmakers  to improve security efforts and tighten the supply chain. Organizations such as the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition are now dedicated to preventing the theft of medicines in transit.

Nevertheless, pharmaceutical supply chain issues remain a hot topic.

RxPatrol is an initiative designed to collect, collate, analyze and disseminate pharmacy theft intelligence to law enforcement agencies nationwide.

The FDA is also concerned about protecting consumers from the threat of stolen, counterfeit, and diverted prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Stolen products may put consumers at risk because they may not have been stored or handled properly or may have been tampered with while out of the normal supply chain.  An FDA website lists all thefts involving FDA-regulated products that have been stolen either from warehouses or tractor-trailers, and encourages the public to report any suspected criminal activity.

Earlier this month, the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) published its proposed general chapter on good distribution practices to ensure pharmaceutical supply chain integrity, for comment in advance of its upcoming workshop due to be held in May 2012.  The aim of the workshop will be to develop best practices to combat counterfeit active pharmaceutical ingredients, excipients, drug products and medical devices that are imported into the USA.

And that can only be a good thing. One of the most harrowing books I ever read was Dangerous Doses by investigative journalist Katherine Eban. In it she exposes a world of criminal activity and corruption and how an increasing number of Americans get counterfeit medicines instead of the real thing.

And while pharmaceutical thefts have not gone away, they are on the decline. For that we must be grateful this Monday morning.

I Spy an AED

SRxA’s Word on Health loves a good challenge – and they don’t come much better than this.  A group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are set to save lives with cell phone cameras… and they need help.

The MyHeartMap Challenge, will be a month-long contest starting in mid January. It will invite Philadelphians to the streets and social media sites to locate as many automated external defibrillators (AEDs) as they can. AEDs are lifesaving devices used to deliver a controlled electric shock and restore normal cardiac rhythm following a heart attack.  AED’s are widely used in hospitals and by pre-hospital providers such as EMT’s; but they can also be used by people with no medical training since they provide audio instructions that talk users through the process of performing CPR and defibrillation.

There’s an estimated one million AEDs across the nation. Some are hung clearly on the walls in airports and casinos, but others are tucked away in restaurant closets and under cash registers in coffee shops. Since  AEDs are not subject to regulations that would allow their makers to know where or when their devices are being used there’s currently no uniform system to track their location.

The contest hopes to change that.  Furthermore, it’s just a first step in what the Penn team hopes will grow to become a nationwide AED registry project that will put the lifesaving devices in the hands of anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Armed with a free app on their mobile phones, contest participants will snap pictures of the lifesaving devices wherever they find them in public places around the city. Contestants will then use the app to geotag the photos with their location and details about the device and send them to the research team via the app itself or the project’s web site.

The data collected will be used to create an updated app linking locations of all public AEDs in the city with a person’s GPS coordinates to help them locate the nearest AED during an emergency.

Better still – the person or team who finds the most AEDs during the contest will win $10,000. Additionally, people who find various pre-located “golden AEDs” around the city will win $50.

More and more, scientists are learning that we can benefit from the wisdom of the crowd,” says MyHeartMap Challenge leader Raina Merchant, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine. “Participation from ordinary citizens will allow us to answer questions and make the city safer than our team could ever do on its own.”

MyHeartMap Challenge participants can register as individuals or teams, and the Penn researchers suggest participants develop creative ways to maximize their chances of winning. If, for instance, a team can figure out how to use their social networks via Twitter and Facebook to engage people who work in public locations in Philadelphia to take photos of AEDs, the team could win $10,000 dollars without even leaving their desks. These “virtual teams” could prove to be faster and more efficient than any individual working alone. Participants can also organize AED scavenger hunts or mini-contests to locate all the AEDs in a workplace building, or compete against friends to see who can find the most devices. The researchers encourage participants to start strategizing and forming teams now so they can be first out of the gate to win.

What are you waiting for?

Pine Powder Puts an End to Sneezing

According to researchers at the University of Gothenburg, the end may be in sight for allergy sufferers.  Patients plagued by the misery of seasonal allergic rhinitis, better known as hay fever, can be cured, thanks to a powder derived from pine trees.

Cellulose nasal sprays like Nasaleze and Nasal Ease, have been on the market for years, but there wasn’t scientific evidence they worked – until now.

Now in this latest study, scientists found that the pine tree powder forms a barrier on the mucous membrane when puffed into the nose, filtering out allergens such as tree and flower pollen.

The cellulose powder has no adverse effects, and this fact makes it a particularly attractive treatment for children,” said study author Dr. Nils Aberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics.

The double blind, placebo-controlled  study, was carried out during the birch pollen season and involved 53 children and adolescents aged 8 – 18 years with allergies to pollen. Participants puffed the pine-tree derived cellulose powder in the nose three times daily for four weeks. They also took a daily dose of an oral antihistamine.
Pollen levels were measured every day and were subsequently analyzed in relation to the symptoms reported by the children. Patients or their parents were reminded to report their symptom scores using daily SMS messages sent to their mobile phones.
Results showed a statistically significant reduction in total symptom scores from the nose.  Further data for the study, published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, came from past unpublished statistics of pollen levels collected for 31 years at the same location in Gothenburg, from 1979 to 2009.

Dr. Aberg added: “We showed that the nasal symptoms of the children were significantly reduced in those who used the cellulose powder. The best effect was obtained at low to moderate concentrations of pollen”.

Word on Health asked leading allergist, Dr. Bill Storms for his reaction to this study.  He told us, “It appears that the  waxy coat of the pine tree pollen might line the inside of the nose after sniffing it and  this might prevent other pollens from getting into the mucus membranes. However, I note that patients were asked to do this three times a day and I’m not sure how many will do this.  I also wonder if there are any long term effects of putting cellulose in the nose.”

As we’ve said so many times before, further studies are needed.

Pharma Reps being replaced by iPads and Portals

As previously reported here, industry downsizing has resulted in the loss of over 30,000 sales positions over the past 5 years.   Now, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, big pharma companies have found a way to replace many of the sales reps they’ve been laying off in recent years.  Apparently the void is being filled by digital sales tools such as websites and iPad apps. Doctors can use the tools to ask questions about drugs, order free samples and find out which insurers cover certain treatments. The changes are designed to cut costs and to reach doctors in ways other than the traditional office visit, which many busy physicians say they find intrusive and annoying. In 2009, one of every five doctors in the U.S. was what the industry calls a “no see,” meaning the doctor wouldn’t meet with reps. Just a year later that jumped to one in four.  Currently about three-quarters of industry visits to U.S. doctors’ offices fail to result in a face-to-face meeting. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, drug companies dramatically increased their U.S. sales forces, an escalation most companies came to regret as the economy took a downturn.  Many of those same companies are now involved in this digital shift including Sanofi-Aventis, Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Boehringer Ingelheim . Citing data from market-research firms, Eddie Williams, head of Novo Nordisk‘s biopharmaceutical business in the U.S., said 72% of U.S. doctors own a smartphone, and 95% of them use it to download medical applications. Novo Nordisk has several applications available on iTunes, including one that helps doctors calculate blood-sugar levels and another iPad/iPhone application which offers tools to help doctors diagnose bleeding disorders. Other companies such as Eli Lilly  are now considering “on-demand portals” that will allow doctors to access information instantly as they are treating patients. Although some companies have yet to be convinced of the benefits of e-marketing, most agree it is the way forward. Following the launch of Pradaxa in the U.S., Boehringer Ingelheim put together a digital-marketing package to target doctors, but found that sales calls to doctors’ offices were still the most powerful tool for driving new prescriptions, says. “No doubt digital marketing does have an impact…but I don’t believe, however, the shift happens overnight,” said Wa’el Hashad, the company’s VP of marketing. SRxA can help pharmaceutical clients with all of their digital marketing needs. Whether it’s interactive e-learning platforms, webinars, podcasts, e-newsletters, e-surveys or website design and development our fully customized, physician approved offerings will exceed your expectations. Contact us today to learn more.

Cancer Calling

The question of whether or not cell phones cause cancer is not new. Until now we’ve shied away from reporting such stories because the debate literally has our brains buzzing and our pockets vibrating. Now however, after reviewing details from dozens of published studies, an international panel of experts says: yes – cell phones could cause cancer.

During a weeklong meeting, 31 experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed possible links between cancer and the type of electromagnetic radiation found in cellphones, microwaves and radar. The agency has credibility and the ear of the world. As the cancer arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), their assessment will now be sent to the WHO and national health agencies for possible guidance on cellphone use. The group classified cellphones in category 2B, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic to humans. Other substances in that category include the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust.

These recent findings are at odds with the results of a large 2010 study that found no clear link between cellphones and cancer. But some advocacy groups contend the study raised serious concerns because it showed a hint of a possible connection between very heavy phone use and glioma, a rare but often deadly form of brain tumor. The study was controversial because it began with people who already had cancer and asked them to recall how often they used their cellphones more than a decade ago. In about 30 other studies done in Europe, New Zealand and the U.S., patients with brain tumors have not reported using their cellphones more often than unaffected people. Furthermore, because cellphones are so popular, it may be impossible for experts to compare cellphone users who develop brain tumors with people who don’t use the devices.

According to a survey last year, the number of cellphone subscribers worldwide has hit 5 billion, or nearly three-quarters of the global population. People’s cellphone habits have also changed dramatically since the first studies began years ago and it’s unclear if the results of previous research would still apply today.  Since many cancerous tumors take decades to develop, experts say it’s impossible to conclude cellphones have no long-term health risks. The studies conducted so far haven’t tracked people for longer than a decade.

However, before you throw away your phone it’s worth noting that in the past the IARC has given the same classification to pickled vegetables and coffee!

Hold That Call!

Could you be allergic to your phone?  In the second of our series of stories emanating from this year’s American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology allergists warn that “increased use of cell phones with unlimited usage plans has led to more prolonged exposure to nickel.”

According to allergist Luz Fonacier, MD, “Patients come in with dry, itchy patches on their cheeks, jaw lines and ears and have no idea what is causing their allergic reaction.”

Nikel is one of the most common contact allergens, and affects up to 17% of women and 3% of men. Contact with objects containing nickel, such as keys, coins and paper clips are generally brief, so the nickel allergy may not occur on the area of contact. However, the risk is increased by frequent, prolonged exposure to nickel-containing objects, such as cell phones.

Symptoms of nickel allergy include redness, swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions and sometimes oozing and scarring. Avoidance of direct skin contact is the best solution and experts suggest that if you have a nickel allergy or are experiencing symptoms that you try using a plastic film cover, a wireless ear piece, or switch to a phone that does not contain metal on surfaces that contact the skin.

Those who suspect they have allergies to cosmetics, tattoos or nickel should be tested by an allergist – a doctor who is an expert in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma.

To learn more about allergies and asthma, take a free relief self-test or find an allergist near you visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.