MedApps (Scottsdale, Arizona) is striving ultimately to offer, according to its tagline, "Healthcare Anywhere," and it is starting with a device for diabetics designed to help these patients communicate more effectively — and remotely — with healthcare professionals.
The key instrument for doing this? — the cell phone.
The relatively new company this week reported that the FDA had granted clearance for over-the-counter use for its D-PAL Remote Patient Monitoring System for Diabetes, the company's first device system.
Kent Dicks, president of MedApps, acknowledged that MedApps is "not the first" company to use a cell phone as a way of delivering information to patients. But he said that others on the market fairly often download abundant information in the form of charts or graphs and prompts the user to act.
"We found that the majority of the patients don't want that," Dicks told Medical Device Daily, possibly because overly complex.
D-PAL currently combines with the PolyMap Polytel devices, a system from Polymap Wireless (Tucson, Arizona), which connect to the LifeScan (Piscataway, New Jersey), business of Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, New Jersey) OneTouch Ultra and delivers the data via Bluetooth technology to the patient's cell phone.
The cell phone in turn acts as a "hub" of information for the patient and transmits the information to the central server in near real-time.
The fact that the patient relies on a cell phone is the critical — and patient-friendly — feature of the idea since about 70% of Americans now have cellphones, Dicks said.
Technology for this sort of applications has to be "invisible" and "ubiquitous ... something in the background," Dicks said, adding that the development of devices that are user-friendly is a primary company mandate, the keystone of its "Healthcare Anywhere" mantra.
In designing this device, intended for what Dicks estimates as the 21 to 23 million diabetic patients in the U.S., the company wanted simplicity and a device that could be incorporated into the active lifestyles of many patients.
Initially, in the first iteration available to patients, they will use MedApps' cell phone, but in future models, patients are likely to be able to use any cell phone.
"There also has to be a psychological development [for] this" on the part of patient to adapt to this technology, Dicks told MDD.
He offered the analogy of an individual using a cell phone before getting in his or her car, when the cell phone automatically switches to the car's hands-free system, all without any action required on the part of the individual.
"The technology sensed what I was doing and created my environment on the phone," Dicks said.
MedApps says D-PAL represents a "revolutionary new way" for people with diabetes to automatically transfer their daily glucose readings from their D-PAL integrated glucose monitors directly to a central server.
In addition to being stored for record-keeping, the data will be available for use by healthcare professionals, namely nurses who are employed by large healthcare companies to monitor patients.
Founded a year ago, the company developed the system internally.
It uses a business-to-business model, targeting all the the large health insurers, such as United Healthcare (Edina, Minnesota) and Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, California) that contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services , as well as major healthcare management companies such as McKesson (San Francisco)
These companies depend on or utilize call centers that employ nurses who are responsible for perhaps hundreds of patients to ensure that they are monitored and able to initiate intervention by a healthcare professional if their self-management fails and they get into trouble – considered a particularly difficult and frequent problem for those with diabetes.
The earlier healthcare professionals can intervene, the more cost savings the company sees and the greater quality of health for the patient, Dicks said.
The D-PAL System gives nurses "a way of prioritizing" the needs of the various patients they may be monitoring, he said.
The company said that pre-established thresholds are set for each patient by their healthcare provider. When a reading occurs outside of these thresholds, an alert may occur and the patient may be contacted using a pre-determined mode. One such mode is an interactive voice response system which can qualify additional behavioral information by asking such questions as, "Have you exercised today? or "Have you taken your medication?"
"The responses to these questions, combined with previously collected biometric data, give the healthcare professional greater insight into a patient's health," the company says.
D-PAL is the first of a series of medical devices by MedApps that integrates with the MedApps System.
Additional integrated devices will include scales, blood pressure monitors, spirometers (for asthma or COPD patients), pulse oximeters and a variety of implantable devices such as pacemakers.