Top 10 mHealth stories 2013

This was the year that the FDA handed down its final guidance on mobile medical apps to perhaps more questions than it answered.

The omnibus HIPAA Final Rule on Privacy & Security officially kicked in, as data breaches triggered by lost or stolen mobile devices continued, including one involving a cloud service. And telemedicine gained purchase in the so called "Wild West."

Those are among the top stories, judged by how many people read them. The complete list:

1. FDA OKs Verizon's first home health monitoring platform. This marks the first time the company has sought FDA approval for a healthcare solution, and places it in the midst of a fast-growing home healthcare industry. Company officials say the Converged Health Management platform will synch with devices developed by Toronto-based IDEAL LIFE, including a blood glucose monitor, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, scale and the company's newly developed Ideal Life Pod communication hub. Additional products in the IDEAL LIFE pipeline, expected to be announced soon, include devices for weight management, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

2. Latest hospital data breach involves cloud services. A transgression at the Oregon Health & Science University has added a new area of data breach concern: Unsecured cloud platforms. The university discovered in May that residents and physicians-in-training in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery were using cloud services to maintain a spreadsheet of patients, which included names, ID numbers, ages, provider names, diagnoses, dates of service and, in some cases, addresses. The intent, officials said, was to make it easier to share accurate information about patients admitted to those involved in each patient's care.

3. FDA issues final guidance on mobile medical apps. The FDA will exercise “enforcement discretion,” under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, for the majority of mobile apps “as they pose minimal risk to consumers,” the agency said in a media release. Among those are apps helping patients self-manage their disease or conditions “without providing specific treatment or treatment suggestions,” such as for tracking exercise and diet, automating health tasks or communicating with providers via EMRs. Instead, the FDA will focus “on a subset of mobile medical apps that present a greater risk to patients if they do not work as intended,” such as apps designed to detect melanoma.

4. Verizon works to bring mHealth to the masses. Children, women, seniors and the underserved all face issues with healthcare access that many feel can be addressed by mHealth. With this in mind, the Verizon Foundation has launched an ambitious program aimed at providing mHealth access and services to hundreds of thousands of the nation's neediest residents. And they're starting with the children. The foundation announced a partnership with the Children's Health Fund to equip 15 mobile health clinics with mHealth technology and deploy them to serve an estimated 15,000 children in Miami, San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, New York and Detroit. The first mobile unit was rolled out in Miami.

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