Tools

August 8, 2008

A bunch of new devices and technologies have hit the primary care market this year. Here are a few that caught our attention:

A bunch of new devices and technologies have hit the primary care market this year. Here are a few that caught our attention:

Piccolo xpress by Abaxis
Earlier this year, Union City, California-based Abaxis Inc.’s Piccolo xpress point-of-care chemistry analyzer was approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration for four additional blood tests to be performed in a doctor’s office without a complex laboratory, the company announced.

The tests, or “analytes,” for chloride, potassium, sodium, and total carbon dioxide, were granted the FDA’s waived status under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments. With those analytes approved, physician practices without a complex lab can perform - and be reimbursed for - 20 common blood tests, which comprise more than 90 percent of the tests ordered by U.S. doctors, according to a statement from Abaxis, which claims it is the first company to be cleared by the FDA for the broad range of screenings.

Abaxis’ competitors in the chemistry analyzer market include the iSTAT by Abbott Laboratories, SpotChem EZ by Polymedco Inc. and EZ Chem by Bracco

The ability to perform these blood tests in-office allows Richard Shorter, a solo FP in Princeton, West Virginia, who owns an older Piccolo model, to share results with the patient in about 12 minutes, rather than calling them back.

“You get better compliance, I believe, when it’s face to face” says Shorter, adding that he bought his device from another doctor for $7,000. “They tend to take it more seriously.”

The xpress model is reportedly faster and has improved circuitry, connectivity and record storage, according to Abaxis. More than 95 percent of the devices are leased, typically for about $300 a month.

Vivacare
With Google, WebMD, and soon to-be released Medpedia, patients have plenty of options when searching for health information on the Web. Berkeley, California-based Vivacare wants to give doctors a chance to steer patients in a direction that is more compatible with their treatment.

Vivacare, founded and developed by pediatrician Mark Becker, is a free, online patient library where the doctor controls the medical references to better reflect what they told the patient in the exam room.

The library is prepopulated with several hundred handouts and other patient-oriented references from multiple sources, including industry groups such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, patient support groups such as the National MS Society, government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and FDA, and medical publishers.

Doctors can turn topics on or off, as well as add or edit handouts to reflect their own perspectives on a particular drug or therapy so that their patients, ideally, get their perspective before they go online. Of course, there’s nothing stopping patients from getting an online second opinion.

Vivacare’s library can be added to an existing website, or serve as the starting point for a standalone site with additional practice-specific information. Patients locate a condition or medication using drop-down menus or a search function.

While the service is free to physicians and patients, pharmaceutical and medical device firms can add information regarding their products to the patient libraries, such as tips on how to apply a medication or rebate coupons, according to the company.

“Vivacare gives physicians a voice online so that patients receive health information from the source they trust most, their own doctor," says Becker. “…Importantly, advertisements do not appear on the physician's Library.”

Sfax by SecureCare Technologies
Faxing is dead - long live the fax. Or so says SecureCare Technologies’ Sfax, an electronic fax record that allows practices to send and receive faxes over the Internet without any paper involved.

Austin, Texas-based SecureCare Technologies Inc., which released Sfax in 2007, updated it in February to include digital signature and annotation features to help doctor’s offices go paperless. The company says the Internet-based tool provides a log and audit trail for all fax documents and eliminates manual paper processing of fax documents. It is sold as an add-on to existing health care applications or as a stand-alone. Subscriptions start at $99 a month, depending on the size of practice.

SecureCare studied a California doctor using its product who switched from sending 3,000 to 4,000 paper fax pages each month to SecureCare’s electronic system. He reportedly reduced his office’s time spent sending faxes from two to three hours per day to less than 20 minutes, according to the company.

Sfax is compatible with a practice’s EHR system and allows users to download and attach incoming faxes directly to patients’ charts.