Donna, it’s Baltimore. You’re not in NYC or Las Vegas.
Arriving after a long trip to a city you used to visit regularly, but haven’t been to in over 30 years, is disorienting, especially when you are heading on a fair spring day to a section that didn’t exist then. The Inner Harbor and Camden Yards resemble Atlanta, not necessarily a bad thing since the parts of ‘Charm City’ they replaced were largely past ‘gentrification’. The Baltimore Convention Center was unexpectedly huge, the distance to registration made longer by a taxi driver who dropped me off at another entrance two blocks away. Any resolve I had to drop in on the many educational sessions was dissuaded by the sheer length of the halls. The thick Exhibit Guide confirmed that the show floor filled two city blocks–a challenge to cover and spend time with my appointments before the close of the day.
Was it a hardware show, a software show or somewhere in between?
You could make a case for both views. One observer I walked with at the start compared it to a radiology trade show–all hardware. Yet a closer look indicated that the hardware–the PCs, tablets and smartphones–was there to show software that integrated: systems to track patients, distribute information, workflows, store and forward images and reports. It was about enabling secure consults, platforms, interoperability, two-way data flows, mitigating readmissions and putting telehealth, telemedicine and education into provider and patient hands. It was also about making the business case. It was most definitely NOT about gadgets and single purpose peripherals, though the latter were still quite visible. The old picture of telehealth closed systems, of proprietary monitoring devices feeding data onto a proprietary PC platform where it’s seen by a care manager, is so 2011.
Noteworthy: the growth in specialized services like telepsychiatry, teleneurology, teleradiology and teledermatology. Contrast: despite VGo‘s ubiquitous telepresence robots accosting you on the floor, a tablet-faced robot following a nurse down the hospital hall and ‘consulting’ with patients will likely still be a rarity.
Patient engagement on top
Traditional telehealth device makers are connecting their devices and opening up their reporting platforms to be accessible to patients. But there are bumps along the way in this transition. A&D Medical has gone ‘Wellness Connected’ with a mobile app supporting, via Bluetooth Smart, their blood pressure monitors, weight scales and an activity monitor. The information is viewable, uploads to a PHR and can be social-shared in Twitter and Facebook. Their presentation and materials were smooth. Ideal Life opened up their proprietary system to be device agnostic, and prominently features coaching as part of population health management in achieving a 66 percent reduction in bed days, admission and costs in a six-month test with cardiovascular and pulmonary disease patients in North Carolina. But their presentation needed work. Germany’s Vitaphone, with a US operation in Las Vegas, has added engagement and education services through ‘Lifedata Services’. Their sales spokespersons were articulate and winning, but the takeaway materials needed a refresh. Alere Connect uses multiple devices to connect into various hubs for different situations which integrate into Alere’s existing care management, coaching and patient behavior change programs. I regretted not visiting their display due to time, missing Kent Dicks who as founder/CEO of MedApps pulled off a spectacular hat trick in transitioning a small company into a division of a giant as well as moving forward their tech/systems, but seen from a distance and photos, their booth was a quality presentation from a leader.
Leaving the devices to others are patient engagement, adherence, patient relationship management and social support programs like NYC-based Fitango, which gives providers and payers a white-label-able online/mobile program blending pre-developed and custom-built content. Fitango was part of a 34-company Startup Zone, many of which also presented at Sunday’s Telemedicine Venture Summit and also presented that day in Innovation Spotlight meetings above the exhibit floor.
Skipping the PC is soon-to-debut (not on the floor) VOX Telehealth which will engage orthopedic patients participating in an ‘episode of care’ (usually 90 days prior to surgery and 90 days after) with educational resources, improved care coordination and proactive clinical support delivered solely through mobile devices (via Will Passano of VOX)–a smart idea to fit into this clearly defined, usually shared savings care model.
AT&T showed a wealth of ‘smart network’ technology from mPERS with fall detection (EverThere) to clinical support as part of their latest iteration of AT&T ForHealth. Perhaps it was too much for one visit, especially at the end of the day. Their busy booth staff were guiding visitors through tons of scope, including developmental tech. Angela Yee was kind enough to follow up with materials which are shared in part here: Virtual Care, a ‘vision video’, Telehealth White Paper
Another area which if the day were longer I would have spent more time in was the XPRIZE Pavilion adjacent to the Startup Zone. XPRIZE is a series of high-profile challenges which include the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE (with Scanadu among several competitors). The 13 exhibitors included in this double row of booths included Intelesens Ltd. wireless vital signs monitoring in LTC and hospital from the UK. Like the Startup Zone, XPRIZE also presented in the Innovation Spotlight meetings series on Tuesday. The problem for participants was how do you attend the main meetings, view the floor and go to the specialized meetings?
I was eager to tour an actual HealthSpot Station after writing about it since 2012, and strategic account manager Daniel Tekle and marketing director Angie Homan were more than happy to oblige. Impressions: it was large, making it suitable for situations where it is almost a free-standing doctor’s office or small clinic, which means community clinics, large offices or factories, pharmacies as a self-contained, upgraded ‘minute clinic’. Inside was clean, spacious both in width and height (no attacks of claustrophobia here and suitable for the mobility challenged), the large consult video screen was at a comfortable ‘desk length’ distance, there was a back bench where a family member or caregiver could comfortably sit, it’s attended and sanitized after use. It was soothing (blue and white) and comfortable after the overload of the show floor. The telehealth devices are concealed in various doors flanking the screen; they open with a bit of a start that felt like the credits for the 1960s spy comedy ‘Get Smart’ ): BP cuff , otoscope, scale (unobtrusively integrated into the floor), a streamlined stethoscope, dermascope and more. It was a pleasant experience overall and I’d be attracted to it if in my area. (See their overview here) Their funding is ample (nearly closed on a $20 million round) and their high-profile alliances in the past year with Cleveland Clinic with now a JV, and a trial with Kaiser Permanente (both announced at ATA) to extend their telemedicine options and locations confirm their moving forward strongly. (More here on HealthSpot in TTA)But not every setting or situation is suitable, can justify the expense or requires the ‘full featured’ aspect of HealthSpot Station. For these ‘jobs to be done’, from Australia, there’s TeleMedCare. It’s a tabletop unit which has had a successful history there, and which is being introduced into Canada and the US in congregate settings such as tribal health clinics, corporate onsite clinics and fitness centers by a US based team with full rights to the kit. I joined Steve O’Leary and Bill Hankinson, plus developer Branko Celler PhD of the CSIRO ICT Centre, for a walk-through which was unfortunately not live. It measures BP, heart rate, spirometry, pulse oximetry and ECG–and can tie into health records by a fingerprint reader. They claim clinical quality. Yes, it is not streamlined, but neither are ‘ruggedized’ military-grade tablets and laptops. I could envision it on a wall at a gym in Boca Raton Florida, an affluent area with many active older adults who have an unfilled need to monitor more advanced vital signs. The team has agreements in process with provincial governments and tribal nations in Canada, plus an airline. Funders should take a closer look at this company, as their kit could be a better fit where space and cost are at a premium.
One final bit of ‘news from the midway’ was the highly visible Don Jones’ quiet departure a month or so ago from Qualcomm Life, where he was VP Global Strategy and Market Development. On the ATA website, he is now listed as Chief Digital Officer for the Scripps Translational Science Institute. Qualcomm Life had a muted presence at ATA.
It was a long and busy day, and other reflections and news will inform our coverage going forward.