The downside of crowdfunding a health app

We haven’t heard from the iMPak JV between Meridian Health system of central New Jersey and Sweden’s Cypak for a while, since their pocket-sized sleep monitor debuted in May 2011. Now iMPak is testing the crowdfunding waters with its ‘Emmett’s Family Vacation’ combination book and mobile phone app for children. Designed to encourage healthy behaviors, it turns tracking everyday movement and steps into a game–pedometer tracking is uploaded onto a mobile phone, and the game works only when ‘energized’ by tracked activity. It also rewards the child with travel facts and history (which gets a big ‘like’ from Ed. Donna). The problem is that its crowdfunding placement on Kickstarter is not gaining traction–since the publication of the Mobihealthnews article on 8 Jan, it’s garnered a measly $50 in funding, totaling an anemic $150 of a distant $25,000 goal–and the deadline is 9 February. Two modest suggestions for iMPak: 1) Get thee over to a healthcare-oriented crowdfunder like Medstartr (contact: Alex Fair) or Health Tech Hatcha concentrated and interested audience, and 2) for the travel facts and history, cross-promote and add sponsored content from American Express, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, British Airways, Virgin, various museums, etc.

Wondering about the ‘Internet of Things’?

Feeling puzzled when the rhapsodized subject matter at your meeting or conference turns to The Internet of Things? Well, it’s what used to be called machine-to-machine, or M2M, which has been around for awhile. ZDNet has helpfully put together a ‘real-world’ information package ranging from a primer to how it affects development globally. There are multiple documents and links to content, plus a vendor guide. Here’s the introductory/index page: 2013’s hot topic: The Internet of Things (and our new way of covering it)

Why Athenahealth bought Epocrates

Normally Editor Donna would append this HIStalk Connect article [WARNING 31 Aug 2014: linked page may now be infected with malware] to our earlier one [TA 8 Jan] but it’s an extremely thorough external analysis of why Epocrates‘ core product–a mobile drug reference–would be worth nearly $300 million (a 22% premium to share value) to Athenahealth. While most have pointed out the mHealth aspects in improving the latter’s mobile offerings, the real reason, according to writer Travis Good, MD, is for Athenahealth to gain exposure to a hard-to-reach group via Epocrates’ ubiquity, and gain more physician users of its core services, practice management and EHR.

What chefs are cooking in the kitchen: FCC adding $400 million to rural telemedicine

Something’s always cooking in the Federal Government kitchen…in this instance the chef is the FCC, and the dish being spiced is the Clinton-era rural broadband scheme for telemedicine. The Rural Healthcare Connect Fund of $400 million will be allocated to rural hospitals, clinics, mental health centers, local health departments and medical/dental schools to connect them with corresponding urban providers and networks, improving quality and immediacy of care. Presumably the money was found in the couch cushions as the debt ceiling is already reached…$400 million FCC fund to bolster rural telemedicine networks (FierceMobileHealthcare)

GE gives entrepreneurial startups a spin with StartUp Health

GE has generated much positive news with its creation, in partnership with accelerator StartUp Health, of a three-year program that will select 10 consumer health startups to become high-growth companies within three years. The announcement, timed during CES, makes much of GE’s contribution to a customized growth curriculum, access to GEs executives including a GE leadership mentor for each company and exposure to GE technology experts. Application is extremely qualified and selective (naturally); the deadline is also short, 8 February–information here. This program is also separate from the existing StartUp Health Academy, although companies in the Academy are eligible to apply. GE joins companies like Nike in a similar setup with TechStars; Qualcomm Ventures has the QPrize in addition to leading the way in funding and partnering with early-stage wireless health companies.

What is not in the release and the MedCityNews article is this, according to Upstart Business Journal: GE Ventures (GE’s investment arm) and the StartUp Health Innovation Fund will negotiate for a 2-10% equity stake in each company. To Editor Donna, what is also notable about GE’s latest foray into ’emerging health innovations’ is that it is Take 2…or perhaps 3. Take 1 was a sub-majority stake, then acquisition of Living Independently Group’s QuietCare in 2008-9, which was to herald an entire Home Health division. Its later relegation into the Care Innovations JV with Intel (Take 2, notably dominated by Intel) was seen by industry observers as a tacit admission of, if not precisely failure, GE’s lack of notable success or confidence in the sector. So we can fairly say that we are cheered that GE has changed its mind–and the accelerator route may be a kinder, gentler way of supporting innovators in consumer healthcare tech.

Saga Homecare (UK) to offer GrandCare Systems

In what Editor Donna believes is its first foray outside the US, remote monitoring/socialization developer GrandCare Systems announced at CES their partnership with Saga Homecare, the largest private provider of domicilary (home) care services in the UK. GrandCare will be providing systems to Saga under the agreement to start in early 2013. The release seems to imply ‘Saga-ization’ as well. For those outside the UK who are unfamiliar with this company, think AARP but rather than growing out of an association and political lobbying group, expanding from travel and tourism to include publishing, financial services and healthcare delivery for 50+. Another move that points to technology integration. UK Home Care Provider, Saga at Home, Partners with GrandCare Systems to power home care services

Further sad confirmation of CTE

Further confirming the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the NFL is the recent examination by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) of linebacker Junior Seau’s brain. Seau, who retired from play after 20 years and was a well-liked, cheerful figure in San Diego, committed suicide unexpectedly at the young age of 43, and his family donated his brain to the NIH for study. It is just further sad confirmation of the Boston University study [TA 6 Dec] that this progressive disorder which occurs as a consequence of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury is the NFL’s scourge. Perhaps it is unavoidable in the game at present, as columnist George Will believes [TA 3 August]. There is now also increasing evidence that even without CTE, living NFL players are at high risk of other brain-related diseases, such as cognitive deficiencies and depression, based on a University of Texas at Dallas study. Seau Suffered From Brain Disease (NY Times) Retired NFL Players at Risk of Brain Deficits (MedPageToday)

For our readers: Do you believe that sensors in helmets and EHRs can mitigate this, which is where the NFL (and Army-NFL) funding is directed? Is this being found in other countries in contact sports such as rugby? Is there evidence, in other countries’ armed forces which have participated in Iraq and Afghanistan action, of suspected high frequencies of brain trauma?

Related: National Football League Readies New EHR System To Boost Care Quality for Players (includes Olympics and NBA) (iHealthBeat audio interview 06:13 and PDF transcript)  NEW: CTE, as cumulative, starts early  Institute of Medicine Studying Concussions in Young Athletes (NY Times)

More troubles in Australian telehealth

The latest news from the southeastern state of Victoria (Melbourne) features a blast from the state’s Health Minister on hundreds of millions in funding cuts, while the Federal minister claims that an additional AU$1 billion over four years is heading Victoria’s way. The debate continues (see TA 29 Dec for a lively reader discussion); is this reality or political blather? Telehealth rebate cut will hurt Vic: Davis Hat tip to reader Ellen ‘Ethical Lens’ Fink-Samnick.

Consolidation strikes: the Athenahealth-Epocrates acquisition

The much-rumored acquisition of major medical point-of-care reference database Epocrates by practice management/EHR leader Athenahealth has many good points for the latter, including the integration of drug interaction alerts into EHRs. Epocrates’ stumbles into mobile EHRs may also have, paradoxically, made it more attractive. But even with this, financial observers see Athenahealth as essentially sideways in terms of growth. But it may point to the major trends of 2013 your Editors have seen for awhile: a push for integration into easier-to-by ‘all in one’ packages; consolidation in order to stay in place in a muddling market. 4 observations about the $293 million athenahealth-Epocrates acquisition (MedCityNews) Editor Donna’s note: An interesting aside, for those who follow palace intrigues and the consolidation of the EHR market, is Allscripts’ ‘Christmas-surprise’ CEO dumping referred to at the end of the article, courtesy of financial analysis website Seeking Alpha.

Can telehealth fit in the medicine cabinet?

and, in the case of health plans, diversify enough to cushion the loss of beneficiaries to state exchanges or health system plans. Schoenfeld’s statement “I think luckily we are at the point that Washington is picking up on it. We’re going to see that remarkable change happen right in front of our eyes in 2013. I’m happy to go on record in saying that is going to be a transformational year for the health care industry because of the use of telehealth.” is perhaps the result of a premature cup of Christmas cheer. Now Editor Donna may be too cynical; maybe the ACA=Y2K and it will be resolved without disaster; hasn’t every year been transformational in health tech since 2005? But this ‘grizzled veteran’ cheerfully predicts that 2013 will be another really tough slog in FBQ* swampland. Progress will be made but no one will be ‘jumping for joy’. What is shaping up though, is that American Well, like other devices, has to be integrated. Either they will be doing the integrating, or (more likely) someone else will get it to fit into lives and finding someone to pay for it. American Well CEO: Telehealth is becoming part of everyone’s medicine cabinet (MedCityNews)

Hat tip to reader and ‘Aging in Place Technology’ writer/analyst Laurie Orlov

* The Five Big Questions (FBQs)–who pays, how much, who’s looking at the data, who’s actioning it, how data is integrated into patient records.

The eight VCs that did most digital health deals

The Rock Health accelerator for digital health did some tracking of its own–2012 investment action in the wide, wild world of digital health. Good news: investments were up 45% vs. 2011 to $1.4 billion. Not so great news: more than 20% of that was due to five large deals; out of 179 companies, only eight had invested in three or more companies. Many of the eight are familiar: Qualcomm Ventures, Aberdare Ventures, Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, NEA, West Health Investment Fund, BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, Council Capital and the ubiquitous Khosla Ventures. Most of these investments funded technologies relating to consumer engagement and personal health tracking. According to the bar chart in the article, most deals exceeded $5 million. Rock Health’s presentation (Slideshare). MedCityNews article.

On DARPA’s wish list: a portable brain recording device (US)

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for a small business developer to provide a Portable Brain Recording Device and App–not just any EEG + app but one that is low-cost ($30), highly portable, easily usable in the field, easy to use sensors, and downloads high-fidelity data directly to a phone or tablet without an interface. Beyond the battlefield, it’s envisioned in civilian hospitals and commercial research adaptations. Specifications are contained in SB131-002 Portable Brain Recording Device & App, 13.1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) here–read carefully all supporting material. On DARPA’s 2013 Wish List: Extreme Diving, Portable Brain Reading, And Gravity Vision (PopSci) Hat tip to TANN Ireland’s Toni Bunting.

Kaiser health records kept in unsecured warehouse, private home

Kaiser Permanente may–or may not–have fully dodged a near-atomic data breach of over 300,000 patient records and more. A now-public dispute between Kaiser and a vendor which stored records for some of their Southern California hospitals has put Kaiser in the hot seat for its practices with both the California Department of Public Health and US Health and Human Services (HHS). This long-time vendor was sued by Kaiser initially for not returning all records after the contract ended, and for storing records in questionable circumstances including a shared warehouse storing party rental items and a Ford Mustang, plus other records on home computers and hard drives stored in open garages. The vendor countered by accusing Kaiser of not encrypting transfers of electronic files and sending patient data requests and other sensitive information via unencrypted email. By the end of the Los Angeles Times article, you’ll be holding your aching head in disbelief at both sides, while reaching for the Tylenol (or Panadol). Vast cache of Kaiser patient details was kept in private home.

Leap Motion partners with ASUS

The Leap Motion gesture controller, widely tagged as the must-have gizmo of 2013 [TA 27 Dec] took one step forward from gizmo-dom by being bundled in selected ASUS PCs and notebooks by end of year. In the GizMag article are some stats on the controller–it can track the movement of the user’s hands at a ‘blistering’ 290 frames per second, tracking movements to 1/100th millimeter, far greater than Microsoft Kinect. A pointer to the nearby future for surgery, rehabilitation, personal connectedness.

The ‘over-quantified self’

A surprisingly dim view, at the level of The Gimlet Eye’s, of the Quantified Self, by Deanna Pogorelc in MedCityNews. She leads off with a tweet with Eric Topol reporting his first patient with ‘cyberchondria’. What to do with the data other than worrying about it? Well, it seems that developers and car makers like Ford and BMW are insisting that we have it (yes, heart rate DOES go up in NYC rush hour traffic), but does the average, non-chronic-condition person know what to do with TMI (too much information) other than worry? “The heart of the quantified self movement is empowering patients with their own data, but some of the startups and research projects I’ve seen lately make me think that we are overestimating the total number of people who want it and know what to do with it.” Well said. Are we headed toward the over-quantified self?

If you are heading to CES Las Vegas…

…you’ll be interested in attending Silvers Summit on Tuesday 8 January (agenda), Fitness Tech also on Tuesday (agenda), the two-day Digital Health Summit on Wednesday and Thursday 9-10 January (agenda) or TechZones such as Eureka Park and Robotics.

Update 8 Jan: Prepare yourself for the onslaught by reading this preview of health and fitness tech at CES — wearable tech as a short-term trend and smaller, cheaper devices longer term, but where does all that data go–and who’s looking at it. Health-and-Fitness Tech Grows at CES, but Challenges Lie Ahead (AllThingsD)