Connected Health Conference highlights (so far): FCC’s $100 million telehealth pilot, NIH’s ‘All of Us’, MIT’s social robots integrating AI

Expanding FCC connected health programs. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in his keynote reinforced the agency’s interest and support of connected health initiatives, from rural to opioids. Most of the programs have a rural focus to bring broadband and telehealth/RPM to the ‘end of the line’ in underserved communities, something close to Mr. Pai’s heart as his parents were both rural physicians in Kansas..

  • This summer, the Connected Care Pilot Program was proposed and approved unanimously in August [TTA 9 Aug]. Funding for this is proposed at $100 million.
  • The spending cap for the rural healthcare program, which has been around since 1997’s dial-up days and now includes telemedicine and remote monitoring, was increased for 2017-2018 from  $400 million to $571 million, a 43 percent increase. The FCC has pledged to fully fund 2018 programs.
  • New initiatives were announced covering new uses for telehealth and remote patient monitoring:
    • Connected care at home via RPM as part of the Connected Care Pilot Program
    • Cancer care in partnership with the National Cancer Institute. The Launch program for rural and underserved communities aims to bring high-quality cancer care to where patients work and live through bringing together government, academia and community health providers.
    • For opioids, there are two programs. One is expanding the mapping broadband health platform to include critical drug use data. This will allow users to rapidly visualize, overlay, and analyze broadband and opioid data together at the national, state, and county level. The second is to launch a chronic pain management and opioid use challenge as part of the pilot program.  Mobihealthnews

A status report on NIH’s All of Us. Back in January as part of setting the stage for 2018, this Editor briefly mentioned the National Institute of Health’s massive All of Us program, part of the Federal Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). All of Us needs almost all of us–their goal is to collect data on at least one million Americans for a major leap forward on data supporting population health. Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, All of Us’ chief engagement officer, confirmed that over 100,000 participants have registered since the launch in May, with over 65,000 completing the full protocol. She mentioned that 75 percent of signups are from groups often underrepresented in modern medical research, with 50 percent from racial and ethnic minorities. The Mobihealthnews article ends on a ‘Debbie Downer’ note of doubting whether the program will reach enrollment goals, the cost will be justified, and whether the data will be kept private as promised.

MIT’s social robots may be the future of emotional support for wellbeing. MIT associate professor Cynthia Breazeal heads up the Personal Robots Group and is working on how to integrate AI into emotional robots for pediatric patients at Boston Children’s Hospital. The robots serve as a go-between child life specialists and the patient. The initial results were positive, with higher verbal scores (as a measure of engagement) than with stuffed bears or digital avatars. Professor Breazeal wants to extend the technology to older adults for wellbeing and engagement. Running against the conventional wisdom, their research found that older adults were more open to technology than the children. Following MIT’s work are companies like Hasbro and Embodied. Mobihealthnews.

DNA-based personalized food choices to prevent Type 2 diabetes onset in test with Imperial College, London and Waitrose (UK)

Can DNA analysis and an app help prevent Type 2 diabetes onset in the pre-diabetic? The problem of preventing Type 2 diabetes in people determined to be pre-diabetic is multi-factorial, but one approach is diet to control 1) obesity and 2) improve glucose regulation. DnaNudge, which has developed a DNA analysis from a cheek swab, is being used in a clinical trial conducted by Imperial College London’s NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) Imperial Clinical Research Facility to determine whether DnaNudge’s scanner and app, used while shopping at Waitrose & Partners stores, can prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes in prone individuals.

To this Editor’s knowledge, this is the first time that personalized DNA testing and an app have been used in conjunction with retail food choices.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/MyDNA-Report-Sample.png” thumb_width=”125″ /][grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/product-feedback-recommended.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]How it works is that the individual’s DNA is analyzed first and then used to match what food choices are best for that person via a simple thumbs up or down indicator on the app. 

  • Using a sterile cotton swab, users sweep the inside of their cheek to capture a sample of saliva.
  • The swab is inserted in a processing cartridge plugged into the DnaNudgeBox, a small instant DNA analyzer
  • The analysis of specific genetic traits related to nutrition is completed in minutes and uploaded to the DnaNudge app on the smartphone via a wearable ‘capsule’, the DnaBand (left #1)
  • The wearer then can scan individual food items as that person shops, receiving the ‘thumbs up’ for good choices and ‘thumbs down’ for ones not so good, with alternatives suggested for the latter (left #2)

The 12-month clinical trial was launched last week, with Waitrose contacting customers in the North London area with information on how to take part. Professor Nick Oliver from Imperial College London, who is leading the clinical study at the NIHR Imperial Clinical Research Facility, stated in the release: “This key trial with DnaNudge allows us – for the very first time – to study in detail the outcomes of DNA-personalised food choices for pre-diabetic individuals, and to explore whether this type of accessible technology can deliver a proactive and sustainable solution to managing nutrition, and preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes in people at highest risk of this long-term condition.” It is not clear from the release whether there’s further information provided on the food choices or other education.

DnaNudge was co-founded by Regius Professor Professor of Engineering at Imperial College London Chris Toumazou and published geneticist and leukemia researcher Dr. Maria Karvela. Waitrose has staked out a healthy food position with the introduction of 100 Healthy Eating Specialists, shop floor specialists who direct customers who ask towards healthier choices. This tie-in is interesting, and if it works, this Editor can see it in use in a CVS-Aetna test or Walgreens, as both have edged into food retailing in many locations, albeit with not many apparent healthy choices, unless one considers Milky Ways fine food.

Apple Watch, Zimmer Biomet in clinical trial for monitoring hip and knee replacements

imageZimmer Biomet, a musculoskeletal medical device company, is partnering with Apple to use the Apple Watch with an iPhone 6s and above in tracking the pre-surgery and post-operative recovery process for patients with hip and knee replacements. Zimmer is using the mymobility app developed with Apple to track patient-reported feedback, provide patient education and guidance, and share continuous health and activity sensor-based data with care teams. The aim is to improve the standard of care and patient outcomes after these surgeries.

The mymobility Clinical Study started on 15 October and may enroll up to 10,000 patients with 16 corresponding healthcare facilities including academic health systems, hospitals, and orthopedic surgery centers/practices. No length or end date for the study has been disclosed. 

A positive outcome leveraging patient engagement and providing continuous detailed clinical tracking data could have major significance. There are over 1 million hip and knee orthopedic replacements in the US annually, which is expected to increase to 3.5 million by 2035. The average cost of a hip or knee replacement is estimated at about $31,000, varying widely by region, based on a 2015 Blue Cross Blue Shield Association study. Post-surgery complications are common enough so that Medicare.gov tracks them through Hospital Compare.

According to Zimmer, “the mymobility app provides instruction and opportunities for enhanced engagement between the patient and healthcare provider. This mobile application is designed to work with the Apple Watch® wearable companion to remind patients to check their smartphone application daily, to read pre-planned and timed educational information, perform tasks, and complete assigned exercises; understanding their condition and care plan gives patients the ability to actively participate in optimizing their surgical outcome.” For the clinician, it is a communication tool between the patient and care team. “Surgeons use a clinician dashboard to monitor the threshold values and actively observe progress throughout each patient’s journey. Through the adoption of multifunctional sensor technology in the form of a wearable companion on the wrist, mymobility provides the potential to identify metrics that may permit further refinement of pre and postsurgical care.”

Healthcare Dive, Zimmer Biomet release, Zimmer mymobility study website

News roundup: Partners HealthCare Pivot Labs, TytoCare’s CE Mark, ISfTeH’s 2019 conference calls for presentations, three Smart Ageing Prizes awarded

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Lasso.jpg” thumb_width=”120″ /]Partners HealthCare Pivot Labs announced before the Connected Health Conference. The 20-year-old Partners Connected Health Innovation is partnering (sic) with Pune, India-based Persistent Systems. Their joint project will create a center of excellence to develop patient-centered care delivery using digital tools. Release.

TytoCare gains CE Mark. TytoCare, a remote monitoring telehealth/video consult platform which integrates peripherals for a virtual physical exam, announced it received CE Mark approval and will be rolling out in the EU. In August, they gained Health Canada approval. For our European readers heading to MEDICA 12-15 November, they will be exhibiting and speaking (link here). This Editor also noted that Jeff Cutler, their US chief revenue officer for the past three years, has moved on to be chief commercial officer for Ada Health, an AI-powered health navigation platform and symptom checker.

The 24th ISfTeH International Conference will be 19-20 March 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal in conjunction with and hosted by the Portugal eHealth Summit. The International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth has extended its call for presentation proposals to 31 October–apply here. Multiple proposals are permitted. Submitters will be notified of acceptance 5-16 November.

Also in Portugal, €50,000 in Smart Ageing Prizes awarded at AAL Forum in Bilbao. This award recognizes companies that develop solutions that address social isolation and loneliness among older adults and facilitate real world interactions to improve quality of life. The lead winner was KOMP, a one-button computer for family communication. Other winners were PlaceCal, a partnership of community organizations, charities, social housing providers, government services, health providers, and citizens, plus Refresh by How Do I? to aid those with memory loss. The annual award is a collaboration between the Active and Assistive Living (AAL) Programme based in Belgium and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre. Nesta website, Release (PDF). Hat tip to Dimitra Gkivalou of OPUS for the notification.

MedStartr Challenge at the AMIA Annual Symposium 5 November

Alex Fair, CEO of MedStartr, has posted this Editor on their latest Crowd Challenge, this time at the AMIA Annual Symposium in San Francisco, 3-7 November. There are over 40 companies competing for five presentation spots in the AMIA 2018 PitchIT Competition on 5 November. What’s at stake? AMIA’s Informatics Partnership Council (IPC) sponsoring PitchIt has a prize of up $12,500, plus MedStartr has $25,000 in grants and entry into the MedStartr Acceleration Program. The link to the eligible companies is here on MedStartr, the leading crowdfunding platform exclusively for healthcare. Review, vote, and fund! 

NYeC’s 2018 Gala & Awards on 27 November (US)

The influential New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC) is honoring four highly influential leaders in improving healthcare through the use of technology on Tuesday 27 November in NYC: Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health; Linda A. Lambert, CAE, Executive Director of the New York State Chapter of the American College of Physicians; and CEO/founders Ido and Roy Schoenberg, MD of American Well.

The gala will be at the Edison Ballroom, which this Editor can confirm was a top-notch venue last year. More information and registration is here.

If you are at all engaged with healthcare systems and technology in the New York metro area, it’s worth your time and fisc to attend this event to be the company of over 250 C-suite executives, leaders, and policymakers.

NYeC is a non-profit which works with the New York State Department of Health to improve healthcare by collaboratively leading, connecting, and integrating health information exchange (HIE) across the state. One of their major tasks is to advance the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY), a network connecting healthcare professionals statewide. 

UK sets forth a Code of Practice for secure IoT for connected devices and smart homes

IoT security concerns moving forward. As IoT continues to move into homes, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has published an updated guide on Gov.UK outlining a Code of Practice for consumer development of Internet of Things (IoT) products. It lays out 13 guidelines for IoT manufacturers, service providers, app developers, and retailers intended to improve the security of consumer IoT products and associated services. The aim is to protect consumer privacy and safety, plus mitigate the threat of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) hacking attacks which have vectored in on products from the simple–children’s toys–to the more complex systems in smart homes, home automation including security systems, and health trackers. Following the Code of Practice may also help with data compliance, notably the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The thirteen guidelines range from eliminating default passwords that have to be reset by the consumer (which usually doesn’t happen) to ensuring software integrity and system resilence.

DCMS has pledged to revisit the Code every two years. Comments may be made to securebydesign@culture.gov.uk. What’s missing, of course, are two things: an enforcement mechanism and a comparable code of practice for commercial use.

$6.8 bn in digital health funding through Q3 blows the doors off 2017: Rock Health

And the money rolls in. All Rock Health had to do was wait a quarter to get breathless [TTA 4 July], because digital health funding through Q3 is now exceeding the full year 2017 by $1.1 bn. The average deal size has accelerated substantially–$23.6 million versus last year’s $16.4 million. The deals are bigger but fewer–290 so far versus 357 last year–and the length of time between funding rounds has consistently grown shorter. 

Another proportional shift is the growth of Series B and C startups, at long last, and a more than doubling of D+ deals.

A big shift in this quarter were that the stars lined up, perhaps for the first time, with at-home and on demand health. American Well of course at $291 M loaded these dice, but also benefiting from the throw were the similar Doctor on Demand, Honor (home care), and NowRx med delivery service. Faster meds at lower cost have become a major area of action (Amazon with PillPack, TelePharm, others). Digital therapeutics that help to monitor health at home followed from Pear Therapeutics, Click Therapeutics, Akili Interactive, Virta Health, Propeller Health, and Hinge Health. 

And where the money comes from? Independent venture funds still account for 63 percent, and corporate VCs for 15 percent.  Some of those CVCs are major names such as GSK, Abbott, and Cigna. Big tech is also moving into healthcare, with Amazon’s $1bn acquisition of PillPack, the Apple Watch 4, Google’s Nest.

Rock Health’s trend prediction is continued consolidation in digital health, with companies continuing to acquire each other. “With available capital and a desire to build out product lines, talent, and client bases, it’s not surprising to see a great deal of M&A activity within digital health.” One example given is Welltok, which plays in the consumer health ‘activation’ area, and their acquisitions from corporate health management programs to Wellpass, which has created such as Text4Baby, Text2Quit and Care4Life and whose largest customer is state Medicaid plans.

Keep in mind that Rock Health tracks deals over $2 million in value from venture capital, excluding government and grant funding. They omit non-US deals, even if heavily US funded.

Rock Health’s report. Healthcare Dive.  Mobilhealthnews‘ own top 17 M&As, which include Best Buy-GreatCall and Logisticare-Circulation in the burgeoning area of non-emergency medical transport (NEMT).

It’s Alive! BlackBerry still Sparking with an ‘ultra-secure hyperconnectivity’ healthcare platform

And this Editor thought that BlackBerry had long since hung up the ‘Out Of Business Sign’. In this era of BYOD in healthcare and software systems like Blue Cedar that secure apps from these BYODs from the device past the server, the image of the ‘Crackberry’ persists–tiny keyboard, tiny screen, and the corporate governed phone. All these loathsome features have now transitioned to iPhone 6s (tiny keyboard, tiny screen, corporate apps, locked down and trackable everything). (So much for that ‘tech will set you free’ world promised by Steve Jobs in the ‘1984’ spot, replaced by Big Brother–Ed. Donna)

BlackBerry, as a company based in Ontario, Canada, endures as a software platform minus the devices. Much like Nokia, they have taken on the world of IoT in areas demanding tight security. Their latest introduction is the BlackBerry Spark, a software platform they claim will lead the Enterprise of Things (EoT) to “ultra-secure hyperconnectivity from the kernel to the edge”. Hyperconnectivity, in their definition, will enable secure IoT equipment with consumer friendly interfaces, leverage AI and manage smart ‘things’ regardless of operating system and existing platforms, and making military-grade security easy and intuitive for users. Spark will be available to companies (thus EoT) by the end of 2018.

BlackBerry has evidently latched on to a messy need–the lamentable lack of security in most consumer IoT devices. They have also identified the yawning gaps in security in almost every healthcare enterprise in connected devices. In Mobihealthnews, their spokespeople expanded on the technology as they are applying it to healthcare via a quantum-resistant code signing server, a new system using blockchain to deliver medical data and an operating system for secure medical devices. More details on how these are being used so far were cited in their most recent release:

  • A blockchain digital ledger for the Global Commission, an organization focused on diagnostics for children with a rare disease. One of the pilots concentrates on BlackBerry’s powering real-time, actionable analysis to shorten time to diagnosis.  
  • A new OS for medical, QNX OS for Medical 2.0. This is described as a real-time operating system for the development of robotic surgical instruments, patient monitoring systems, infusion pumps, blood analysis systems, and other safety-critical products that must pass stringent regulatory approvals.
  • With the Mackenzie Innovation Institute (Mi2), participating in research around comprehensive security, patient privacy and intelligent connectivity in healthcare IoT.
  • Skin cancer research in Australia with the Melanoma Institute Australia.

Certainly BlackBerry is aiming for a certain sweet spot in healthcare and finding some partners all over the world, though the US seems to be absent. Will they be able to ‘crack’ it and the rest of the world? Time will tell.

Creating EHR diagnostic ‘e-triggers’ to detect misdiagnosis, identify high-risk patients over time

A just-published study in the BMJ Quality & Safety journal explores the potential of the information in EHRs to be used in new tools that detect errors in diagnosis and prescribing. The Safer Dx Trigger Tools Framework, proposed by the authors, would apply algorithms against the vast amounts of data stored in the EHR for data mining to prevent errors.

Current e-triggers detect prescription errors and procedure complications. This framework proposes tracking of patient events over time, such as patient-provider encounters, performance and interpretation of diagnostic tests, follow up and tracking of diagnostic information over time, and referral and/or patient-specific factors. It would detect errors such as initial misdiagnosis in office visit or hospital, abnormal test results, or delayed diagnosis from lack of specialty expertise.  

The model framework and seven steps they recommend for development and design of these tools are depicted here:

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/bmjqs-2018-008086-F1.large_.jpg” thumb_width=”250″ /]

Also POLITICO’s Morning E-Health.

Withings returns to international markets with Steel HR Sport and a new Go

Withings, bought back earlier this year from Nokia by founder Eric Carreel [TTA 3 May, release 31 May], reentered the market last month with most of the Nokia Health line and its new Steel HR Sport, a multisport hybrid smartwatch with heart rate monitoring, connected GPS tracking and fitness level analytics that analyzes VO2 max (release). Like Withings products before the acquisition, it is a pleasure to look at–well designed and more watch-like than smartwatchy–and surprisingly priced at $200. But on the budget side, reports indicate that Withings is reviving the Withings Go, famous for its eInk face. According to Wareable, they found a listing with the FCC for a successor model number to the previous Go (WAM03) containing information about a fresh design and new sensors for this basic fitness tracker. No price or release date is listed, but the 2016 model was about $70 retail.

Withings’ HQ has returned to Paris and is selling in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and New Zealand.

A preview of this week’s Connected Health Conference in Boston

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/CHC-logo.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]This week’s Connected Health Conference at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center is themed around ‘Balancing Technology and the Human Element’, and over the three days of the conference the organizers will be tackling subjects such as social determinants of health, research, rapid prototyping of devices, and the very timely subject of the Apple Watch‘s ‘fall call lite’. This year day 1 on Wednesday 17 October is an ‘Immersion Day’ with separate registration (and separately priced) mini-conferences sponsored by The Society for Participatory Medicine, ECHAlliance, the VOICE Health Summit, and PCHAlliance’s ‘deep dives’ including one from Parks Associates. Days 2 and 3 on Thursday and Friday 18-19 October are fairly standard conference fare on a variety of stages and of course with a small exhibitor floor, ending after 3pm on Friday (and a good way to segue into a fall weekend in Boston).

CHC is organized by PCHAlliance, a non-profit formed by HIMSS, and incorporates the Boston conference previously organized by Partners HealthCare. Mobihealthnews offers a preview in an interview with  Senior Director of Connected Health Innovation at Partners HealthCare Kamal Jethwani, and Tufts University School of Medicine Associate Professor and Recycle Health founder Lisa Gualtieri. There is still time to register here (though hotel rooms are, as usual, scarce). (Unfortunately, Editor Donna can’t attend as she did in previous years due to other commitments.)

The Theranos Story, ch. 57: was it Silicon Valley and Startup Culture bad practices pushed to the max?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Rock-1-crop-2.jpg” thumb_width=”125″ /]Theranos is now formally in California insolvency proceedings (note on their website). Creditors may have enough awarded to them to go down to the local pizzeria to buy a slice or two. Hard lessons indeed for creditors and shareholders. But aside from the drama yet to come in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny now Shady Balwani, a/k/a the Silicon Valley Trial of the Century, are there any further lessons to be learned?

For those of us who have not been closely following The Theranos Story, David Shaywitz’s kind-of-review of John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood coupled with a thought piece in Forbes is especially appealing. Even if you’ve been tracking it closely like your Editor, it’s a good read. He posits that in three key areas, Theranos exhibited Startup Culture and Silicon Valley Ethics (or lack thereof) at the very extreme in these areas:

  • Secrecy: extreme compartmentalization, siloing, stratification, and rigid definition of roles that prevent information sharing. No outsiders in, or peer-reviewed research out.
  • Promises, promises, promises: a rosy picture to the point of delusion that masks real flaws
  • I Want To Believe: for various personal reasons, investors, press, and supports need to believe

Secrecy can and should work for companies in keeping proprietary information and competitive advantage intact. All startup and early-stage companies have to paint a positive picture in the midst of pitched struggle. The glass is always half full not empty even when the bank account is, but when the old ‘fake it till you make it’ becomes too strong, papering over the truth is the thing and the institutional absence of tough self-scrutiny (or a professional kicker-of-holes) prevents companies from fixing obvious problems–you get a delusional organization like Theranos edging gradually, then very quickly, into outright fraud. Finally, Theranos’ supporters had their own reasons for wanting to believe the technology worked. 

He goes on to state that the fraud that Theranos perpetrated was not only financial and in harm to health, but also in the hope that change is possible in healthcare delivery, we can challenge the way it’s always been done and win, and that technology can be empowering.

Will we, as a result, in Mr. Shaywitz’s words, take the ‘hit to hope’ to heart and become ‘excessively chastened and overcautious”? This Editor tends to be on the overcautious side when it comes to technologies such as IoT and AI because the potential for hacking and bad use is proven despite the hype, but far less so in challenging incumbents–even it it resembles tilting at windmills till they buy you.   

Will l’affaire Theranos change the Silicon Valley and Startup Culture for the better? Here is my ‘hit to hope’–that this excessively aggressive, conformist, borderline irresponsible, and secretive culture could change. This Editor doubts it’s even entered their leaders’ ‘deep’ thoughts, despite this best-selling book.

A more typical review of ‘Bad Blood’ is by Eric Topol, MD (!) in Nature–who certainly borrowed ‘The Theranos Story’ from this series of articles!

Accrediting telehealth and remote patient monitoring providers (US)

Another organization has a go at it. ClearHealth Quality Institute (CHQI) of Annapolis, Maryland, an independent health care accrediting body, is developing two new telemedicine accreditation modules that cover Telemedicine Outcomes and Remote Patient Monitoring. The CHQI has formed a committee to develop standards in these areas to add them to current accreditation modules in telemedicine delivery: Consumer-to-Provider (C2P), Provider-to Consumer (P2C), and Provider-to-Provider (P2P). 

The need for clinical training and accreditation was recognized in August’s National Quality Forum report, Creating a Framework to Support Measure Development for Telehealth. Four domains of measurement were identified in the NQF report for telemedicine and telehealth organizations: 1) access to care, 2) cost effectiveness, 3) experience, and 4) effectiveness.

CHQI started in the insurance accreditation and compliance areas, expanding to telehealth recently. It is the only telemedicine accreditation program recognized by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and with major telemedicine providers such as American Well, Doctor On Demand, and MDLive.

Our Readers will remember that back in 2014, then Intel-GE Care Innovations in conjunction with the Jefferson College of Population Health had started the Validation Institute to accredit both individuals and companies. By last July, Care Innovations had sold it off to the Health Value Institute and had some time back concentrated on companies only. ClearHealth release, PatientEngagementHIT

The Apple Watch, ECG and fall detection–a trend too far?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/apple-watch-series-4-elektrokardiogram.jpg” thumb_width=”125″ /]Mid-September’s Apple Fans kvelled about the Apple Watch Series 4 debut. Much was made in the health tech press of Apple’s rapid FDA clearance and the symbolism of their further moves into medical devices with the Series 4 addition of a built-in atrial fibrillation-detecting algorithm and an ECG, along with fall detection via the new accelerometer and gyroscope.

This latter feature is significant to our Readers, but judging from Apple’s marketing and the press, hardly an appealing Unique Selling Proposition to the Apple FanBoys’n’Girls who tend to be about 35 or wannabe. The website touts the ECG as a performance feature, a ‘guardian and guru’ topping all the activity, working out, and kickboxing you’re doing. It positions the fall detection and Emergency SOS in the context of safety during or after hard working out or an accident. It then calls 911 (cellular), notifies your emergency contacts, sends your current location, and displays your Medical ID badge on the screen for emergency personnel, which may not endear its users to fire and police departments. 

Laurie Orlov in her latest Age In Place Tech article points out the disconnect between the fall risk population of those aged 70+ and the disabled versus the actual propensity (and fisc) to buy an Apple Gizmo at $400+. PewInternet’s survey found that 46 percent of those over 65 actually own a smartphone, though this Editor believes that 1) much less than 50 percent are Apple and 2) most smartphone features beyond the basic remain a mystery to many. (Where store helpers, children, and grandchildren come in!)

Selling to older adults is obviously not the way that Apple is going, but there may be a subset of ‘young affluent old’ who want to sport an Apple Watch and also cover themselves for their cardiac or fall risk. (Or have children who buy it.) This is likely a sliver of a subset of the mobile PERS market, which is surprisingly small–only 20 percent of the total PERS market. But monitoring centers–doubtful, despite it being lucrative for GreatCall.

CEO change at GE may mean delay or cancellation of GE Healthcare spinoff–for good or ill

The well-publicized and unvarnished dumping of GE‘s CEO John Flannery after only 13 months has led a leading research analyst to predict that the planned GE Healthcare spinoff will be delayed or even halted. Analyst Jim Corridore of CFRA stated on CNBC that incoming CEO Lawrence Culp, a recent board member who was CEO of Danaher, a scientific, industrial and healthcare conglomerate, may decide that the division should stay. 

At $19 billion in revenue with a profit of $3.4 billion, 15.8 percent of GE’s total sales and 43.2 percent of its operating profit in 2017, the wisdom of a GEHC spinoff always seemed doubtful. The selloff was in line with Mr. Flannery’s strategy of refocusing on GE’s industrial and energy business. However, this was not going terrifically well, at least in the BOD’s view, with a sluggish turnaround, shares dropping off the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, projections of missing year-end targets, activist investor Nelson Peltz hovering, and exacerbated by problems at GE Power with its new line of natural gas-fired power turbines. Perhaps a few were doubly offended by the selloff of the corporate jets (relative pennies) as well as the expensive and frankly hard-to-justify corporate HQ move from Connecticut to Boston.

Mr. Culp is apparently well-thought of, having retired after a highly successful 14-year run at Danaher, but he has his work cut out for him. He will also need to quickly judge whether to continue the GEHC spinoff process or bring the cattle back into the fold, as the drive was well underway down the trail. Somehow, spinning off 40 percent of your operating profit seems strategically foolish given a plummeting share price.

A jaundiced opinion. Perhaps as an outsider, Mr. Culp can change the ‘death star’ culture at GE. This Editor, in her brief encounter with GEHC as part of an acquired company (Living Independently Group, developer of QuietCare, circa 2008-9) found their business practices and many of their people to be both ruthless and self-referential to the point of stumbling blindness. The LIG acquisition was part of an ill-considered and perhaps ego-driven experiment by GEHC’s CEO at the time to get into home, remote monitoring, and assisted living health, a developmental, small-scale, early-stage area. It was obvious that GE’s vaunted methodology and hospital-based acute care experience were worse than useless when it came to understanding what is still a developmental area. The home health businesses were sold, closed, or (in the case of QuietCare), spun off into a joint venture. That CEO and a few other people leveraged it well; LIG’s employees, shareholders, and others at GEHC did not. 

As Star Wars fans know, Death Stars are destroyed in the final reel.